73 Tasting Notes
The tin calls for 1 tsp per two cups of water “just before the boil” and steeping for 3 to 5 minutes. That just didn’t sound right to me, so poking around the net I decided to steep with water at around 176F—and I added about twice as much tea as called for. Despite that, this had the problem I’ve had with most white teas. It’s barely there. This is why I prefer (the more affordable) White Peony over the celebrated Silver Needle. As far as I’m concerned there is such a thing as too subtle. I think I can detect the muscatel taste of darjeeling here, but the taste is so faint I wonder if it’s my imagination. This isn’t as wimpy as Silver Needle or Snowbud, but I definitely prefer my tea stronger. It did strangely improve on a second steeping, with the flavor a bit more pronounced.
Listed on the tin as ingredients are lemongrass, peppermint leaves—and seaweed. Given that last I didn’t think I’d like this at all. I haven’t liked the taste of seaweed when I’ve tried it, and the entire reason I haven’t liked the unflavored green teas I’ve had is because of a vegetal or seaweed like taste to them. However they blended this though, they did a wonderful job. Looking at the mix in the tin the lemongrass definitely predominates, and that citrusy/gingery taste is what’s most obvious in the brew, but the kick of peppermint is certainly there too. I can’t really detect the seaweed, though no doubt it makes its contribution. It’s light, soothing. I really liked this!
(Or rather I really loved the first steeping. I resteeped it for about 9 minutes and didn’t like the result at all—dumped half of it undrunk. On that second steeping I could really smell—and taste—the seaweed and it wasn’t to the good. Less of a minty taste and far more bitter, even with increasing the sweetener. Guess that this is a one-steeping tea.)
Looking at how this steeped up I get why the Chinese call what we know as “black” teas “red.” Because that’s exactly how it looks—red. And I wouldn’t quite say it tastes that way, although there is a spiciness to it—more than what I remember of the other Ceylon Vithanakanda I tried. Otherwise, like that one, this makes me think of the most basic of basic teas. A Lipton or Tetley with substance and class. An ur-Black tea that could stand for the entire class. A very enjoyable tea, although lacking the kind of character that makes me want to order it again.
My aunt was put off by the smell—she likened it to cat piss. I wouldn’t quite put it that way, but it is pungent—very smoky. It does taste a lot better than it smells though. A bit chocolate or caramel in taste, with the earthiness I’m beginning to realize is very characteristic of most China Black teas. I think I’m getting more used to that taste, but I think its absence is precisely why I tend to prefer Indian teas.
I can only echo the other reviewer. This too reminded me of a Mao Feng tea—Hong Mao Feng. It had that kind of mellow smoothness to it. It had a bit of the earthy taste of of Dian Hong or the Empire Keemun I tried recently, but it’s a milder taste, with a chocolate note that is fine as a self-drinker but I think would partner well with milk.
I found this chocolatey, earthy, a little smokey. It reminds me a lot Dian Hong, a Yunnan tea we tried—and did not like. My aunt’s reaction was that this tea was “rough”—as opposed to the “smooth” blacks such as Hong Mao Feng, Ceylon, Assams and Darjeelings we’ve enjoyed. I do find though that this partners wonderfully with milk. My aunt likes her tea plain though, and since I like to get teas we both like, I doubt this is one I’ll be getting again.
My first impression was that this was more a mellower Adagio Formosa #8—reminiscent of Dian Hong, a bit earthy. But as it cooled down and the more I drank of it, the more I picked up on the sweet peach note to it—very honey-like. I didn’t taste the nutty note some report, and given reviews I wonder if that nutty rather than peachy note is the result of putting less tea in than the two teaspoons per cup called for. This one is on the black side of Oolong, and after this I understand better those that say Darjeelings are Oolong-like, because that’s what this reminded me of, a really, really good spring darjeeling. The oxidation is supposedly at 70 percent—among the highest for an oolong—this is a very dark oolong, the directions on the package call for it to be steeped in boiling water (although I used water at a slightly lower temperature) and it steeped up a coppery color reminiscent of darjeeling—not anything like Iron Goddess or Pouchong. Hard to believe all three are Oolongs. Lovely lingering aftertaste.
I loved this tea: my favorite among the Oolongs I’ve tried. There’s only one thing that’s keeping me from making this tea a regular—that in fact makes it unlikely I’ll buy this tea again, or not for a long time. Price. Here’s the price per cup of the Oolong’s I’ve tried so far:
Iron Goddess of Mercy (TeaSource) 12 cents per cup
Formosa Oolong #8 (Adagio) 12 cents per cup
Tung Ting (Teasource) 13 cents per cup
Jade Oolong #18 (Adagio) 17 cents per cup
Pouchong (Adagio) 24 cents per cup
Big Red Robe (TeaSource) 28 cents per cup
Formosa Bai Hao #40 (Adagio) 42 cents per cup. (If you buy it in the largest size of 16 ounces—otherwise it’s even pricier per cup. The two-ounce size comes to 76 cents a cup.)
Yeah… I just can’t justify spending almost 20 dollars for 2 ounces of tea. I’m not that far gone in my addiction. If I want a darjeeling-like tea, well I can have delicious darjeelings at less than half the price, and for oolongs it makes more sense then to make Big Red Robe and Pouchong my go-to oolongs with occasional visits from Formosa Oolong #8. This is lovely—but not quite worth the price to me.
I got this tea as part of the Adagio Formosa Sampler. The first two teas in it, Pouchong and Jade Oolong were on the green side. This crosses the line to the black side of oolong. In fact, if I hadn’t known better, I would have thought this was a black tea. The package calls for it to be steeped in boiling water (I stopped short of that) and it steeped up a reddish brown—like a Ceylon or Darjeeling. The first steeping made me think of the Yunnan Dian Hong. It has that earthy flavor to it. Reviews I read described it as “woodsy” and “raisin-y” and I think that’s right. The second steeping is more mellow, reminiscent of cinnamon. It’s only a sample, which in a way is a shame, because I suspect it takes a bit getting used to, and for now I don’t think it’s going to bump Pouchong and Big Red Robe for go-to Oolong among the ones I’ve tried. But I certainly wouldn’t turn away from it if gifted or served to me. It’s a fine, very enjoyable tea—and without the mineral taste that I dislike in some oolongs—this would actually partner well with milk, which isn’t something I can say of other oolongs I’ve tried.
This is definitely on the green side of oolong, and is similar to the other “Jade Oolongs” I’ve tried, Tung Ting and Pouchong. It’s a bit more minerally and astringent and less flowery than Pouchong, and very close to the Tung Ting from TeaSource I tried. Its hard to define the difference, except I’ve heard this tea described as “clean” and that seems to define it—a characteristic like rainwater or almost more like an herb tea rather than grassy. It’s the kind of tea I could see myself drinking all day, yet not one I’d want to drink every day. A good, solid tea, but not one I think destined to become a favorite.