An Indian oolong! What is going on here? Sorry, I just couldn’t resist the urge to open this review by saying something silly. Still, it should be noted that I do not exactly associate India with oolong production. In all honesty, I do not associate the state of Bihar with tea production at all, despite the fact that the Doke Tea Estate has been quietly pumping out a number of innovative and generally well-regarded teas for some time. This being my first Indian oolong, I really wanted to like it. Unfortunately, I could not get into it at all.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a 10 second rinse, I steeped 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 185 F water. This initial infusion was chased by 12 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 10 seconds, 15 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, and 3 minutes.
Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves produced thick aromas of wood, black grape, malt, and spice. After the rinse, the black grape and malt scents intensified and were joined by a slight herbal character. The first infusion produced a decidedly more balanced bouquet with stronger hints of herbs and indistinct floral touches. In the mouth, the tea was initially dominated by tentative notes of wood, malt, and black grape underscored by timid nutmeg, herbal, and floral impressions. Subsequent infusions upped the black grape and malt aromas and flavors, while touches of nutmeg, anise, sweet potato, chocolate, brown sugar, violet, rose, minerals, and cooling wintergreen emerged at one point or another. The final infusions were decidedly heavy on minerals, wood, and malt, though somewhat distant impressions of flowers, herbs, and black grapes were still flitting around in the background.
As mentioned above, this tea did not do it for me. The black grape, malt, and floral notes were nice, but to me, this tea displayed such an odd and unexpected mix of aromas and flavors. It definitely did not have the sort of profile for which I typically go. Several of the early and middle infusions displayed such a pronounced sugary, fruity sweetness that a number of off-kilter juxtapositions were created when the other components were fully engaged. Table grapes and wintergreen, anyone? How about anise and chocolate? Would sweet potato and rose petals happen to be up anyone’s alley? Alright, enough of that. What I’m trying to say is that I found this one to be weird, and not entirely in a pleasant kind of way. I really tried to give it a fair shake, but I just couldn’t wrap my head, my nose, or perhaps most importantly, my taste buds around it.
Flavors: Anise, Brown Sugar, Chocolate, Grapes, Herbs, Malt, Mineral, Nutmeg, Rose, Sweet Potatoes, Violet, Wood