After focusing on unflavored black teas for the past couple of days, I wanted to shake things up a bit. It had been awhile since I had reviewed an oolong, so I was kind of in the mood to do that, but I did not want an oolong that I had tried before. Enter this Huang Mei Gui from Verdant Tea. First, I absolutely adore Wuyi oolongs, so naturally, this would appeal to me. Second, Huang Mei Gui (Yellow Rose) is a newish tea cultivar that is not all that well known in the West and I had never tried an oolong of this type before. Doing a session with this tea was a no-brainer.
I prepared this tea gongu style. Following a quick rinse, I steeped 5 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 208 F water for 5 seconds. This was followed by 11 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 8 seconds, 11 seconds, 14 seconds, 17 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 45 seconds, 1 minute, 2 minutes, and 3 minutes.
Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves emitted a wonderfully floral, fruity aroma with touches of earth and vegetables. After the rinse, I detected a strong aroma of jasmine, as well as aromas of earth, char, plums, and roasted vegetables. In the mouth, I easily detected notes of roasted vegetables, earth, tobacco, char, leather, and plums. Oddly, I did not get much of a floral presence in the mouth. The expected Wuyi minerality was also subtler than anticipated. Subsequent infusions saw the floral character emerge in a big way. Jasmine came first, but was soon followed by a touch of rose as the earthier and more roasted qualities started to take a back seat. The mineral note began to emerge more at this point. Touches of corn husk and orange peel also began to emerge. By the time I got to the last infusions, the minerals dominated, though I could still detect faint impressions of corn husk, flowers, roasted vegetables, orange peel, and plums.
This was one of the stranger oolongs I have tried over the course of the year. It was not unpleasant by any means, just odd. The combination of vegetal, earthy, fruity, and floral qualities was really unexpected. I did not expect it to work at all. I was constantly waiting for the tea to turn unpleasant, but it never did. I do feel that it faded maybe an infusion or two sooner than I would have liked, but still, this was far from a bad experience. I kind of hope to try a version with a somewhat lighter roast some day. I am curious as to how a slightly greener version of this tea would smell and taste. In the end, I would recommend this tea to open-minded oolong drinkers wanting to try something a little different.
Flavors: Char, Corn Husk, Earth, Floral, Jasmine, Leather, Mineral, Orange, Plums, Rose, Tobacco, Vegetal