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Recent Tasting Notes
2003 Aged Green Heart Oolong from Mountain Tea and What-Cha
The 2003 Aged Green Heart Oolong came to my attention after some of my reddit buddies on r/tea messaged me about six months ago and raved about how delicious and nuanced this tea is. I kept this information in the back of my mind, where it lay dormant for several months. Then I saw the results of the 2014 North American Tea Championship and saw that this tea won 2nd Place in the Aged/Baked Oolong category. I’m not entirely sure how reliable these results are, but I figured that this tea was probably worth a shot regardless. I’m a huge fan of aged oolongs, especially ones with bolder flavors and a nice mouthfeel.
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This oolong is from Wushe in Nantou, Taiwan. It has been stored in Taiwan since 2003 and has been roasted every two or three years to remove any accumulated moisture. The elevation of the Wushe tea garden is 1500 meters, or about 5000 feet. I suppose that this tea would qualify as a “high mountain” oolong, although it was not advertised as such. The site described this as 30% oxidized, so this tea belongs on the greener end of the oolong spectrum.
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The What-Cha website also mentions that this tea comes from the Qing Xin varietal of the Camellia sinensis tea plant. Qing Xin is one of the most common varietals of Taiwanese tea. Although the varietal is nothing too out of the ordinary, I appreciate that the website gives out this information.
The leaves looked typical of a rolled style Taiwanese oolong. The color was very interesting, a sort of dark green-brown thanks to the aging and roasting process. The dry leaves are very full and unbroken, which is a good sign. The stems are still on many of the leaf segments, which is a bit unusual.
These leaves simply smell incredible. This is definitely one of the best smelling teas I have come across in a very long time. The primary aroma is of roasted nuts and freshly baked bread, very “roasty” and almost yeasty. The background aroma is very herb-like and malty. The Mountain Tea website also picked up on the herbal aroma, describing it as an “enticing herbal fragrance, including thyme and dried basil, finishing with a hint of something malty.” There is a certain brightness to the aroma that I can’t quite describe, but it certainly made me want to continue smelling this tea for a very long time.
I placed the leaves into a warmed gaiwan and was amazed by the amplified smell. All of the previous aromas were still there, but a very pleasant fruity, grape-like smell developed. This tea has every smell that you could possibly want in an aged oolong…simply incredible!
I used 6 grams of leaf for my gaiwan that is just a bit over 100 mL. It looks a lot larger than it is because the walls are very thick. I put 3.5 grams of leaf into my 70 mL Yixing pot.
I decided to brew this tea two ways. I really wanted to break out my adorable Yixing pot that I use for greener aged oolongs. I bought this guy from a tea master in Taiwan. I don’t get around to using it much, but it brings back great memories every time I see it on my tea shelf. I also used a gaiwan in order to give a fair taste test, since Yixing pots can affect the flavor of certain teas.
I started out brewing this tea with a few shorter 15 second or so steeps, and then moved up to a few minutes per steep by the end of the session. I played around with the water temperature a bit. The Mountain Tea Site said to use 95 °C/203° F water, while the What-Cha site suggested 85° C/185° F. I leaned towards the side of Mountain Tea on this one, since this tea is from their company. I didn’t find a huge difference either way, although I slightly preferred the hotter water. I used 93° C/200° F water for this taste test, so your own experience with this tea may be slightly different if you use a different water temperature.
I gave the tea a quick rinse and then started with the brewing. The first steep came out a beautiful golden color with a slight orange-red tint. After this first steep, I looked at the leaves in the gaiwan and noticed that they were barely even open yet. Perhaps aging tea makes the leaves more resistant to opening?
The first and second steeps were very fruity and malty. The fruity character is more like a dried fruit taste. I would describe the taste most accurately as nutty and raisin-like, with a background taste of charcoal. The little hint of smoke or charcoal on the back of the palate really adds a lot to the character of this tea.
The mouthfeel of this tea is very smooth and thick, almost buttery. I could feel the sides of my mouth being coated with the strong flavors of this tea.
This tea really excels in the aftertaste category. The aftertaste is extremely long lasting, and very smooth and malty. There is also a very noticeable lingering sweetness present. I could still taste this tea in my mouth 30 minutes after finishing a cup.
The third and fourth steeps were much sweeter tasting, which was a nice surprise. The “juicy” thirst-quenching attributes of this tea came out in these steeps as well. The flavor is much brighter and an interesting sharp and tangy note developed. I would describe this as lemon or citrus fruit perhaps. The herbal notes in this tea were quite noticeable in these steeps as well. The thyme and basil sort of flavors really play quite nicely with the dried fruit taste.
The later steeps were very different. The dried fruit notes almost disappeared, and the charcoal and smoke flavors became much more apparent. At this stage, the tea tastes almost like the later steeps of a heavily baked oolong such as a Muzha Tieguanyin. I finished this session after about nine or ten steeps, so this tea can certainly handle quite a few infusions.
After this tea session, I went for a run in the beautiful Maine spring (hooray, over 60° F for once). During my run, I kept on noticing the smoky raisin taste still in my mouth. This aftertaste just keeps on going and going…
The finished leaves were a bit darker than I expected. They were very curly and twisted still, even after all nine or ten steeps. They never really opened up fully into large flat leaves like oolongs normally do, but I suppose that is probably because the tea has been aged for quite a while. The stems on these leaves are very long and coiled as well.
This is one of the very best aged oolongs I have had, especially for the price. This tea is not even very expensive. On Mountain Tea, you can buy 2 ounces for $16, which is a little pricy. But if you are willing to buy in bulk (and you will want to), it’s not too bad. Mountain Tea also sells 5 ounces for $35 and 10.5 ounces for $60.
On What-Cha, 50 grams/1.76 ounces in $10.50, 100 grams/3.5 ounces is $19.53, and 250 grams/8.8 ounces is $45.68.
I give a lot of favorable reviews on this blog, but I don’t often repurchase the same teas again and again. However, I just placed an order for 250 grams/8.8 ounces of this tea, so obviously I enjoyed it! In order for me to buy that much of any tea, I have to really be in love with it. I can’t stop thinking about how I just bought this tea at barely over $5 per ounce. I feel like I’m stealing. If I could pay more money to Mountain Tea/What-Cha for this tea, I would…and that’s coming from me, one of the cheapest people you will ever come across.
Go out and buy this tea now, before the rest of the online tea community finds out and buys it all! It also might be fun to buy some of this tea and play around with aging it for longer.
~”There is a great deal of poetry and fine sentiment in a chest of tea” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
This was on sale at Mountain Tea, so I decided to try it as a way of trying out both the company and a greener oolong. The first thing i tasted, while the tea was very hot, was light clover honey. Now as it cools, I’m getting some of that vegetal, green tea flavor that I don’t like so much , and also floral, I think. I can tell it’s a good one — there are no bad or off flavors. It tastes very fresh.
I did a rinse infusion for 15 seconds, then steeped 30 , then 45… Now on the third infusion (including the rinse), it’s more vegetal and buttery and less naturally sweet to me. This is really never going to be my favorite type of tea, but there’s nothing bad about it, really. It’s not bitter the way I find so much green tea, and it doesn’t seem to make me nauseous in the same way.
Next time, I’ll try it starting out with shorter infusions… Maybe I’ll add some sugar or actual honey. It’s good, but I will not buy it again unless my tastes change considerably over the course of this 5 ounce package. You’ll like this if this is your thing, but it’s not really mine.
Flavors: Butter, Floral, Honey, Vegetal
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
So 7 grams today was definitely much better. Here’s what I did: rinse,25s,25s,30s,60s,70s.
Still experimenting with steeping times. The tea had a nice light flavor with perfumey floral notes as usual. When I jumped to 6o seconds, it got a little bitter so I’ll have to try something different next time. What I REALLY need is a thermometer so I can stop playing the guessing game over here and make this tea properly!
Flavors: Flowers, Perfume
This is only my third time tasting a full-leaf oolong tea. My palate is not very refined so I didn’t notice much of a difference between this and the one that I tried in the Steepster Select Dec 13 box (Nantou Four Seasons by In Pursuit of Tea) but that’s great because I LOVED that one. So anyway that’s why I made sure to get one from Nantou, Taiwan.
This is how I drank my tea:
Water : 120ml – 194℉-ish
Use 9.3 Grams Tea
7 steeps : rinse,39s,25s,30s, 30s, 40s,60s,90s,120s
Rinsing time is around 5 seconds
9 grams was way too much. By the second steep they expanded so much that I could barely close the lid on the teapot! It didn’t help that I oversteeped the first steep because I was doing something else while counting (big mistake) and went 14 seconds over. It was so bitter that I had to throw out that cup. The second rinse was still bitter, but I drank it anyway., and the following steepings where not quite as bitter. The tea was nice and perfumey, very floral. Only just a little bit overwpowering because I had used too many leaves. The flavor stayed strong with each steeping and seemed like it could go on forever, but by the 7th steep I’d had enough. Next time less leaves and no distractions.
Flavors: Flowers, Orchids, Perfume
I remember my last mountain tea order being a lot better Im a little concerned they do not display harvest dates so for all I know the quality drop is a by product of stale tea but I have also tasted a lot of tea since my last order so maybe my tastes have just improved. Either way was not impressed with my first trial with this tea. I felt the tea drunk from the gao shan (fish eye lens, tranquility, big dumb smile) but flavor wise it seemed flat. Will wait to throw a # rating out there until I get dipper into the bag but at the moment a little disappointed considering the money I dropped on my last order.
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.
This was a Christmas present from my husband which was initially chosen for it’s name as my middle name is Jade. It finally has a beautiful flower caddy now so I can open and try this Oolong after two months of waiting.
I will be following these instructions for my tea:
Water : 3oz / 85ml – 194℉ / 90℃
Use 7 Grams Tea
8 steeps : rinse,25s,25s,30s,40s,60s,90s,120s,180s
Rinsing time is around 5 seconds
The Oolong balls are a mixture of medium and dark greens which have an average size of roughly 4mm.
Closer sniff-spection reveals a sweet (like honey), mineral, grass/straw like scent.
A picture of the balls:
First steep – 25 seconds
Subtle, honeyed, flowers and perfumed. Makes me think of rain pouring onto the leaves of a honeysuckle flower.
Second Steep – 25 seconds
Not as sweet as the previous steep but it is just as gentle. Also getting a creaminess coming through.
Third Steep – 30 seconds
Increasing in flavour but still remaining soft in thickness. The peach is really coming through nicely, sweet yet crisp. Also still very creamy.
Fourth Steep – 40 seconds
Very floral, sweet and creamy. Like honey suckle and peach but mild versions of each. Some dryness and perfume in the after taste.
Fifth Steep – 60 seconds
Much stronger now, peach is still shining through as is the honey suckle. A very nice strength now.
Sixth Steep – 90 Seconds
Remains creamy and silken. Peach is toned down but sweet flowers still very much present.
Seventh Steep – 120 seconds
Still a lot of flavour and no harshness though some mineral vegetal flavours coming through like sweetcorn mixed with fresh spinach.
Eigth Steep – 180 seconds
Lighter now and the sweetcorn has taken over the peach. Still floral and sweet with high creamy notes.
It’s a nice Oolong that is sweet and floral whilst being light yet creamy (for the most part). Nice elements of peach and sweetcorn are found throughout and a hint of perfume in the after taste.
I prefer stronger Oolongs that are more mineral and green but this was very nice, the balance was superb and I think it would be great iced. So while it may not be one of my usual favourites I’m still thankful I bought 2oz of this.
Flavors: Corn Husk, Flowers, Honeydew, Peach
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!