Friday, August 29, 2014

Two Origin Tea oolongs from 1986

     First off, I finally got to try some of White2Tea's shengpu - 2002 White Whale and 2003 Keyi Xing. The Whale is a whale of a tea. Very smooth and thick for the price, with some nice aged earthy flavors going on, along with a nice sweetness. Dark brown liquor, chocolate colored almost. I'm definitely "Praying 4 A Brick" of this one, or maybe 5 bricks.
     The Keyi Xing tastes much younger, it definitely comes out during later steeps. It has a really nice, lasting hui gan, one of the strongest that I've ever had. Both of these teas earn my respect because they are delicious and really competitively priced. I also have some Repave, but that's sold out :(.

     Time for some aged oolongs. This time we have a 1986 Meishan oolong and 1986 Chen Xiang oolong, both from Origin Tea by way of James (thanks James!).

     First up, Meishan. Meishan oolong is a pretty uncommon high-mountain oolong, with a similar altitude to Alishan (~1200m). James particularly enjoyed this tea, in fact he tried it in his first aged oolong tasting, and it walked away with the highest ranking of the month. This is from the private stash of the now-defunct Origin Tea (RIP ;_;), which James managed to get into. James has a very good taste in tea, so I trust that this is going to be a good tea. 

     The dry leaves are black, loosely rolled, and smell fruity and earthy, as most good aged oolongs do. The wet leaves smell incredibly fruity. The rinse already tastes quite fruity and delicious, like a better version of FLT's PingLin Oolong. I couldn't resist drinking the rinse, sorry gang. The first steeping is more intense, with some slight earth going on as well. Second and third steeps just get better and better. This is a really good example of what to look for in an aged oolong, strong fruity flavors with some earth in the background and as little sourness as possible. The aftertaste is very plummy, which I find fitting because Meishan translates to Plum Mountain! As the tea goes on the profile becomes earthier and earthier, while maintaining the nice plummy flavor. The aftertaste lasts seemingly forever, with an excellent Hui Gan. This is a solid performer for an aged oolong, just very balanced and good in every way. Too bad it's impossible to get in the west now. Thank you James for sending this and thank you Tony for sourcing this.  
    Now onto the second aged oolong: 1986 Chen Xiang, again from Origin Tea by way of James. Chen Xiang means "Aged Fragrance". I can't tell you anything else about this tea because, well there's nothing to say.

     The leaves are loosely rolled, and black, as they should be, and smell quite earthy with a bit of fruit. The wet leaves aren't too broken, pretty small though, and they smell slightly smoky. The liquor smells earthy, almost exactly like a pu'erh, but less intense. This tea is way less clean than the Meishan, it has more herbal notes to it, with a slight sour note in the finish. There's also a slight bitterness to this one. The aftertaste is very tangy, it's actually burning my throat a bit, but there's also some cooling of the mouth going on in the aftertaste. 

Cha Qi on the Chen Xiang is insane, very relaxing. This is one strong, unrefined, complex tea, and I enjoy it for what it is. I think it could use a bit more age just to round out the edges.  Not sure if it's something that I would buy. Maybe it would be nicer with a bit less leaf. Again, thanks James and Tony.

EDIT: Forgot to mention, I ended up getting some more stuff from the shop that sells mystery aged oolong, mostly Shengpu and one 1978 oolong. Also getting some Shengpu from Wistaria Tea House. Wistaria had an aged oolong, but it was too expensive with a high minimum size.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Floating Leaves Tea - Aged Pinglin Oolong and Aged Muzha TGY


First off, I got some clarification on the origin of the roasted oolong that I tasted in my last post - It's an organic charcoal roasted oolong that my friend bought in the YingGe district, known for its pottery.

Back to scheduled programming, this is the second of the three aged oolongs I picked up during the Floating Leaves sale. This time it comes from PingLin, which is well known for their Baozhong production. However, this is not a Baozhong. I'm not sure how exactly it differs from a Baozhong other than the leaf shape. This is rolled, unlike Baozhong, which is always processed into a long strip shape.


When I first opened the bag this oolong smelled extremely fruity and sweet. But now that I put it into a Gaiwan.... it smells like a hotdog (microwaved) for some reason. The dry leaves are loosely rolled and black (I was so impressed with the dry leaves that I forgot to take a picture, I guess.) However, that smell rinses away and it goes back to the earthy/fruity smell of a good aged oolong, however it's not as present as other teas I've had. The liquor is also less aromatic than other oolongs I've had. It steeps out to a dark orange-brown color. This tea tastes pretty good. It's not too flavorful, however it's plummy and not super-earthy. It's on the sweeter end of aged oolongs that I've tried. It's not sour at all, which seems to be pretty rare. The aftertaste is quite present, it leaves a honey/caramelly sweetness that lingers for a while. It's pretty durable in terms of number of steeps, since it's rolled.

Overall, I'm not sure if I love this tea. If it was a bit more flavorful it would be an absolute winner, but it's still quite pleasant. I would probably buy this again.

I also tried this in a Yixing after I wrote that blurb.. 4g/95ml. Even though I only used 4g it had tons of flavor, more than 6g in a gaiwan. It tasted so much better that I heard my wallet whimper quietly. Definite re-buy, sorry wallet.

Muzha TGY:

Muzha Tieguanyin (TGY) is a Taiwanese version of Tieguanyin (usually a Chinese oolong), which is always processed in the traditional manner. Muzha is located in the Wenshan district, known for their Baozhong, like PingLin. But Muzha is known for their excellent traditionally processed Tieguanyin, a refreshing change from all of the green oolongs coming out of Taiwan and China (not that those can't be great, it's just that they're way too common in my opinion.) Traditionally processed Tieguanyin is more oxidized and roasted than modern greener Tieguanyin, which is more appealing to the palates of a good amount of enthusiasts due to the darker, more intense flavor. However, greener Tieguanyin is more popular. The flavor is very light and inoffensive, and is easier for farmers to process (production of traditional-style Tieguanyin is a very complicated process).


Anyways, the tea in question is an aged Muzha Tieguanyin sold by Floating Leaves Tea, the last of the three aged oolongs I picked up from there. It's the most expensive of the 4 aged oolongs that they sell, retailing for $15 an ounce, most likely due to the price of Muzha Tieguanyin already being pretty high without aging.

The dry leaf is rolled and smells earthy and slightly roasty. The color is a deep black, a product of the roasting and the aging both working together to darken the leaf. I decided to use my little aged oolong pot for this tea, as Floating Leaves advises that a Yixing pot helps smooth the flavor a lot. I used about 5 and a half grams for the ~95ml pot.

The liquor ended up being a very deep brown, and it smelled quite earthy and mineral. The first couple of steeps tasted mildly roasty with a hint of butter. This tea probably wasn't re-roasted, and if so it was very sparingly. It really started to shine around the 3rd or 4th steep, where it got a deep, earthy, mineral flavor. It even had some herbal, wet notes, which I love. This tea has a very thick, oily body, it coats the mouth and throat very nicely. The aftertaste is earthy, and lasting. I'm not sure why, but it reminds me of matured yancha after the first couple of steeps.

Overall, this tea is also very nice, but I'm not sure if it's worth $15 per ounce. I hope to find some cheaper teas with this profile, because it is quite nice, but too expensive for what it brings to the table. Sadly Muzha Tieguanyin is always going to be expensive, so I can't blame the pricepoint on FLT, but on the market in general

Floating Leaves Tea: The first vendor to be approved by this blog for having great aged teas at good prices. I also ordered several other teas from them (Hong Shui, 2012 Muzha TGY, Charcoal Dong Ding, 2014 Baozhong Farmer's Choice, Roasted Hehuanshan) and all that I've tried are excellent as well (haven't gotten to the BZ or TGY). Their prices are a little on the higher side, but the quality is there as well.

Friday, August 15, 2014

good, rare, teas - but I forgot to take pictures.

Yesterday I spent part of my day tasting various teas with two other people (one left early).

I arrived a bit late to the party (sorry!) but they decided to wait for me to get started :). Everything was all set up when I got there, a full gongfu setup was sitting on the table, tea table and everything. I should have brought a gaiwan, my friend bought his Yixing pot, a classic Zhu Ni Shui Ping, a bit less than 100ml (high quality stuff), but he's a traditionalist and uses a Yixing for Pu'erh and a Yixing for oolongs. He also brought a Yixing pitcher made of Duan Ni clay. I should have brought a gaiwan and porcelain pitcher, but it doesn't matter that much, especially since I was already low on time. However, I was able to predict his fear of technology, so I brought a scale with me, drug dealer style.

There were already about 5 teas laid out when I got there, scattered around the table. I slapped two more samples on to the table. We were ready to begin.

The teas:

1954 aged oolong sent to me by Beautiful Taiwan Tea - Pleasant, mellow, slightly roasty. Was a very smooth and pleasant drink, but it didn't have the aged flavor I was looking for. Excellent as a roasted oolong, disappointing as an aged oolong. This was a favorite of my friend, but not a favorite of mine. I think it would have been nicer with longer steeps, but my friend steeped it and insisted on short ones.

1972 Baozhong sent to me by Everlasting Teas. Wow. This is super-flavorful and has a ton of aged taste. I could sense that it was humid-stored early in its lifetime, but that faded. I wasn't supposed to review this until Sammy from Everlasting got his website up, but I've been waiting for weeks. This is a wonderful tea and a great example of a clean, aged taste. Very herbal and not musty at all. I would/probably will buy this as a special occasion tea. I don't think it's going to be easy to find aged teas with that clean of a taste in the future.

1983 Oolong from Gukeng Township - I was originally told that this was a 1980 oolong, but I posted pics of the packaging online and the origin of this tea is now clear. It's a 1983 oolong from a place called Gukeng Township in Yunlin County, apparently known for farming something called "Rabies Coffee". This was bought in Taiwan by a friend of my friend. It's really interesting because it doesn't have an aged taste at all, but it doesn't have a young taste either. It has a golden liquor with a super buttery flavor profile. I've never had a tea this buttery, the body was very thick as well. It was $20 USD ($600TWD) for 130g as well, very good price. Thankfully the label had the address for the shop on it and that friend is going to Taiwan in less than a week :). Going to get more of this I hope. Meanwhile I have a serving of it to myself, which will be featured in a future post.

Roasted Oolong from Taiwan - This isn't a Dong Ding or a TGY, it had a very pleasant profile, easy to drink as well. This was also bought in Taiwan by my friend's friend, who I have on Facebook. I reached out to him to clarify the origins of this tea. I have a couple of servings of this :)

Finally we tasted the Mystery Oolong - The dry leaf smelled exactly like a fresh baguette. Seriously, it didn't have a hint of baguette, it smelled exactly like a baguette.  The liquor smelled of fruit, and it tasted like fruit. Quite sour, in fact. Very confusing flavor profile, it was bought at Sun's Organic Tea in NYC. I have some of this as well.

However, we had to go our seperate ways. I was given two teas from Sun's Organic Teas - some sort of rolled Phoenix oolong (couldn't read what it said other than Phoenix, neither could my friend) and a delicious Oriental Beauty that's cheaper and better than anything I've bought online. I'm not going to see this guy for 3 weeks, but when I do see him he'll be back from Taiwan. Hopefully he brings back some goodies!

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Miaoli, Miaoli, give me the formuoli.

Hello everyone, sorry for not posting on Friday but I was busy. I'm making up for it by posting today AND Friday.

Today I came home to see that the mailman left 2 packages on my porch, in plain sight. They do this often now, instead of placing packages in the normal, more concealed spot. Maybe there's someone new to the USPS crew. Those two packages were MINE though. I got a Yixing pot from Origin Tea and some tea from Floating Leaves Tea, which I picked up on sale. Expensive boxes. Today I'll be reviewing a 1980s Miaoli aged oolong from Floating Leaves, one of three aged oolongs I picked up from their sale.

Miaoli is a county in northwestern Taiwan. It doesn't seem to be a huge tea producing region, as this is the first instance of Miaoli oolong I've ever seen. Google told me that Camellia Sinensis sells an aged Miaoli as well, which for some reason they describe it as smelling like burnt wood and carob as if that sounds pleasant, but I can't find any fresh ones (there are a couple of Oriental Beauty teas though). According to Tea From Taiwan, the 3 towns that Miaoli Oolongs are produced in are Chaochiao Town, Shihtan Town, and Dahu Town. However, they don't seem to have any Miaoli teas in stock.

this is the dry leaf, pictured with a U.S. quarter dollar
5g/100ml gaiwan

check out that sick reflection
The dry leaf is dark and broken (just like my heart) with a very uneven leaf size, most likely due to some rough handling that took place sometime(s) in its thirty years or so. It honestly reminds me a lot of an aged Baozhong with the dry scent, it smells very sweet. I guess if oolongs are processed and stored in a similar manner, then they will end up being similar. After rinsing it, it smells like fruit. Nothing else, just fruit. It steeps out to a dark reddish-brown color with a slightly sweet aroma.

The taste is quite nice, flavorwise. Up front it's earthy and mineral, but it develops into a fruity/honey sweetness with a small amount of floral/herbal taste. As it cools down it gets pretty sour, but that seems to be common with aged oolongs. It's not a super flavorful tea, it's quite refreshing surprisingly. As the steeps go on it becomes more savory and earthy with notes of leather, however the fruitiness doesn't go away. I got about 12 steeps out of it, which is way more than I expected.

Overall this is a very good aged oolong that I would purchase again in the future, it has a good balance of earthy aged taste and fruity sweetness, and the price is good for a tea with 30-ish years on it. This is one of the only examples of a Miaoli oolong I could find, and it's probably the best online, as Camellia Sinensis re-roasts their aged Miaoli oolong, which in my opinion kills some of the nice aged taste. I'm optimistic about the other two aged oolongs that I got from Floating Leaves, an aged oolong from PingLin and an aged Muzha Tieguanyin. Can't wait!

Thanks for reading!

EDIT: The homies over at TeaDB tried the Miaoli from Camellia Sinensis and sadly they didn't find it enjoyable :((((((((.

Friday, August 1, 2014

1989 Baozhong from Oollo Tea

First of all, I'd like to thank Jenny from Oollo Tea for generously providing this sample. I first found this site when researching aged Baozhongs. I was intrigued for several reasons:

  1. I've never heard of them before.
  2. Their Baozhong was bought directly from a farmer they trade with - they also stock a fresh Baozhong from the family.
  3. It's very affordable for an oolong with 25 years of age, only $10 for a 25 gram packet.
  4. It was one of the first things that popped up on Google.
They seem to have a good following in Vancouver, the city they're based in. Just see their Twitter page - it's chock-full of local events they participate in, including pop-up stores, collaborations with local bakeries (Oolong Macaroons!), features in local magazines, etc. Their local presence is there but their online presence really isn't. I couldn't find much about them from online tea communities other than a Steepster page with reviews for their Red Jade (it was apparently included in some subscription box once) and almost every blog post about them is from people blogging about Vancouver, and not blogging about tea. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, just an observation.

Enough idiotic buzzwords (my SEO is going to be OFF THE CHARTS!!!!!), let's get to the tea.
Search Engine Optimization

The dry leaves are long, thin, and wiry,  just like a Dancong's dry leaves. There's a good amount of earth in the dry leaf aroma, complimented by some fruit and chocolate. After a quick rinse (this is what I use), the leaf begins to smell fruitier. And what about the liquor? It's a dark orange and it smells amazing. It smells exactly like apple pie filling, warm apples, sugar, and sweet spices.

The fruit translates over to the flavor, apples, spice, and some earth (duh, it's from 1989). It's not bitter or roasty at all, and it has a slight sourness that compliments the
apple notes I get from this tea. I feel that a lot of aged oolongs are ruined by improper storage or excessive roasting/re-roasting, so this one is a standout. The sourness gets more intense as the tea cools down, so drink it while it's hot (I'm sure it won't be hard to gulp this down... this is one of the best things created in 1989, not unlike Seinfeld or the famous Energizer Bunny).

HOWEVER...this tea dies pretty quickly. After the 3rd steep it becomes kind of weak, although this may be because I wasn't steeping long enough or maybe 5g/100ml wasn't enough leaf. Either way it's pleasant and I'd definitely consider buying it. Competition is afoot though, as Floating Leaves listed an Aged Baozhong for $10 an ounce as a base price...that doesn't include their significant discounts at larger quantities.

Overall this is a very good tea, that unfortunately doesn't have much staying power, although that may have been on my part. A good candidate to western steep!

P.S. The packaging was quite nice. Here are some pictures I decided to take in the middle of my savage and uncivilized Opening Of The Packet (note that I don't have a Macintosh computer, it's a knockoff of the Apple Wireless keyboard made for Windows machines's wired as well.)