There was a mix-up at Nothing But Tea’s suppliers and this note was on a brew made from tea mislabelled as Vietnamese Imperial Oolong, so I’ve cut and pasted the note to where it belongs.

This is only my second-ever oolong, as far as I remember, and the first was the same dealers’ Black Dragon which was no different to a lot of other teas I’ve drunk, so this rather blind-sided me. I don’t know what I was expecting, but whatever it might have been this was different. I’ve never tasted anything like it and, I’m sorry, but it’s going to take rather a long-winded tasting note.

I made a mug of this with a well-heaped teaspoon brewed for three minutes. I let the water go off the boil for several minutes before brewing (they recommend 80°C). The aroma was quite strong and strangely familiar – though it took well into my second mug to place it. It’s quite difficult to describe and the best I could come up with was somewhere between good garden compost and fried bacon (but with no smokiness). That was the main element in the mouth, as well – and I mean one element – not compost and bacon but something in the middle. There were the basic tea flavour and butter, plus just a hint of cut grass.

I made a second mug, the same way and re-using the same tea. If anything, the flavour was a little stronger and now I was detecting a tiny ‘fruity’ hint.

Okay, I said the aroma was ‘strangely familiar’ – it was round about when I noticed the fruity hint that I placed it. There was a wildlife park near where I grew up and they had a tropical bird house which I absolutely loved. You could go in and walk around with the birds flying free around you. The place was planted up with all sorts of exotic bushes and was always kept hot and damp. The system they had for feeding the insectivorous birds was to have some fruit rotting in the bottom of a mesh-covered dustbin: the insects breeding on the fruit flew out through the mesh for the birds to hunt. So, imagine the aroma in there: a combination of warm green vegetation, warm moist soil, warm rotting fruit and, no doubt, a hint of warm bird-droppings. I thought it was gorgeous. And that’s the aroma of Vietnamese Imperial Oolong China Oolong (o) (OC04)(and, of course, that main element of the flavour).

I don’t think I had ‘first thoughts’ on this – I was too gobsmacked. Then I thought, “This is seriously weird stuff – don’t know what to think of it.” Then I thought, “Well …” Then, somewhere towards the end of the second mug, I thought, “I’m in love!”

180 °F / 82 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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Happily retired male.

Started exploring ‘proper’ tea in March, 2010 after decades of PG Tips teabags. I was initially looking for ‘the perfect tea’; now I don’t want to find one – I’m so much more enjoying exploring the variety.

A confession: I take my tea with four sweeteners to a half-pint mug.
28/05/2012 – I’ve decided to wean myself off the sweeteners, starting this morning, so, three per mug instead of four (I’m getting a growing feeling that I’m failing to get the best out of some of the oolongs and greens I try and I intend getting a gaiwan and the appropriate little cups, and sweeteners don’t seem to be appropriate, there). 16/02/2013 – since New Year’s Day I’ve only been using two sweeteners. I’m struggling to get used to it, to be honest – some teas are more difficult than others.

How I make tea: either in a traditional teapot which holds enough for three half-pint mugs and has a removable infuser (London Teapot Company); or in a half-pint mug with an Agatha’s Bester filter. Sometimes I vaguely think about getting some nice, genteel cups and saucers …

Important: I measure the tea with plastic kitchen measuring spoons – teaspoon and half-teaspoon sizes – so when I say a ‘heaped teaspoon’, as the correct measure is a levelled one, I should probably be calling it ‘two teaspoons’!


Derbyshire/Staffordshire, UK.

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