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Recent Tasting Notes
I compared with tea side by side with the original Ruby 18 Fong Mong Tea offers. I used a gaiwan method. As this is a black tea, I opted for fewer, longer steeps. I used 2g of leaves per 60ml of water. I used water just at a boil, with a first steep of 20 seconds, preparing both the original Ruby 18 and it’s GABA counterpart at the same time.
My first sip was of the original, and it was just as I remembered it, albeit a little more potent this time for tasting purposes. The original is complex: malty, rich, with camphor, menthol, cinnamon earthiness and slightly fruity. It is also astringent, a truly delightful experience.
Now what about this GABA variety? At first impression, it seemed very similar. Perhaps the flavours are a bit more potent in this one. I sipped again. My mouth began feeling that familiar drying sensation as I tried to tease out the nuances of this variety. It is a bit different. But it is still entirely a Ruby 18.
The note in Ruby 18 that always strikes me most is that strong camphor and menthol. The warming cinnamon is there too. I feel like this GABA one has more intensity to it and a bit more natural sweetness. It’s quite soothing and the mouthfeel again is rich and smooth, I think I find it a little more astringent than the original Ruby 18. There’s a minty freshness in here to complement the rest of the bouquet.
I feel like the most noticeable difference to me (someone who really enjoys tea, but not an expert) is that the GABA version seems more sweet and potent, and the aftertaste lingers a bit longer than the original Ruby 18. These are, of course, my personal opinion and a subjective observation. I thoroughly enjoy both.
Both of these teas are beautiful and of high quality. After a long suffocating steep, both were still very enjoyable and I could not tell you any distinct flaw in them. They are simply great teas. Overall I feel the GABA tea is a bit sweeter in a cinnamon and mint kind of way. Both teas retained a lot of flavour and strength even into this fourth steeping, and could have been pushed further. Due to the sweetness and enjoying the relaxing GABA effects, if I had to choose between the two, I’d choose the GABA version.
Flavors: Camphor, Caramel, Cinnamon, Malt, Menthol, Mint
I opened the pouch and took a whiff of the rolled leaves, finding the nutty, vegetal fragrance warm and inviting. It also reminds me of honey-coated puffed wheat somehow.I first rinsed the leaves with hot water. Then I used water at approximately 85C, with 45ml of water per 2g of leaf to begin this tasting. As the leaves opened up, I added a little more water in 15ml increments.
In the gaiwan I started with a 20 second infusion time, and added 5 seconds to the infusion time with each successive steep. The aroma was sweet, nutty, and inviting. At first sip, my impression was of almonds and sticky rice. The vegetal green notes are very present, with mild, complimentary roasting notes and the nutty sweetness. The liquor is an appealing sunny straw yellow. It reminds me of springtime, but also of autumn, and strikes me as a tea that would be lovely to enjoy any time of year. The flavours shifted subtly as I continued re-infusing. A sweet almondy aftertaste lingered in the back of my throat. Sometimes a little more ‘green’ would peek out, sometimes more almonds and honey, sometimes I tasted more minerals. I continued on for a good 10 infusions, truly enjoying each one. The final steep, I allowed to sit for a few solid minutes for a grand finale. This final burst of flavour also has a foggy undertone and has left me with a fond memory.
Flavors: Almond, Nutty, Rice, Roasted, Sweet
This tea is fascinating. An aged oolong, it was harvested in 2008, and was repeatedly roasted and stored. The aroma of the dry leaf is mostly of wood, charcoal, and minerals. I prepared this tea in a gaiwan, using approximately 2g of leaf for this tasting, and beginning with 30ml of water at around 90 degrees Celsius. I rinsed the leaves before infusing. I should note that a Yixing teapot is recommended for this type of tea, however, I don’t own one yet, so gaiwan it is.
For the first infusion, I let it sit for 20 seconds, and then added 10 seconds with each infusion. This oolong really reminds me of rock tea. I also notice the leaves don’t open quite as much as other oolong, but the flavour certainly does come out. The liquor s dark reddish brown, and it’s astringent, most noticed at the back of the mouth and throat. Flavour wise, this tea tastes robustly woody and smokey, a bit of charcoal and minerals with an interesting honey-like note in the aftertaste. The aftertaste is substantial and lingering.
I continued for 10 infusions, noticing that the flavours are quite consistent over time. The wood and smoke notes do mellow and by the final few infusions I tasted more minerals. This was an intriguing taste experience!
Flavors: Char, Mineral, Smoke, Wood
This time I tried the Jin Xuan, a special varietal that is grown in Alishan and also offers some milk oolong flavour. The dry leaf smells vegetal, sweet, and creamy milk with butter.
I prepared this using a porcelain gaiwan, using 2g of leaves and giving the leaves a rinse first. I used water at approximately 85 degrees Celsius. I began with a 10 second infusion time, adding 5 seconds per infusion for a pattern of 10, 15, 20, 25, etc. I personally found the liquor to have a more pale colour but rich savory and buttery aroma. The mouthfeel was creamy, somewhat thick, and a few infusions in I also found it delightfully squeaky.
The flavours are more umami to me, savory butter and reminding me of legumes, peas and edamame, but there is also a floral note and some sweetness in here too. It’s complex and quite amusing for the tastebuds. The first several steeps were always a burst of flavour. I carried on for 10 infusions, finding that even by the end the flavour was still quite consistent but mellowing. This is a delightful find!
Flavors: Butter, Cream, Umami, Vegetal
As usual, I brewed this with a gaiwan with shorter steeps the first tasting. The dry leaf is fragrant and to me it smells quite fresh and vegetal, with the fruit and floral aromas being more subtle here. That changed with brewing.
I used approximately 2g of leaf for the gaiwan, giving them a rinse before steeping. Using shorter steeps, I opted to begin with a 15 second infusion time for the first, then added 5 seconds with each following infusion for a pattern of 15, 20, 25, etc. I used 30ml of water to begin, adding to that amount in 15ml increments as the leaves opened up. The water I used was hot, but not boiling, approximately 85 degrees Celsius. The liquor first appeared a very pale sunny golden yellow and gained a little more colour as infusions progressed. The aroma was sweet and grassy, quintessentially green oolong.
I found the mouthfeel of this tea was quite smooth, a little bit squeaky, and had just a hint of astringency I found more at the back of my throat with the lingering green aftertaste. There is definitely fruity and floral flavours here, more so fruity. There’s sweetness but also an interesting tartness, sometimes reminding me of cherries, sometimes goji berries, even sometimes citrus – a little bit hard to put a definitive finger on, because the flavours are complex and shifting slightly from infusion to infusion. I’m loving this! With that fruitiness is floral notes with butter and legumes, a verdant grassy note. This tea definitely tastes spring-like. I carried on for 9 infusions this way, before wrapping up with a final long steep that brought out that familiar foggy mountain air note.
Flavors: Butter, Floral, Vegetal
I used my usual method for the gaiwan, with about 2g of leaf, a rinse, and 30ml of water at approximately 85 degrees Celsius to begin infusing. I add water in 15ml increments as needed, making sure the leaves have space to open. I began with a 10 second infusion time, adding 5 seconds per steep for a pattern of 10, 15, 20, etc.
This is another oolong that produces a pale yellow liquor – very pale, with just a hint of green. The aroma is sweetly floral, reminding me of springtime and cherry blossoms, and maybe peaches, and a light mineral taste. The actual vegetal greenness of this oolong seems a little subdued, with the fruity and floral aspects front and center. The liquor is smooth and creamy, and my first impression is of delicacy. That’s the word I’d sum this tea up with, delicate. Sweetly floral and fruity, delicate and somehow light and airy.
The sweetness reminds me of cherries and peaches, also honey. It seems to intensify over the first 4 infusions. There’s something very clean about this tea, and also something like perfume. By the fifth infusion, the mineral note started to come forward more. The floral and fruity notes begin fading after infusion 7, leaving my final two infusions tasting more of minerals and foggy mountain air. This is a complex and intriguing cup, as I’ve come to expect from Fong Mong Tea.
Flavors: Apple, Caramel, Creamy, Floral
I prepared this tea in a gaiwan using 2g of leaf and 30ml of water at 80 degrees Celsius to start, adding to the water amount as needed in 15ml increments when the leaves opened up. The liquor begins very pale, delicate, yet flavourful and creamy. A refreshing bouquet of light floral, verdant vegetal notes, something sweet and fruity but mostly honey. The honey is the dominant lingering aftertaste.
I infused these leaves 10 times for this tasting. The liquor remained pale throughout, deepening in colour just slightly as time went on, but the flavour is the real story here. Consistent, sweet, very much of a honey flavour and just a little bit of almond peeked out midway through the tasting. The mouthfeel is rich and creamy yet light at the same time. This was a highly enjoyable tasting that left me eager for more.
Flavors: Cinnamon, Floral, Honey
With the gaiwan I opted for brewing using water at approximately 80 degrees Celsius. I used 2g of leaf and gave the leaves a quick rinse in hot water before steeping the first infusion, which I let sit for 15 seconds. The colour of the liquor was a pale golden yellow reminding me of straw. The flavour was richly floral sweet, the beautiful Jasmine at the forefront of springlike vegetal notes and a sweet cherry finish. There’s a bit of honey in here too.
This lovely flavour continued across all infusions as I continued, added 5 seconds to the steep time with each infusion. I think this might be my new favourite oolong, actually. by the 5th or 6th infusion I noticed some mineral notes starting to show through. That sweet floral and cherry has beautiful longevity. By the 10th infusion the mineral note was stronger and the other flavours were waning so I made that my last. By this point I was very impressed with this oolong.
Flavors: Cherry, Floral, Jasmine, Perfume, Vegetal
For my first tasting of this particular tea I used a gaiwan. I used 2g of leaf, and gave them a rinse with hot water before infusing. To infuse, I used water at 85 degrees Celsius, and began with a 15 second infusion time. The liquor was yellow but somewhat pale. The flavour, I found, was a bit unique. It tastes even cleaner than it smells. There are definitely floral notes in here, and I also taste minerals, it’s sweet and this first infusion is a bit perfumey to. There’s a vegetal flavour at the heart of this tea somewhere between green beans and edamame. The flavour is light but very enjoyable and satisfying.
Continuing on, I add 5 seconds with each new infusion, and the liquor’s pale yellow hue begins to strengthen. I taste more floral and minerals. The mouthfeel is buttery and smooth yet there’s some astringency at the back of the mouth that lingers, to go with the lingering floral aftertaste. Using this method I continued to 9 infusions, letting the final infusion sit for several minutes. This final cup’s flavour was more mineral in nature, and a lovely note to finish off on.
Flavors: Apple, Floral, Vegetal
I prepared this tea using a gaiwan with 2g of leaves. I used water at approximately 90 degrees Celcius, beginning with 30mls for the first couple of infusions, increasing the amount in 15ml increments as the leaves opened up. After a quick rinse, my first infusion was 15 seconds. The liquor was quite pale on this first infusion, but the flavour was there and abundant.
There is a creamy texture to this tea’s mouthfeel, but it’s not all that thick. More smooth and somewhat light, and very refreshing. The flavours are of course vegetal, floral, and fruity like apples and spring blossoms. My main impression however, is of honey, and that sweet honey note lingers in the aftertaste. I added 5 seconds with each subsequent infusion, once again finding that common thread of quality and consistency that I’ve found in the past with Fong Mong Tea. I continued on until the 8th infusion, by which the leaves seemed pretty spent. This is a delightful oolong!
Flavors: Apple, Floral, Honey
Smelling warm, a bit woody and roasty with a lovely charcoal aroma, I tried this tea in a gaiwan, using 2g of tea. I rinsed the leaves and then covered them with 30ml of 80-degree Celsius water to start, increasing the amount of water as needed so the leaves would have ample room to open. The first infusion was 15 seconds, and gave a light, clear golden amber liquor. The flavour on this first infusion was already copious.
It begins warm and nutty, a less pronounced and more nuanced charcoal note, but becomes somehow cooling and for me at this tasting a bit sweat inducing, starting at the back of my neck. It tastes a more like a green oolong but still reminds me of a Wuyi Yancha. This is a very rich and complex tea and a delightful flavour experience. There’s a lovely consistency in the infusions with this tea. I added 10 seconds to each infusion and found that worked very well. By the 7th infusion I felt the mineral flavours were taking dominance and the rest of it was fading, so I made my 8th infusion the final one.
Flavors: Caramel, Mineral, Roasted, Sweet
This GABA enriched oolong is something new to me. It’s quite fascinating, too. As I examined the dry leaf I found it contained more pieces of twig and stem than other teas, but there’s a good reason for that: the stems contain more GABA. The aroma is indeed strong and of dried fruits, such as raisins and also a little bit woody. It’s interesting too how some leaves are quite green and some are more brown and black in colour.
I’ve tried this tea both in a teapot and flash steeping in a gaiwan. Although I don’t think I’d infuse it more than twice in a teapot, in a gaiwan it produced round after round of rich liquor that was full of flavour and a bit tranquillizing. Brewing in a gaiwan, I used 3g of leaf per 75ml of water, later increasing to 90ml.
This tea wasn’t quite what I expected. The liquor is darker in colour, a rich amber more akin to a black tea such as Ruby 18. The flavour also makes me feel like I’m drinking a black tea, with malty and caramel notes and a hint of vanilla sweetness. It’s very enjoyable, and I find that it’s minimally astringent, becoming even smoother as it cools. I finished with 8 infusions, letting the last one sit for an extended period of time. I enjoy the calming and focus enhancing boost from this tea.
Flavors: Brown Sugar, Caramel, Honey, Malt
Oriental Beauty is quite an indulgence. The dry aroma is distinct and pleasant, with floating notes of fruit and honey.
As of writing this I’ve tried this tea on two separate occasions with slight method differences, but using a gaiwan both times. The first time, I used cooler water and relatively short infusion times. This brings out a much lighter and delicate flavour, similar to a first flush Darjeeling. I began using 3 grams of tea per 90ml of water, and a 30 second steep time, increasing by another 30 seconds with each infusion. The result was light, fruity sweet with honey. There was no bitterness at all in this tea, and it has a lovely smooth mouthfeel. With this method I stopped at eight infusions, having enjoyed it very much, but also eager to see what hotter water and longer steep times would draw out of this tea.
For my second tasting, I used water just under a boil and longer infusion times, beginning with two minutes. Once again I used 3 grams of tea and 90ml of water. The above picture is from the first infusion of that second tasting. Right from the start there was a much deeper color to the liquor, like amber honey, where the first tasting began quite pale. The flavour using this method was much more rich and bold, but maintained that distinct honey and fruit flavour. Simply delightful!
Flavors: Apple, Candy, Grapes, Honey, Sweet
I tried this tea both using flash steeping and long steeps. With flash steeping, I used 3g of tea and 60ml of water, gradually increasing as the leaves opened up. I rinsed the leaves before infusing, with a first infusion time of 15 seconds, adding 15 seconds with each infusion.
The liquor started out very pale during the first few infusions, gradually taking a more golden yellow hue as the leaves unfurled. The dry leaf didn’t let me know what I was in store for when I drank this tea. The flavour was distinctly sweet and fruity, like pears or peaches, and of course, as this is a green oolong it had those familiar vegetal notes. It was also super smooth and had a milky mouthfeel.
I carried on for seven infusions using this method and was surprised again at how consistent the flavour was – something readily found with Fong Mong’s excellent teas. It almost seemed like you could keep reusing these leaves forever, but at the seventh the flavour was beginning to fade a little. I chose to make the eighth infusion a marathon and allowed it to steep for 10 whole minutes. The result was even more flavourful than I expected! I thoroughly enjoyed this tasting.
Flavors: Brown Sugar, Floral, Peach, Pear
I first tried this tea using a flash steeping method. For this tasting I used 3g of tea and 50ml of water per infusion. Fong Mong Tea recommends a water temperature of 85-90C for this tea. I used longer infusion times than I normally would for flash steeping, giving the tea a quick rinse before beginning with one minute for the first infusion.
The result was quite fantastic. The liquor begins a pale sunny golden yellow, tasting at once vegetal and floral, with a bit of fruity and mineral notes and fresh air. Smooth and creamy mouthfeel with zero astringency. There is no hint of bitterness, and it’s very refreshing. The next infusion sees the leaves continue to unfurl and this tea really shines. This is definitely a superior quality tea. The liquor starts to darken just a touch, but the flavour is consistent and delightful over the nine infusions I did during this tasting. By the sixth infusion, I found it was becoming a little bit squeaky, but the astringency remained pretty low.
Flavors: Brown Sugar, Floral, Flowers, Mineral, Peach
For my first tasting of this tea, I used a teapot method with 1.5g of tea per 8oz of water, and hot water brought to a boil and then cooled. Fong Mong Tea recommends a temperature of 60-70C. The liquor takes a light honey yellow hue. Giving it three minutes to infuse, I found the first cup was more flavourful than expected, with a harmony between savoury and sweet notes and a sweet fruity grape flavour. The mouthfeel was smooth with just the slightest amount of astringency.
When I used the flash steeping method, I soon discovered I like longer steeps better with this tea. Shorter steep times give more delicate flavour and is still very enjoyable, but I preferred the full flavour of the longer steep. I did do seven infusions with flash steeping, starting with a 20-second infusion and adding 10 to 15 seconds with each following infusion. Going forward I’d also use 3g of tea instead of 1.5g – the flavour is excellent and having double the flavour would just be that much better!
Flavors: Grapes, Honey, Umami, Vanilla
Thanks to Fong Mong for the sample. I steeped the entire 6 g in a 120 ml teapot at 185F for 20, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 50, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds, plus a couple long infusions.
Wow! The sample nearly fills my teapot to the brim! The first steep has notes of baked apple, brown sugar, and pleasant sourness with a long, sweet/sour aftertaste. Maybe because of the baked apple associations, I get some nutmeg in the second steep. The next couple rounds add a yeasty flavour, which turns into honey and GABA tanginess in the next several infusions. The tea keeps this profile until the end of the session, when a bit of malt is detectable.
This is a smooth, easy-drinking tea that would probably be great cold. Whether you enjoy it will largely depend on how you perceive the taste of the GABA processing, which is noticeable. I found it to be pleasant and mellow, although I prefer other tea types.
Flavors: Candied Apple, Honey, Malt, Pleasantly Sour, Smooth, Sweet, Tangy, Yeast
Lishan is among my favourite oolongs, and if it weren’t so darn expensive, I’d drink it a lot more often. Thanks to Fong Mong for the sample. I steeped 6 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot at 190F for 25, 20, 25, 30, 30, 45, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.
The dry leaf smells promisingly of heady flowers and stonefruit. The first steep is mild, with notes of brown sugar, orchid, herbs, grass, and butter. A soft fuzzy peach emerges in the second steep, along with stronger grassy and balsam notes. There are also hints of spice. The next couple steeps have a great balance of peach, apricot, spices, balsam, and veggies. As the tea fades, the vegetal and balsam notes take over, though it doesn’t become overly astringent.
This is a lovely fruity Lishan with decent longevity. I particularly enjoy those peach/apricot flavours, which, along with tropical fruit notes, are the Holy Grail of my oolong quest. Given its price point, this tea provides amazing value.
Flavors: Apricot, Brown Sugar, Butter, Floral, Grass, Herbaceous, Orchid, Peach, Sap, Spices, Vegetal
For someone who loves floral oolongs, I don’t drink many flower-scented teas, maybe because I had a few in my early tea discovery days that tasted like they were drenched in cheap perfume. Thanks to Fong Mong for letting me give these teas another chance. I’m actually surprised that others haven’t reviewed this jasmine oolong before (or maybe it’s under another name and I can’t find it in the database).
The 6 g sample I received presented a brewing quandary. I have no medium-sized vessels, only small gongfu teapots and large 355 ml mugs. I usually use at least 4 g of leaf for these mugs, which would have left a measly 2 g for another, probably disappointing session. Instead, I opted to brew the whole shebang in 185F water for a number of short steeps: 1:30 minutes, 2:30 minutes, 4:00 minutes, 6:00 minutes, and 8:00 minutes.
The first steep hits me in the face with its fresh jasmine aroma, and the taste follows through. Although I get some creamy and vegetal notes, the main impression is of heady jasmine. The tea is not in the least astringent. The second steep is very similar, though perhaps not quite so floral. By steep three, the fact that it’s an oolong is becoming more apparent. Steeps four and five reveal more grassy and vegetal flavours, but the fragrant jasmine is still very evident.
This is a highly refreshing tea that would be excellent iced. The jasmine seems real and not overly perfumey, although it does overshadow the oolong almost completely.
So does this mean I’ll seek out more of these teas in the future? Maybe, though I still like the complexity of straight oolongs. Nevertheless, I’m glad I got to try it.
Flavors: Creamy, Grass, Jasmine, Perfume, Smooth, Vegetal
For someone who loves Taiwanese oolongs, I haven’t tried many Baozhongs, possibly because I’m unsure how to brew them. Thanks to Fong Mong for the sample, which is perfect for this cool spring day. I steeped 6 g of these long, mostly unbroken leaves in a 120 ml teapot at 176F for 25, 20, 25, 30, 30, 45, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.
The dry aroma of this tea is intensely buttery and sweet pea floral. The first steep has sweet pea, lilac, butter, grass, and vegetal notes. The second is more herbaceous, with a long, floral aftertaste. Upping the temperature to 180F in the next few steeps brings out notes of pepper and what could be called lime; it also makes the tea more vegetal. The crisp, vegetal and floral balance persists until the end of the session.
This is a nice, uncomplicated tea that’s a cross between an oolong and a green. For me, the heady florals are the best part of the drinking experience, and the aroma lingers in the cup after the session is over.
Flavors: Butter, Floral, Grass, Herbaceous, Lime, Pepper, Smooth, Vegetal
Jin Xuan doesn’t get a lot of attention among Taiwanese oolong fans, possibly because much of it is of poor quality. This version is from Alishan, though, and I’m hoping it’ll be more interesting. It also goes without saying that it’s not one of those artificially scented Jin Xuans that I avoid like the plague. Thanks to Fong Mong for the sample. I steeped 7 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot at 190F for 20, 15, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.
The dry, loosely rolled large nuggets have a subtle aroma of cream, corn, and flowers. The first steep has notes of cream, butter, gardenias, corn, corn husk, and grass. It reminds me of cream corn to a ridiculous extent, though with a vegetal aftertaste. The second steep morphs into soft peaches and cream with hints of gardenias and other flowers. There’s also butter and corn in the background. Needless to say, this tea is quite sweet.
The third steep returns to a floral cream corn with hints of cooked veggies like asparagus, while the next steep loses some of the corn and is heavily floral, almost perfumey. I love how this tea keeps changing! By steep five, the vegetal notes start becoming more prominent, although it’s still floral and creamy. The end of the session is almost entirely vegetal, with lettuce and asparagus in the foreground.
This is a sweet, nuanced Alishan oolong that even high mountain snobs like me can appreciate. I loved watching the flavours play musical chairs throughout my gongfu session. I highly recommend this tea, especially given its price point.
Flavors: Asparagus, Butter, Corn Husk, Creamy, Floral, Gardenias, Grass, Lettuce, Peach, Perfume, Sweet, Vegetal
As I was digging through Tea Mountain (a.k.a. what used to be the bottom of my closet), I unearthed a few more teas that Fong Mong had sent me to review in the winter of 2018. Thanks for the samples, and I apologize for taking so long to get to them.
As my previous reviews have made clear, bug-bitten teas are my jam, so I was eager to try this roasted version. I steeped 6 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot at 195F for 25, 20, 25, 30, 30, 30, 45, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.
Dry, the dark green leaves smell like roast, honey, and faint florals. In the first steep, the roast is surprisingly subtle, and honey, floral, grain, and stonefruit notes are present. If I didn’t know better, I’d say this was a Dong Ding. The honey, peachy, and roasted grain notes become even clearer in the next couple steeps, as does a drying sensation in the mouth. There are also hints of nuts, wood, minerals, and char.
By steep five, the honey starts to fade into the background and the Dong Ding-like nuttiness and roast take over. Later steeps are full of minerals, walnut, and roast, but are still sweet and enjoyable.
I loved the honey, nutty, and stonefruit flavours in this tea, although I wish the fruit had stuck around a bit longer. The roast was a little strong for my liking, but it was never overpowering. This is a solid, comforting tea that I’m glad I was able to try.
Flavors: Char, Floral, Grain, Honey, Mineral, Nutty, Peach, Roasted, Stonefruits, Walnut, Wood