Thursday, April 30, 2009

REVIEW: The Tea Spot, Vintage Oolong


The Web site reads:
Our Vintage Oolong is a pure Taiwanese, single–estate, medium–bodied oolong. With a sweet, nutty flavor, this tea captures the subtlety of what amazing, full–leaf tea should taste like. Hints of ripe apricots and lilacs combine to produce a tender, timeless green oolong; hence the name! This tea yields a bright, amber liquor and should be re–steeped multiple times. Each successive steeping will unveil new flavors & aromas, until the leaves are fully opened. Delicate, refined, and understated - this is the true connoisseur’s tea!
My only complaint is that the Tea Spot people didn't let us know on their Web site which vintage this tea is, nor which field is comes from, nor what time of year it was picked. For my personal education in tea, I long for this information.

Because this is a green oolong, and it's fairly dense (the leaves are small crumpled balls, rather than long twists), I will use 1 tsp with 1 cup filtered water, boiled and allowed to cool to 90C, for 2 minutes, in Great-Grandma's Japanese porcelain teapot. Well, that was the plan. In practice, a sudden interruption meant that I actually ended up steeping for 3 minutes, which is a bit long for a green oolong, in my opinion. Let's see how it worked out.

These leaves when dry are highly fragrant, green smelling, with nutty and floral notes. The very tightly bunched, little balls opened up upon steeping into beautiful, large leaves of a very rich, summery-dark grass green. They have a buttery, rich scent, almost like buttered popcorn or rich cooked greens.

This tea has a terrifically golden cup, transparent and very shiny. Drunk very hot, the flavor is a bit difficult to discern-- slightly woody, with a mineral tone. As the tea cools, the flavors start to show up on the scene: a floral flavor, sweet like lavender, perhaps, but quite subtle, with green grass and hay. There is a dry, grassy or woody mouthfeel, which nicely counterpoints the sweetness of the aroma. The flora aroma and flavor continue to develop as the cup cools, creating a very complex experience for me.

As I say every time, I always love to try the second cup in the first infusion, because time and heat have allowed the tea to oxidize further and develop its flavors more fully. For this tea, the second cup is definitely drier than it was before, and the flavor is fully-formed, with great floral, grass, and wood notes. This tea has distinctly green characteristics-- grass, hay, dryness-- with a fruitiness as of maybe apricot or peach, which is that semi-oxidized oolong character.

Even though I don't know where the tea is from, it's still quite lovely, and the fragrance is really quite something.