I am always in pursuit of new tea, out of curiosity. My curiosity is big, and sometimes it can be weird :-p When my friend told me about this cheap Phoenix Oolong, without hesitation, I said I would try it. At 22 yuan per 500g ($3.3 per 500g, or 19 cent per oz.), it’s probably the cheapest oolong I’ve ever had. So I took all the trouble to obtain 2 samples and include them in my international shipping parcel, all the way from Chaozhou to Massachusetts. I thought, I’ve got to experience the 19 cent per oz. oolong!
To my surprise, the dry leaves are not bad at all. Besides some extra twigs, there aren’t many hint of cheapness (but of course my eyes are not as sharp as those of oolong farmers). The dry tea smells pleasant, a light aroma remotely resemble low-grade but presentable jasmine green tea.
I first infused it with typical gong fu style, with about 7g tea leaves in a 120ml teapot and with infusions as short as possible. The tea tastes bitter and astringent to certain degree, but not unbearable (I do have strong tolerance of bitterness, though). Both the bitterness and the astringency hit the tongue and fade away. There is no lingering fragrance at all. The smell of the tea is all the way weak but pleasant. I feel I can’t really take this tea in gulps because it’s indeed harsh in some way. But on the other hand, if there is only this tea in the world for me to drink every day, I wouldn’t feel as desperate as if there were only some brand name teabags left in the world for me to drink every day. With the seduction of my other more tasty teas, I didn’t go for more than 2 infusions in my gong fu style brewing of this tea. But still I think this tea is drinkable, more so than some teas I’ve seen from Asian groceries and mainstream supermarkets.
I also tried brewing smaller amount of this tea in a mug. It’s less bitter or astringent than in gong fu brewing. Again it reminds me of some low-grade jasmine green tea, not great but drinkable, even with some aroma. Then I cold brewed some of this tea. In cold brewing, as I’ve found in some other teas too, the bitterness and astringency are largely reduced, probably because such tastes do not dissolve into water in lower temperature.
Overall it’s an interesting experience, and I am glad this cheapest oolong I’ve ever had didn’t make me suffer too much. A bonus of this tea journey – the producer obviously doesn’t want me to think this tea is a typical representative of their teas (in fact it’s their cheapest tea), so they gave me samples of their most expensive Huang Zhi Xiang (the same tea tree variety but a “pure breed”) and their intermediate-range Huang Zhi Xiang. I love freebies and they justified my expedited international shipping :D