First, I should note that I ripped the “company description” and image from Silk Road Teas’ Monkey Picked Tieguanyin. David Lee Hoffman is the former proprietor and buyer for that company and the high-end Tieguanyin they offer is pretty much the same sort of TGY he’s now offering through his new venture The Phoenix Collection. However, there is no real website and no company descriptions or the like to be had from The Phoenix Collection as of yet… Best bet for most teas from Hoffman is to go onto Bon Teavant for images and descriptions.
This tea exemplifies the trend in oolongs away from their dark and twisted roots to the light and crumpled incarnations of today. Sure, sure, TGY is certainly a traditionally rolled oolong, but it wasn’t ‘til Jades took over in Taiwan that the red-tinged dark moss colored leaves of Tieguanyin began their march to grassy green. I happen to love medium-ox well-roasted TGY and find it sort of disheartening that it’s hard to find among the “Competition Grade” teas. I do think Jade Oolongs definitely have their place… I’m just a bit biased in thinking that place is Taiwan. I love the notion of diversified processing methods throughout the land, but think it’s sad when trends wind up wiping out traditional methods in a fell swoop. The second issue of The Art of Tea Magazine had a nice article about how Red Water style Dong Ding has all but disappeared due to this same trend…
Anywho, despite my reservations about changing styles eclipsing the old, and barring my preference of darker oolongs, this is a lovely tea. It’s got a good amount going on and it’s pleasant in presentation.
I used 4g with 100ml water in a glass gaiwan. Single rinse using 84 degree water. I only did three evaluative infusions (I was hungry): 1minute-83C, 30seconds-82C, 1minute-80C. I brewed more, but drank from the gaiwan.
Dry leaves are bright green with yellow accents. Fragrance is like banana leaves with a slight squashy and rubber (ficus sap/latex) note. Smells similar to a stand of horsetail fern in a freshwater seep near the coast. Smell carries through to the wet leaf aroma, but sweeter and more buttery, like a cinnamon roll without too much cinnamon. Liquor is bright yellow-green (sorta cartoony toxic color, but clean looking) with steadfast transparency. Aroma very different from either fragrance or wet leaf aroma – notes of zucchini skin, cucumber, cardamom, true cinnamon, Cymbidium orchid, iris flowers and foliage, rosemary, sage, and some watercress.
Not much to say about the flavor after the aroma – it’s mostly tactile accompaniment to what’s going on in the nose. Sweet and sour are played with a bit. Sort of a home made whipped cream effect going into a lingering milky-sour note that stimulates the salivary glands. Faint notes of orange bell pepper, cooked green pepper (as in a chile relleno), tomatillo, mugwort, and pounded rice and soy confections (like mochi). Thick mouthfeel and very smooth. Despite all that’s going on, it’s a mild tea. Light bakey notes and a sunflower nose in the aftertaste.
Soothing tea that I wish I had easier access to.