Editor’s note: This week at T-Ching is devoted to Taiwan tea. Today’s post reviews two teas, a black and an oolong; Monday featured an interview with a tea farmer; Tuesday’s article is about what goes into artisan tea; on Thursday, we’ll examine some of the current literature about tea, and Friday will feature one of the best of the best of previous posts about Taiwan.
If you haven’t read Tuesday’s post, by all means do! There you will get a better picture of the effort and skill required to create and perfect the teas I am about to review. (Tea Geek Alert: the review which follows is written by an amateur tea taster.)
Free samples of tea? Sign me up! Black has been my focus for two years. Yunnan Gold, Hatialli Golden Lion, and Keemun are my favorites. Mellow, moderately toasty, not too dry on the roof of the mouth. Keemun is about as far as I can go toward the brisk. So, when the beautiful package arrived from Eco-Cha in Taiwan, I opened the RED JADE TEA: TAIWAN BLACK TEA, first. Vacuum-packed bag tucked inside an eco-friendly box. Couldn’t wait to brew it!
Which I did less than twelve hours later. Opening the pouch, the dry long leaves were dark black, but leathery in texture, long and uncut. The sniff was fruity and toasty, Autumn in a whiff. Purified water, boiled and cooled to 208 degrees, a double-pinch of leaves, and three minutes steep time in a tetsubin. The first sip was minty and spicy. I immediately drained the cup. The second steep was even better, catching all the best of Autumn’s fruits, falling leaves, gathering firewood. The tea remained aromatic through four steeps. My husband and I enjoyed it for several days, chatting away as we sat near the wood stove, sipping Red Jade Tea. The tea is a real treat!
When I first started drinking tea, I started with oolong. I tried green, almost black, chopped, fruity oolong, oolong rolled into rock-hard pellets, and long leaf varieties. I tried oolong from every country and within a modest to tea-snob price range. I loved oolong. Eco-Cha sent me three samples of oolong. The perks of being a managing editor!
Again using purified water at 208 degrees and a double-pinch of Shan Lin Xi: High Mountain Concubine Oolong Tea, steeped for three minutes. While I waited, I looked closely at the dark brown, tiny fists of rolled oolong. A whiff of leather and tobacco, very pleasant. The second steep was lovely, like dried plums and dried cherries. Through a fourth steep, the leaves unfurled more, but remaining fully flavorful. Between cups, we imagined what story lay behind the name of High Mountain Concubine Oolong Tea. I pledged to drink more oolong, as a sort of hug to myself.
Two additional oolongs await my drinking pleasure: Shan Lin Xi: High Mountain Oolong Tea and Da Yu Ling High Mountain Oolong Tea. Watch this space for a review! To learn more about Eco-Cha and the teas, visit: eco-cha.com
MAIN Image provided by the author. IMAGE 1: