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Recent Tasting Notes
For today’s review, I decided to review a rather interesting tea. This tea is a GABA processed oolong from Taiwan. The GABA processing for teas was discovered in Japan in the late 1980’s. You can find GABA black and green teas, but most are oolong teas. I’m not sure why that is, especially since green tea is so much more popular in Japan. Perhaps somebody out there has the answer to this dilemma, and can tell us in the comments!
If you’ve ever taken an Intro to Psychology or Neuroscience course in college, you are probably familiar with GABA. Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid is one of the main neurotransmitters for the Central Nervous System (CNS). Its most important role is to reduce neuron excitability. Thus, GABA supplements are most commonly associated with their calming effect on the nervous system. These teas are usually advertised for their ability to improve relaxation and sleep quality, lower blood pressure, and lowering cholesterol levels. Some students in Japan will use GABA teas to improve their performance on exams. While searching through vast online articles about obscure teas, I even found some articles suggesting that GABA teas can help fight off schizophrenia. As with most excessive health claims, these are probably only true to a certain extent…or not true at all, in my opinion! But if you enjoy this tea anyways, I suppose that is a pleasant potential side effect.
Although this seems like a bit of a silly marketing scam (because it probably is…) many tea bloggers and tea aficionados in the world really enjoy GABA teas due to their unique taste.
The GABA process for tea is quite simple. You just have to expose the tea leaves to extremely elevated levels of nitrogen during processing. During the oxidation phase of processing, all of the oxygen is replaced with nitrogen. This causes the glutamic acid in the tea leaves to be converted to GABA. In order to be considered a true GABA tea, the leaves must contain at least 150 mg of GABA per 100 g of leaf. Most of the GABA teas I found online claim to have between 200 and 300 mg per 100 g of leaf.
GABA teas are quite popular in Japan, but are just making their way to the States, so I feel pretty lucky to get the chance to try such a unique beverage. Thanks, Japan! You never fail to disappoint me with your quirky inventions.
Anyways, on to the exciting part!
The dry leaf of this tea looks pretty similar to your standard rolled style oolong. The leaves look pretty high quality, are there is no dust or broken leaves. The aroma of this tea is so unique. I have never smelled a tea like this. Like other tea bloggers I’ve read, I really have no words to describe what this smells like. While some people on Steepster and other tea enthusiast sites do not like the smell, I actually really enjoy it. It seems kind of bread-like. It’s very yeasty and roasted smelling, kind of similar to a roasted oolong but with a bit of a….sharpness to it. Very intriguing!
Oh, you want to see a more up-close shot of the action? Sure!
I brewed five grams of the leaves in my tea tasting set. Brewing this tea was an experience in itself. I gave the leaves a quick five second rinse. When I poured the boiling water over the leaves in the first steep, a ton of bubbles came rushing to the surface. This effect lasted several seconds. Presumably this has something to do with the GABA process. Neat!
My first impression of the taste is…wow, this is really weird! The taste is very roasted, like a typical roasted oolong. But the yeasty bread like smell comes through in the taste as well. It’s very odd, but pretty pleasant in my opinion. This tea is also quite fruity. It has a dried fruit/raisin sort of taste, similar to the Medium Roast TieGuanYin from Mountain Tea that I reviewed last week. There is a very notable sour taste to this tea, which many other reviewers have noted. I don’t find this unpleasant, but I don’t think I would necessarily want to drink this regularly. The first and second steep had a strong woody taste to it, but this faded away in the third and fourth steeps. The later steeps became more floral and light. These later steeps were very pleasant, so I would say that this tea holds up very well to multiple infusions.
The leaves unfurled very nicely. Most of the leaves were attached in groups of threes or fours. This looks very high quality! None of the leaves were torn or bruised. There were a lot more stems than oolongs usually have.
This tea is very interesting and strange, but I really enjoyed it. This is definitely a tea worth trying. At $11 for 2 ounces or $23 for 5 ounces, it’s not too expensive either. I would be interested in trying some more GABA oolongs in the future so that I could compare them. I’ll definitely be enjoying the rest of this bag.
Flavors: Fruity, Raisins, Sour
For my debut into the online tea snob world, I chose the Medium Roast TieGuanYin from Mountain Tea. Mountain Tea specializes in Taiwanese oolong teas, but they sell a few green and puerh teas from other countries as well. This particular tea is very popular in the online tea community, and won 1st Place in the Traditional TieGuanYin Category of the 2012 North American Tea Championship.
In case you aren’t as obsessed with tea as I am, I can describe the tea a bit. TieGuanYin, also called 铁观音 or 鐵觀音, is a variety of oolong tea from Anxi in Fujian Province, China. The name translates roughly to “Iron Goddess of Mercy,” but you will sometimes see it sold as “Iron Buddha” as well.
The dry leaf has the appearance of a typical rolled style oolong. The leaves seem to be high quality. The leaves have a very notable roasted aroma, which is quite pleasant. They smell very sweet and caramelized. But overall, the smell is not too intense.
I brewed five grams of the leaves in my new tea tasting set. I bought this set at the Beipu Farmers’ Market in Beipu Township, which is in Hsinchu County in northern Taiwan. I’m pretty happy with it, although I had to carry it in my backpack for a week. I’m pretty surprised that this tasting set managed to make it home undamaged.
This tea is very interesting and complex. The first taste that hits my palate is the notable roasted taste. I suppose since the tea is called “medium roast,” I expected the roasted taste to be a bit more subtle. But it is certainly very enjoyable either way. With that said, this tea does still have a slight bit of the bite that is typical of greener oolongs.
As a result of this roasting process, the tea’s head note has a very caramelized flavor, with a noticeable honey sweetness. The tea is very nutty tasting, as roasted oolongs tend to be. Surprisingly, I also picked up on a toasted bread-like taste in this body notes of this tea, which many other reviewers online have noted. The aftertaste is very fruity, similar to the lingering apricot or peach notes that are common to some oolongs. However, this fruity flavor is a bit more like a dried fruit taste, perhaps a raisin note?
As I progressed through some repeated steepings, I was a bit disappointed that this tea did not keep its flavor so well. The roasted flavor of this tea became rather flat by the third and fourth steep. However, the fruitiness is more pronounced in the later steeps.
The tightly rolled leaves unfurled nicely. A few of the leaves are a bit choppy and bruised looking, which is generally not a great sign in rolled oolongs. However, this tea still appears to be high quality.
All in all, this tea is quite solid. If you tend to enjoy more roasted tasting oolongs, you will probably enjoy this. I wouldn’t say that this is the absolute best TieGuanYin oolong I’ve had, but it is certainly one of the best TieGuanYin oolongs I have had for the price. At only $9 for 2 ounces, or $18 for 5 ounces, this tea is pretty affordable. I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to buy this tea again, but I will certainly enjoy the rest of the bag and I would recommend it to others.
Flavors: Fruity, Nuts, Peach, Plums, Raisins, Roasted
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Flavors: Fruity, Nuts, Peach, Plums, Raisins
This is my first tea from Mountain Tea and I can say that it won’t be my last! I found out about them from the amount of time they’ve won the NATC! This tea is great very floral smell to it like most Oolong’s but the taste of this tea is very sweet. Almost a black tea malt to it, but more of a light fruity taste that is sweet because of the leafhopper bitten leaves. Once swallowed the fruity taste stays on the tongue, making me appreciate the flavor even more.
To think this tea is available on clearance is just crazy. Ridiculous price.
Taste: Sweet cream, slight tang of a really good fatty butter. Some floral in the flavor. Just delicious as an everyday go to Oolong. Highly recommend for anyone wanting to try Oolong. Like most Oolongs, leaves are forgiving too. You can steep hot (200) or warm (185). I find hotter worked better on this tea especially as infusions went on.
Smell: Initial infusions are very floral. My nose isn’t that great yet, but I’d say gardenia/orchid like. Later infusions turn more to heavy cream scent.
Flavors: Butter, Cream, Floral, Sweet
Another great tea from Mountain Tea.
The leaves are just gorgeous. I was totally expecting nutty goodness, but I don’t recall having a roasted TieGuanYin with such a floral perfume background as well. I would be happy just smelling the leaves from each infusion.
The liquor comes out a solid yellow, tinge of green. Great flavors, very complex, changing with each infusion. I got a solid 10 steeps in gaiwan and even though contemplated doing another couple.
Sweet, nutty, floral, little bitty tartness, just delicious. Very high quality.
Flavors: Caramel, Floral, Nutty, Toasty
I will try to tinker with steeping but at the moment not worth half the price I paid, some of my hei cha staples are similar in taste/smoothness if not better and a lot less money. That seems to be the tune of my entire last order from mountain tea, I think they have either dropped in quality since winning those awards a few years ago or maybe I have just found much better options since my last order a few years ago either way I will not be reordering from them at the moment. Eco Cha is my new favorite company at the moment :)
Flavors: Earth, Mineral
This is a surprise. My only comparison, or so I thought, turned out not to be apt. The only other leafhopper-bitten tea I’ve had is Eco-Cha’s Shan Lin Xi High Mountain Concubine, which is more of a classic high mountain, creamy, floral oolong. This is very different – almost like a delicate, comforting, smooth black tea. Like a muted, dialed-back Yunnan maybe. I had to double check the package to confirm it is in fact a high mountain, Taiwanese, leafhopper-bitten oolong. I was initially disappointed in the flavor, except…ever find a tea that is somehow satisfying out of proportion to its flavor? This tea feels good to drink. I’ll definitely finish and greatly enjoy this.
Thank you Nicole! I wanted a nice oolong tonight. It was time for the brew basket for this one! The dry leaves are so bright green and lovely – it had to taste just as nice. I really had no idea how long or what temp to steep this one at. I really wish companies did a better job of mentioning that (like on their websites).. I don’t really want to ruin their nice teas!
Steep #1 // waited a while after boiling // 2 or 2.5 min
The steep color is a light buttery yellow. The dry leaf and the steeped tea fragrance smells like something very sweet and fruity – pineapple? But the flavor is like a lighter milk oolong. Creamy and sweet. I wasn’t expecting that, as this isn’t actually called milk oolong.
Steep #2 // waited a while // 3 min
Over steeped! I was going for 2-2.5 min. It still tastes fine, but there is a tanginess that wouldn’t be there if I didn’t go for three minutes. There is less butter this time around and more pineapple with a hint of lemon. Interesting.. I’ve never noticed lemon in an oolong before. The little bright green bundles have turned into unraveled tiny branches.
An exceptional ever-changing oolong!
I received a very generous sample of this from Nicole. Thank you!
I am in oolong heaven. I brewed this to drink with lunch and lunch is now shoved aside so I can focus on this tea. This is handsdown the best oolong I’ve ever tasted. It hits all the points I love in oolongs, and surpasses all other oolongs I’ve had so far.
It is smooth, buttery, and rich. Lightly floral, and almost syrupy in taste at the same time. I cannot wait to see how this tastes in further steeps. This is so so delicious.
Hello friends I am here, I could not last very long..of course the dashboard is busted right now. Things still suck A LOT but other than finding a job (hahahahahaha I thought this was going to be easier, I have lost count of applications, have only had one interview, and was turned down for it which I don’t mind because it was 6am-2pm or 2pm-10pm and no thanks..), I’ve done all I can for right now. I still have a lot more tea to let go of. I just still can’t bring myself to do it.
So because I get incredibly hot even with it being 77 in my apartment, I have become a creature of the cold brew. It’s been awhile since I cold brewed an oolong and I thought this one sounded like it’d be a good choice. And it is!
It reminds me a bit of the oolong base of the Lupicia Pineapple Oolong, but maybe much more subtle on the orchid notes, or at least easier to drink. It is overall pretty floral, but not like undrinkably so. It almost reminds me a bit of a white tea, there’s something like sweet hay to it. The sweetness also seems like some kind of light fruit. Pineapple’s in the description on here but it’s something a bit more subtle that I’m getting.
I’m not like a huge, huge fan of it, for some reason I’ve had a falling out with oolongs like this even though they used to be my favorite thing. I was hoping coldbrewing would bring the love back or something.
Just for future reference also since I used probably half this tea and might want to do this again: I steeped it for roughly 18 hours before first drinking, but left the tea in there for another couple of hours. It didn’t make much of a difference, but 18 was good. The other time I cold brewed an oolong I went a full day, but I think this was definitely full of flavor at 18.
An outstanding Oolong! Ali Shan Oolong teas are my favorite, but, if I had to choose a second, this one would certainly be a contender. In fact, if I spent more time with this tea, it could even be a contender to replace my beloved Ali Shan – this stuff ROCKS!
Delightfully fruity with notes of citrus and stone fruit. Woodsy tones and a sweet honey-esque note. One of the sweetest, most enjoyable Oolong teas I’ve ever enjoyed!
Here’s my full-length review: http://sororiteasisters.com/2013/03/24/fenghuang-guifei-oolong-tea-from-mountain-tea/
Flavours of honey and flowers pervade all infusions, with the former more prominent initially and the latter to the fore subsequently. Too light for my taste. The leaves, however, are stunning to behold.
First infusion – 3 g. per 6 oz water, 90 deg., 3 min.
Second infusion – 3 g. per 6 oz. water, 90 deg., 5 min.
Third infusion – 3 g. per 6 oz. water, 90 deg., 10+ min.
Mountain tea calls this an oolong, but it tastes more like an incredibly rich assam or Ceylon to me. Very rich nose, taste, and finish, without any bitterness. Rich and complex. I brewed 3.0 gm in 6 oz of water for 1 minute. A second steeping had the same good character but was not quite as powerful
Mmmmm I needed to open something new I had been holding back in my stash for inspiration. Needed a pure unadulterated tea. This is an absolutely stunning oolong!
Fresh, sweet, refreshing, delicious notes.
Going to go do a full review for sororitea sisters now.
I love The Mountain Tea Company – everything from them this far has been excellent.