This review makes me feel like such a dork.

Thinking about grapes… The fog has been lifted from San Francisco for the past few days so we had a barbecue in the city close to the southern end of the Golden Gate Bridge. The corkscrew, along with half our silverware, somehow managed to get tossed in the trash when someone in the group got clean-up happy.

I’m home now, sunburned and spent but in the mood for tea. Reached for this Wild Garden GABA Oolong sample. Mountain Stream Teas says it’s sweet, large black raisins. Does not require corkscrew. Great.

I’ve read that GABA-processed teas can bring quite the funk in terms of taste and smell. I admit I’ve been trying not to anticipate disappointment with the few GABA oolong samples I recently acquired even after falling hard for What-Cha’s Taiwan Amber GABA Oolong which possesses no funk.

First a sniff of the leaves while still in the pouch. Hit first with the oh-so-lovely scent of fresh durian in Vietnam. Smelling durian every time is like an assault to the senses. But it’s so complex beyond that weird tropical fruit custard rot that I find my nose going in for more. The durian funk of the dry leaves was thankfully fleeting and out came a faint roast well complemented by champagne or wine grapes or even a little bit of those black concords. Let’s just say super sweet and floral grapes. Is this tea even roasted? I don’t know. Damn, this is pleasant.

5 grams into my warm grape-colored clay gaiwan. Wow. Quick 10-15 second rinse at 195F. Wow. Then followed the suggested timing of 20/30/30/etc.

First and second steeps were light in flavor but very aromatic. A little bit of sweet-tart at the top back of the mouth and drying grape skin tannins at the front. Wet leaf smelled amazing. Third steep was stronger in flavor, revealing the champagne grape with peach emerging and a hint of vanilla sugar. Minerals and salivation at the end of the cup. Fourth steep, aroma of the liquor was so sweet and delicately intoxicating. Tastes about the same as the third, more peach. Fifth steep again produced the same aroma and taste with the addition of a VERY light cooling along my lips and some kind of berry I’m sure exists that tastes like a soft, white, sweet strawberry. Subsequent brews remained consistent with growing mintyness going down the throat. Spent leaves are a beautiful mix of green with red oxidation.

MST says this lasts 5-6 steeps but I lost track. More longevity than expected, though it might be less with 3-4 grams.

I now only have 5 grams left and would love to try it out in a porcelain gaiwan but I don’t have one. So I’m debating between the glass one or doing a western steep. Too bad it’s out of stock, otherwise I’d also try grandpa.

Overall, the Wild Garden GABA Oolong delivers a consistent, well flowing profile reminiscent of an ice wine (without the booze) or fruity gummies and an undeniable strength in aroma and sweetness, a lingering fruity taste and drying yet quenching mouthfeel. Pleasing energy. Everything is in its place.

195 °F / 90 °C 5 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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Tea Habits:

Among my favorites are sheng puerh, Taiwanese oolong, a variety of black (red) teas from all over, all teas Nepali, herbals, Wuyi yancha. I keep a few green and white teas on hand. Shou puerh is a cold weather brew. Tiny teapots and gaiwans are my usual brewing vessels when not preparing morning cups western style and pouring into my work thermos. Friend of teabags. Hold the milk and sugar unless we’re talking masala chai.

In my late teens, home-brewed unsweetened Lipton iced tea was the drink of choice to combat cottonmouth. The following years saw the appearance of the odd box of tea from Trader Joe’s. About 4 years ago, walking out of the parking garage where I kept my motorcycle, I came across a move-out dumpster treasure: single serve packets of what I can look back now and say was Wuyi yancha. Yes, I drank dumpstered tea and honestly, that’s what blew the doors wide open.

Preference Reference
“That’s just, like, your opinion, man.”

100-90: A tea I can lose myself into. Something about it makes me slow down and appreciate not only the tea but all of life or a moment in time. If it’s a bagged or herbal tea, it’s of standout quality in comparison to similar items.

89-80: Fits my profile well enough to buy again. Some could be great daily drinkers.

79-70: Not a preferred tea. I might buy more or try a different harvest. Would gladly have a cup if offered.

69-60: Not necessarily a bad tea but one that I won’t buy again. Would have a cup if offered.

59-1: Lacking several elements, strangely clunky, possesses off flavors/aroma/texture or something about it makes me not want to finish.

Unrated: Haven’t made up my mind or some other reason. If it’s puerh, I likely think it needs more age.

Character Rundown:

Boring pandemic hermit whose only current hobbies besides tasting tea are skateboarding and learning herbalism. Will update as the times change.


Sonoma County, California, USA

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