Fanciest Formosa Oolong

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Oolong Tea
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200 °F / 93 °C 3 min, 30 sec

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From Harney & Sons

This is another great oolong. The plant protects itself from attack by creating a compound that has a great peachy aroma, maybe better than any other oolong. It is absolutely delicious. Mike saw the plants on the defensive on his last trip, and it was fascinating for a teaman.

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Since 1983 Harney & Sons has been the source for fine teas. We travel the globe to find the best teas and accept only the exceptional. We put our years of experience to work to bring you the best Single-Estate teas, and blends beyond compare.

9 Tasting Notes

187 tasting notes

I don’t think I’ve yet to find the oolong that’s right for me. Oftentimes I feel like Goldilocks with this type of tea. It’s either “too this” or “too that” and never quite fitting for my taste buds.

So let’s start with the First Steep, which was the only remarkable one of this oolong.

First off, again, Harney’s product here is really gorgeous. Silver-tipped russet and olive green leaves, twisted nicely. You can tell that they’re full and whole. The aroma from the dry leaf is really inviting. It’s a honeyed smell, with a blush of apricots and peaches. There’s also an underlying dark sweet smell. There’s an underlying darker tea smell to it as well, similar to what you smell in a black tea, but lighter.

Anyway, the leaves unfurl at a rapid rate in the hot water, twisting and blooming. The resulting steep was a pretty sunny orange color, and it smelled buttery and smokey. A bit roasty, with a lot of fruit notes characteristic of the dry leaves.

I was actually really surprised when I sipped this at how light the flavors are. From the smell, I was expecting something a bit deeper. Fanciest Formosa is very floral. Really floral. Not in a jasmine or a rose way, but just in a way that evokes lilies and a florist’s shop in general. There’s that almost soapy, spring note to it that’s pretty interesting. The floral is accented with notes of fruits like peaches, but these flavors pale in comparison to the floral notes.

As the cup cooled, some of the more buttery notes began to come out towards the tail end of the sip. They weren’t as aggressive and creamy as I would have liked, but at least they made themselves known. The entire cup is pleasantly sweet, but nothing to write home about.

At this point, I was actually really excited about the second steep, guessing that it’d be even greater than the first.

Second Steep (3:30, 205 degrees)

Steeped this one up again, and by this point, the leaves were completely unfurled and full. Now this steep has a bit more of a floral smell to the nose, with a hint of ripe fruit-like sugar at the end. The honey/apricot notes of the first steep are gone.

This one is already weaker than the first. The floral tastes are still there, but they’re noticeably weaker. Overall, the flavors are more fruity-sweet. Interestingly enough, when the tea was at its hottest temperature, I was getting this almost burnt sugar taste at the end of every sip. It disappeared fairly quickly, so I’m maybe thinking I imagined it, but it was there.

What marked this one was a roasty element as well. Not as pronounced as I’ve tasted in the other dark oolong I’ve tried (Imperial Formosa by Golden Moon), but it’s still there. This cup was definitely not as enjoyable as the first. Maybe the third time’s the charm?

Third Steep (3:45, 205)

This tea is done. You can just smell it in the wet leaves. There’s that vegetal note that reminds me that tea is a plant. And it’s not a nice vegetal note either. It’s that note of the leaves waving the white flag.

The taste now is remarkably flat, with mostly vegetables and roasty notes in what’s left of the body. Mainly, though, it just sort of wastes like hot water. Which is pretty disappointing, since the color has remained pretty uniform across all three steeps.

Overall, the first steep of this was pretty decent, but the second and third… not so much.

I haven’t had any success yet with multiple steeps of oolongs. I know I have some fabulous stuff from takgoti to try, but I’m wondering if anyone has any recommendations for oolongs that have lasted through more than a steep? I’m not sure if I’m supposed to push past the vegetal state to get to something better.

200 °F / 93 °C 3 min, 15 sec

Damn, now that’s a tasting note!

Robert Godden

Great work.


Thanks guys! Hehe, I kept little notes for myself while I was drinking each steep to make sure I didn’t miss any little nuances.


If only we were all so thorough, haha…

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464 tasting notes

I brought a bunch of teas from “Another Traveling Tea Box?!?!” to work to try.

This is an oolong reminiscent of spring veggies with a subtle creaminess. There is a bright, spicy raisin note that gains strength as I continue to drink it. A pretty good one!

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1876 tasting notes

It’s almost looks like there’s three different kinds of tea in this sample I got from Ricky. There are thin black twists, little light-brown pieces, and curled-up leaves covered in a thick coat of silvery down. They gave off a lovely sweet, fruity smell as I brewed them. Unfortunately, in my attempt to stretch this tea as far as I could, I didn’t put in enough tea. I did steep it for a little bit longer than I’d originally planned in an attemp to compensate, but I do think the result could have been better – due to my own fault.

The tea has a dept and strength that you can’t find in a green oolong. It has a bit of a mix of toastiness notes and bit of tanin to it and I’m also picking up a faint fruity sweetness. Even weaker than it’s supposed to be it tastes decent, so I can’t wait to see what it’s like when it’s made properly.

200 °F / 93 °C 4 min, 45 sec

It’s funny how I haven’t even started to drink this tea yet and I’m basically out o.O

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161 tasting notes

Also known as Bai Hao, steeping this delightful tea releases a wonderfully sparkly aroma with notes of tropical fruits like guava and stone fruits like peaches and apricots. Its medium bodied, copper colored liquor has exuberant flavors of orange flower water, spring honey, fresh white peaches and a buttery toast finish.

Bai Hao is extraordinary not only for its flavors, but for the way its made. Most teas rely on human manipulations to develop their flavors. These manipulations imitate the actions of tiny herbivores called green leaf hoppers (Jacobiasca formosana), which would ordinarily feast on the leaves. In nature, the bites of tea leaf hoppers trigger the plant’s defenses, provoking their flavors. Bai Hao is one of only a very few teas whose flavors are still provoked by the bugs themselves. Unlike other Oolongs which are harvest in April and May, Bai Hao is harvested in June, after the leaf hoppers have emerged from winter dormancy. The leaf hoppers feast on the tea’s sweet young leaves, puncturing them slightly. Their munching breaks down the plants’ cells in the same way rolling does, releasing various bug-repelling, flavor-filled compounds. After a weak of this, the faintly perforated, fragile leaf sets are nimbly harvested, with special care to keep them intact. The withered leaves – by now bug free ;-) – are gently rolled into loose, small spheres, then oxidized for a relatively long time, before being light fire to preserve the flavors.

205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 15 sec

Cool, so do the leaf-hoppers damage the plants at all?

Harney & Sons The Store

They do, but in a good way!


I meant do they weaken/kill the tea plant?

Harney & Sons The Store

Nope, the plant releases the bug repellent, keeping them away. :)

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2213 tasting notes

I ordered a sample of this long ago and saved it for someday, when I would have a Yixing pot. Someday has come! We made this for tea party today, probably six or seven steeps, and it was very good. I have yet to find a oolong as arresting as Wild Forest from Southern Season, but this was very enjoyable and my guest really liked it. That says a lot, as she didn’t used to drink anything at all but black tea.

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110 tasting notes

1tsp in 4oz

Comparison of 3 Bai Hao (Oriental Beauty) oolongs — Adagio’s Formosa Bai Hao, Harney’s Fanciest Formosa Oolong, and Teavivre’s Taiwan Oriental Beauty

My favorite (surprisingly)! Darkest liquor, most flavor, sweetest, least astringency. Really nice honey flavor in the finish.

Least flavor, lightest body, lightest liquor

In between in terms of flavor and body, but the most astringent.

So, I guess I’m buying more of the Adagio. Really surprised at this result. Was hoping Teavivre’s would be my fave since it is the least expensive, but I’ll have to go with the one I like best. Luckily it’s not the most expensive. Harney’s is almost double the price of the Adagio.

190 °F / 87 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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59 tasting notes

Wow! This tea is great.

First, the aroma while brewing is sweet, fruity, and floral. Really wonderful, but strong enough that I was worried that the tea might be overdone and there would not be enough of an oolong taste.

I was very happy with my first sip tasting a really well balanced oolong. It had nice peach and butter overtones and a weaker floral note as well. What’s more is that the peach flavor isn’t artificial. It’s simply a hint of fruityness that sweetens up the brew.

Yes, the tea does weaken on the 2nd and 3rd steeps, but it is still very good (just not excellent like the 1st steep). But, the wonderful taste from the first steep more than makes up for the weakening.

205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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5 tasting notes

(The tea sold by Harney & Sons as Fanciest Formosa is more generically known as Bai Hao.)

I know it’s not the point, but I just want to begin by saying that this a really pretty tea. The dry leaves, which are rolled up into thin, wiry forms, range through several different shades of reddish-brown with the occasional greenish thread or long silvery bud. Imagine a chiffonade of autumn leaves.

The liquor itself is a deep golden color, and the aroma has rich notes of stone fruit and dark flowers. It’s especially powerful if you take a good whiff of the freshly drained leaves as professional tasters do. The flavor matches, with a nice medium body and a lot of sweetness (for an unsweetened beverage, anyway). In short, I really love this tea.

Oh, and did I mention how pretty the dry leaves are? This is a good tea to brew in a glass pot if you have one, because you get to see this twiggy leaves expand into beautiful medium-sized leafsets. This process wasn’t complete when I drained the first brew, but by the time I started the second (for three and a half minutes) it was pretty much set. They can give a third steeping as well (I give it four minutes) with nice flavor and aroma, though the peach notes are definitely reduced.

190 °F / 87 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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