Amber Forest

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Oolong Tea
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From Totem Tea

Notes of dark caramel, chocolate, and warm woodland.

In the ongoing quest to find teas that pair artful preparation and cultivation I came across this incredibly smooth and textured Taiwanese oolong. Amber Forests combines the best aspects of the silky Jin Xuan cultivar with the warmth of traditional longan charcoal roasting.

This Jin Xuan, known as #12, was first cultivated in the 1970’s by the Taiwan Tea Research and Extension Station. The goal was to create a tea that would thrive in the misty mid-mountain altitudes of central Taiwan while being floral like the quintessential high-mountain oolongs. The result was a leaf that carried an elegant bouquet and a unique milky texture and taste.

The highly sought after texture of Jin Xuan is preserved in this expertly roasted final product. Traditional charcoal roasting is becoming somewhat uncommon as it is very involved. It first involves creating the charcoal itself from wood of the longan fruit tree. The tea is then slow-roasted for 3 days in partially buried woven bamboo baskets. The airy floral notes of the tea are thus exchanged for warm grounding notes.

The traditional charcoal roasting is more warm in feeling than electric drum roasting, and imparts a woody depth that conjures an image of walking in the woods, eating a bar or milk-chocolate. The tea has a rich amber color with a light sheen.

I recommend brewing with 195 degree water for the first infusion which should be 45 seconds. Subsequent infusions can be shorter or longer in time, depending on how deep you want to take the tea. As always, experiment with brewing this very forgiving tea that has no astringency.

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2 Tasting Notes

188 tasting notes

Butternut, caramel, sesame goodness in a nicely roasted Jin Xuan. Great length, moderate energy, an overall fine tea.

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921 tasting notes

Today is a day of pros and cons, the big pro is I have finally found a curio cabinet! For a whopping $30, beautiful combination of chestnut wood and a light…however, it is missing shelves. I thought it would be a piece of cake to get pieces of wood cut to size at the hardware store. I found the wood I liked and they wouldn’t cut it, turns out cutting along the length of the board is not something the local harware store was interested in doing. So now the quest goes on to find shelf inserts in a price that is within my budget, so far my quest has been not spectacular, but I have high hopes. Soon my cups (and other teapots and such) will have a protected and easy to access home.

The tea I am looking at today is from Totem Tea, their Amber Forest, which has a wonderfully evocative name, like a forest in autumn with dappled sunlight making the woods glow like amber. It is a Jin Xuan (and it is well known my love of this cultivar) but instead of its usual green glory, it is roasted over longan charcoal. I love LOVE roasted oolongs, and Jin Xuan is one that I only rarely get to indulge in. The aroma of the dry leaves is wonderfully nutty, strong notes of toasted sesame and sweet chestnut with a creamy Jin Xuan notes that are familiar. What really pushes this tea over the edge are notes of pistachio, mochi (with a bit of red bean paste too) and cashew butter, those pistachio notes are killer, seriously, nutty notes are one of my favorite aspects of roasted oolongs.

Gaiwan time! The aroma of the soggy leaves is super nutty, lots of cashew, chestnut, pistachios, and of course toasted sesame seeds. It is very sweet, and very autumnal, I might be sniffing this at the wrong time of year, but I am ok with that. The liquid for the first steep is immensely sweet, notes of honey drenched cashews and pistachios with a tiny bit of buttery toast.

Oh wow, the first steep is so sweet and wonderfully nutty! I feel like this is a tea that someone who really likes eating nuts as a main snack would love…and I do eat a ton of nuts. Notes of sesame butter, cashews, honey, and autumn leaf pile are all tangled together with a wonderful creamy quality that was present both in mouthfeel and in taste. It borders on buttery for the beginning, this is a tea I could crave on cold days.

The second steep starts to really bring out the toasted notes, not longer just notes of nuts, now there are notes of gentle char and a touch of toasted grains. It is rich and still quite sweet in the nose. Like the first steep this one starts out wonderfully creamy and nutty, with strong notes of sesame and cashew and an accompaniment of pistachio and chestnut. Alongside the nutty sweet goodness is gentle char and toasted grain heavy bread drizzled in butter, a classic roasted oolong taste that pleases me, the mouthfeel is much creamier on this tea than a lot of other roasted oolongs, probably due to it being Jin Xuan.

The third steep is not much changed from the second, and while there is not much change I can say this, I was able to steep this tea for what seemed like a roasted happy eternity. I was sipping it a night I was unable to sleep, and I can say even though it was hot and I was cranky from the heat, I was in bliss mode because this tea just did not quit. I went through ten steeps before I finally had to call it quits, this tea outlasted me! I love it and must add a large pile of it to my collection, especially for autumn where this tea is going to be guzzled in large quantities.

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