Thursday, April 2, 2009

REVIEW: Jade Oolong Tea, from Green Hill Tea

Jade Oolong tea, from Green Hill Tea

Thank you, George, for sending me this tea. My wife is requesting some tea, and I thought I'd make your Jade Oolong as this afternoon's review.

The Web site reads:

Jade Oolong Tea

Oolong tea is a partially oxidized green tea, and has some of the qualities of both green tea and black tea. Jade Oolong is not baked as long as Dark Oolong, the steeped tea has a light golden hue, sweet flora aroma, fresh initial flavor, and a sweet floral aftertaste which lasts after the sip. Oolong tea is a world famous natural health drink that is loaded with anti-oxidants and thus, many health benefits.

Brew hint: Place one tea spoon into a cup; add boiling water for 3-7 minute.

Okay, I'm surprised that we add boiling water to an oolong, but I'm certainly game.

4 tsp tea leaves, 4 cups, steeped in cast-iron Tetsubin at boiling water temperature, with filtered H2O. Rinse leaves first in near-boiling water for a few seconds, before steeping.

I wish I had a decent Yixing purple-clay pot to prepare the oolong in, to allow it to control the temperature better. But the tetsubin shall have to do!

The dry leaves are various shapes, from irregular balls to oblongs, but the leaves seem to be a quite large size. They range from a light sage green to more of a dark, forest green. They are nicely aromatic, like freshly mown hay, and like spearmint, and grass. because the leaves are large, I'll have to use big, heaping teaspoons to keep the mass about the same as smaller, denser teas.

Nope, I can't do it. I can't pour truly boiling water on these beautiful leaves. I'll let the water cool down a bit, to maybe 200F, before steeping.

While I wait, I am aware of a very strong scent of honeysuckle. The leaves are waking up, and they are quite large-- some as large as the final digit of my thumb.

The cup itself is a very pure orange-gold, with only the barest hint of green. Pure, clean all the way to the bottom of the cup.

the smell of the tea is that same honeysuckle scent. Quite fragrant.

Very smooth, tasting of hay and grass. There's the faint bitterness I associate with green teas.

My lovely wife had the following interchange:

Me: "How do you like it?"
She: "It's good."
Me: "But how do you like it?"
She: "I like it."
Me: "But HOW do you like it?"
She: "Tastes like oolong."

At that point, I gave up and came back down to finish my review.

I know that typically with oolongs, you do multiple steepings. I will probably experiment with that next time I review this tea. But this time, I will follow my own advice and not pronounce on the tea until I've let it sit a bit, and then review the second cup. By letting the tea sit, it allows the complex catechins and flavinoids and theanine and other Tiny Tea Molecules to combine and recombine, making the taste richer and fuller.

The second cup is very grassy and clean, with just the faintest hint of the burn at the back of the throat. (Do I just have a sensitive throat? Who knows, but I like the sensation.) It really makes me think of being outside by a stream of clean water. There's a vegetal flavor up front, under the grassiness, followed by a taste of green apple, perhaps; or maybe other sweet fruit. The aftertaste is achieved by the slow diminishment of the vegetal and slightly bitter notes, leaving behind a sweet honey and grass flavor. But this tea is most alive at that first vibrant instant when the tea hits the tongue (whereas some teas are best discovered by the development of the flavors in the mouth over time). It's great as it hits the nose and mouth simultaneously, right up front.

Thank you, George and Green Hill Tea, for sending me this gift of tea. I've very much enjoyed slowing down my afternoon and listening to my senses, with a pot of your tea. I'll try a more gongfu approach (with multiple short steepings) in future, to see how this tea behaves.