I’m writing to mention a specific Indian oolong that I just reviewed, a version from Assam, but if any discussion is to occur it would work better to keep this subject more general. In the past the Indian oolong versions I’ve tried always seemed like slightly less oxidized black teas, which can be a good thing, but nothing like other oolongs. This didn’t remind me of a high mountain oolong or Chinese roasted oolong either but at least it was novel, a bit soft, heavy on orange citrus, earthy but not malty in the same way black tea Assams are, and really sweet. So to me it was in between a second flush Darjeeling and an Oriental Beauty.
I ended up with a sample of what I am assuming is more or less the same tea from Teabox plus another oolong from Doomni. I’ve yet to try either.
It does look the same on the Teabox site listing; the appearance, description, and flavor list is essentially identical. Tea producers do sometimes make different batches of teas so it is possible that it’s not the same in spite of all that; it could be a higher quality tea, or just a different but related version.
I’ve nothing against Teabox or any other resale vendor but the pricing difference in this case is what makes buying direct more or less a no-brainer (assuming the teas are the same, or probably even if they’re not). Teabox sells 3.53 ounces of the tea for $31.99 (100 grams, in metric amounts) and Halmari sells the same tea (or a nearly identical version) on their website for $26 for 250 grams. Even with the cost of shipping added two and half times as much tea is going to cost about the same amount by ordering from a different place. The Teabox version listing versus Halmari’s own:
That reminds me, I wrote a blog post on the subject of direct sourcing not so long ago. Typically smaller vendors—not that I’m calling Teabox small; I don’t know how much tea they sell—will not cite their tea sources because if they do a customer could just buy directly from that source instead. If a vendor is buying tea from a wholesale source only that might not work, but if they are buying tea from other types of producers it could. That post:
I personally don’t feel that the same type of inclination for support applies to online vendors as for local physical shops, which I do try to buy from in order to help them maintain a business. If an online vendor can provide a good product at competitive prices then they should be fine, given some degree of customer retention and marketing works out. It could turn into a unique business challenge if small online vendors are forced to compete against original source producers, but I don’t necessarily see that as a problem, and I don’t see suppression of consumer awareness of options as a good resolution for that challenge.
I’ve had two oolongs from the Indian subcontinent. One was Doke Rolling Thunder, which was like a black tea with chai spices. The other was What-Cha’s Nepal Silver Oolong, which had the sweet citrus flavour you describe. I also remember it being quite astringent.
I’m sure I’ve tried more versions presented as oolong than I can remember specifics for, but I guess I’ve never tried Doke’s Rolling Thunder. That’s odd, now that I think of it, since they have been nice enough to share some samples (the Lochans), and I’ve reviewed other versions of their teas. In searching my blog I only found one other oolong from Nepal, and it sounded similar, not so far off second flush Darjeeling, just backed off a bit in oxidation, heavy in citrus / bergamot range. That teas and the other teas I’ve tried from that producer (Shangrila) have been nice though, especially another white tea version:
That Shangrila white tea does sound good. I hope somewhere like What-Cha decides to carry it so that others can partake. I’ve had a few white teas from India and Nepal from Lochan and they’ve been good but not memorable. Doke Silver Needle was the most distinctive.
Sorry for getting off topic.
If I’m not mistaken, most Darjeeling teas are sort of oolongs minus the roasting. They range from lightly oxidized like castleton and singbulli estates to heavily oxidized like the jungpana teas.