I discovered ginseng-covered oolongs several years ago, and I have always enjoyed the strange sweetness that comes with their “alterting” properties. As I sit outside, watching the sunrise (sadly over other houses, not over the mountains, I breath in the ginseng powder aroma and wait for the water to boil. As I am at a location other than my home, I do not have an electric kettle here, instead opting for a stovetop, whistling tea kettle to prepare my hot water. Setting out my travel gaiwan set, I glance up as the sun breaches the horizon. Rinsing the leaves, the rinse water is discarded into the lawn, and I briefly smile at how much easier it is to drink tea outside, where anything may be disposed naturally.
My first steeping is for a mere thirty seconds, yet I feel that it captures the essence of this tea quite well, albeit weakly. The flavor of the ginseng has already begun to release itself from the oolong leaves. The smell is sweet, with a touch of the buttery essence of some oolongs. The flavor, too, is sweet, a bit weak, but refreshing, nonetheless.
Steeping number two brings out more oolong flavor, as the initial intensity of the ginseng has been diminished. The flavor is a bit darker, not quite so sweet, yet the leaves have only now begun to fully open, leaving much room for evolution.
In the third steeping (all have been for thirty seconds), I notice now that the ginseng and oolong flavors are blending together well. One can see that the oolong leaves have all but unraveled themselves, releasing their flavors. The diminished sweet taste is reminiscent of light honey or, perhaps, agave nectar. It is quite pleasant.
After the fourth steeping, I place all of the leaves in a large mug and pour hot water over them to leave them for an extended steep. The fourth steeping itself is wonderfully smooth, as though it has at last matured. This was quite tasty, and it seems the sunrise has been overwhelmed by rain clouds. On my personal enjoyment scale, I would rate this tea an 87/100.