Photos by the author and stock photos.
If somebody told me I could drink only one type of tea for the rest of my life, I’d probably choose Taiwan oolongs. Although I admit I’d miss Darjeelings and a whole lot of other teas, so I hope I never have to make the choice!
But if I did have to choose, I’d still find a fairly wide selection of teas. The good news for lovers of good oolongs is that the marketplace seems to be expanding. Every time I find a new favourite oolong merchant, another contender shows up. The Brits call this abundance “spoilt for choice.” And what a tasteful spoiling it is!
One serious contender is BodySoulandTea, a new (at least to me) direct importer of high-grown Taiwan oolongs. They recently sent me samples of the three teas they currently feature in their website catalogue.
I have to admit that the tea samples waited for over a week after I received them while I was fighting off an upper respiratory infection. Even so, these oolongs, from the winter 2010 harvest, have a very fresh aroma and flavour. All three were formed into beautiful rolled leaves, like tiny fists of tea, each giving off a subtle floral aroma. I prepared each sample the same way, in my oolongs-dedicated six-ounce clay teapot: filtered water brought to a full boil then allowed to cool for a moment to “fish-eye” temperature; a brief “rinse” of the leaves in the teapot; first infusion of about twenty to thirty seconds; second infusion about forty-five seconds. All were strained into a glass pitcher, then sipped from a glass handle-less Japanese teacup. I like to use glass tea ware whenever possible for full appreciation of the colour of the tea.
The first tea, Dong Ding (or Tung Ting), is one of my long-time favourite oolongs, and this one did not disappoint. There was a bluish cast to the rolled leaves — a characteristic that, in my experience, is an indicator of a higher-quality oolong. A lovely floral aroma, a light golden liquid, a smooth taste and texture without the slightest trace of astringency (the mark of a truly good oolong, IMNSHO), and a hint of carnations in the long finish. The second infusion coaxed out a tad more of the florals in the finish. A delightful cup!
The blue cast of the fist-like rolled leaves of the Golden Lily/Jin Shiuan foretold of another high-quality tea. A slightly more roasty flavour than the Dong Ding, although still smooth and clear. One reason I like Golden Lily oolongs is their subtle creamy texture — an inherent quality of the processing of the leaf, not something added. Perceived as just a slight coating that lingers on the tongue and palate. BodySoulAndTea‘s sample is a perfect representative of this quality — a quality that you have to taste, but only once, to understand.
The third sample was a ShanLinShi (or ShanLinXie, as I have seen it elsewhere — I’m not sure there is a standard spelling for Taiwan or China teas). I am less familiar with this type of oolong, but suspect I may have found a new favourite. Dry leaf “fists” a shiny blue-black colour. The made tea was light and smooth on the palate, a field of spring flowers in the nose, and greenish-gold in the cup. A wonderful sweetness that seems to intensify with each sip, and lingers on the tongue. This is a tea that I could drink every day and never grow tired of it. Second infusion produced less aroma while enhancing the flavour. Curious, but wonderful!
BodySoulandTea‘s website has a good deal of information about oolong tea, including clear, thorough, and well-illustrated instructions for preparing their teas. Tea newbies never believe me when I say that oolongs are probably the most forgiving of all teas if you don’t get the preparation just right. If you follow BodySoulandTea‘s instructions, you shouldn’t have any difficulty at all. They offer free shipping on orders over $50; order a package of each of these three teas and it will come to about $55.
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