Got this and three other sample packs from Goldfish Tea this afternoon, which came with a new Gongfu tea tray that I ordered from them. Decided to throw this Honey Phoenix Oolong into my gaiwan and start putting the new tray to work.
First, something about the tray… I like this tray well enough, despite some flaws I noticed in the workmanship, and the fact that the Chinese characters carved into the face of it were different than advertised. At any rate, I needed a new tray urgently, as my previous bamboo one had been used to the point of developing an irreparable rot in the wood (bad smells do not make for pleasant tea drinking). The new tray is made from pearwood, which my research indicated is pretty strong and resists cracking and warping with water and heat exposure; excellent qualities for the purpose. Time will tell how well it handles the daily dousing of boiling water.
This tray is the kind with the plastic reservoir underneath that I can slide out to empty the unused water. I thought this would be more practical for long-term daily use, as I can sometimes forget to empty the reservoir, and wood is just not a friend of standing water. I had looked around for other trays all over the internet, but found very few options. I liked some of the trays and boards I found on ebay, but was dismayed by the $40-$60 shipping fees and 3-4 week lead time. As I said, I needed a tray asap, and this seemed like a reasonable option. I guess I would consider this one my intermediate stage before taking the plunge on buying a nice solid wood tea board at some point (when I have the $300+ to spend on one).
Anyway, back to this Honey Phoenix Oolong tea. I have to say I find it quite enjoyable. This is apparently one of the customer favorites at Goldfish Tea’s teahouse in Royal Oak, Michigan. It is also one of their premium teas (listed at about $12/oz). I can understand why it’s popular with their customers. I’m drinking my fifth infusion of it right now, and it remains simply delicious. How to characterize? I draws a little something from the fruit notes of an aged Teigunyin that I’ve tried… Fresh, ripe apricot perhaps?
Their description mentions a honey scent and flavor note. Yes, it is there, but in no way cloying or distracting. I’ve had a honey scented white tea that practically kicked you in the face with the honey element, and badly. This oolong is in another landscape, far more serene, elegant and tasteful in its treatment. The front of the taste, immediately as it hits the tongue, starts at the high sweet regions then pleasantly rolls like rain down a mountain to the mentioned fruit notes growing deeper in the valley. I’m quite fond of the aftertaste, which settles on the tongue like a cooling breeze and makes me feel like I’m idling around in an apricot orchard. The flavor profile is pretty simple and straightforward, I’m getting the same experience just described with repeated steepings (I’m on the sixth now). It doesn’t appear to be going anywhere new, but not that I object in the slightest to this tea staying where it is. I like it here, and can be content to journey with more adventurous teas another time.
This one surprised me, as I wasn’t expecting to get samples with my order, and in any case, was not expecting one of them to be this good. I’ll definitely keep this oolong in my gaiwan until I’ve completely exhausted it. I might even be persuaded to order some of it in the future.