TeaGuide: Reviews and Ramblings

June 30, 2010

Tea review: Tie Guan Yin and Pouchong oolongs

Retail and wholesale.

Tea photos courtesy of Canton Tea Co; additional stock photos

When I first opened these two samples, I thought perhaps the package labels had been accidentally switched. So I checked the Canton Tea Co website and sure enough, they had been labeled correctly. So my previous experiences of Tie Guan Yin oolong leaves as being long and dark versus Pouchong leaves being tightly rolled have essentially been turned on their head. But I have no complaints, because I thoroughly enjoyed both of these teas.

Tie Guan Yin

The Tie Guan Yin is listed on the Canton website as an “everyday” type of tea, and indeed it would be a great pleasure to drink this tea daily. The leaves — ranging in colour from dark to medium greyish greens — are lightly rolled, and smooth to the touch.

I placed about half of the ten-gram sample into my favourite oolong-designated clay (Yixing) teapot, which had been prepared by rinsing with hot tap water. As usual, the filtered steeping water was brought just to a full boil, then cooled to “fish eye” temperature.

Summer meadowInitial meeting of leaf and water for the preparatory rinse educed the scent of a summer meadow, as the smell of sweet buttercups, new grass, and sprouting shrubs would be carried on a warm breeze. I know that kind of poetic analogy may sound silly, but this is the only way I can accurately describe the aroma.

The initial sip was warm and almost sweet. A few more sips evoked the taste of the fresh spring asparagus with buttery toasted pecans that a friend had served to us a few weeks ago — an indescribable vegetable flavour that is like no other, paired with the sweet pecan nuttiness. As an added bonus, there was an actual buttery or light creamy texture in the cup.

Yixing teapot and cupAt one time, at the beginning of my tea journey, I had been puzzled when anyone described a tea without added milk as having a creamy texture. It’s just leaf and water, I thought, so how could that possibly be? I don’t know the science, but I do know the result, and once you sample a tea with this innate quality, you will never forget it. Luckily, it seems that more creamy-textured teas are reaching the market, so it’s a little easier to source a tea, like this one, with this quality, and experience it for yourself.

The rather long finish of this tea is the more floral notes associated with Tie Guan Yin. All in all, a very enjoyable cup.

PouchongSome tea drinkers classify Pouchong as a green tea, but I’m happy to see this most lightly oxidized of teas listed with Canton’s oolongs. Dark leaves, long and thin, are frankly not what I expected in its appearance, but the taste and aroma are all there.

Prepared by the same method as the Tie Guan Yin — or perhaps just slightly cooler water — this high-grown pouchong produces an elegant and aromatic cup. Pale golden green, like a cat’s eye, in my small glass tasting cup. Aroma is gently floral, more like fragile spring blossom than full summer bloom. A hint of nectar scent carries into the taste. Although nowhere near the creamy texture of the Tie Guan Yin, this tea nonetheless leaves a light floral finish that lingers on the tongue.

The Canton website notes that this tea won a gold taste award. I can see why.

Canton Tea Co is located in UK, but with the current robust exchange rate of dollars against the euro and the pound, prices are not out of line, and shipping costs seem reasonable. Of course, if you’re located in UK, cost is not as much of a consideration as it is for those of us on the other side of the “pond.”

I browsed through the Canton website and discovered that along with a good selection of teas and interesting tea ware, there is a lot of well-researched information in their “tea school” — along with some terrific photos. I have a feeling I’ll be back soon.

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