Gui Fei - Taiwan Oolong Tea - Winter 2011

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Oolong Tea
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From Norbu Tea

Harvest: Winter, 2011
Other Market Names: Red Oolong; Honey Oolong; Royal Concubine/Courtesan
Growing Area: Jenai Township, Nantou County, Taiwan
Elevation: +/-3,300 ft (1,000 M)
Varietal: Qing Xin

The name “Gui Fei” is usually associated with the historical figure Yang Guifei, last of the Four Great Beauties of ancient China. To explain her name, Yang was her family name, and Guifei was the official title this great beauty held as the highest ranking courtesan/consort of the Emperor. This particular style of oolong processing was developed in 1999-2000, and the name Gui Fei was selected to invoke the memory of this great historical beauty.

Processing Method:
This tea was hand picked and processed during the Winter harvest season of 2011 using a method loosely based on the traditional Dong Ding processing method. The leaves are hand picked and then withered either in the sun or indoors (depending on the weather) for a short period of time to reduce some of the moisture content in the leaves. After the leaves’ moisture content has reduced enough to make them soft & pliable, the tea is spread on large bamboo trays and shaken periodically over a period of a few hours to bruise the edges and begin the oxidation process. Once the leaves have oxidized to about 40-45% (my estimate), they are heated in tumbling dryers/ovens to stop the oxidation process. After the oxidation process is halted, the tea leaves are rolled in mechanical rollers, which causes them to compress into their tightly compressed ball shape. The leaves are then dried and ready for packing and shipment.

Appearance, Flavor and Aroma:
The dry leaves are the tightly-rolled ball shape typical of most Taiwan high mountain oolong tea, and the aroma of the dry leaves has a bit of raisin-like sweetness with just a touch of citrus. When infused, the leaves produce a beautiful, crystal clear, coppery-red infusion.

The flavor profile of this tea has elements of honey, a raisin-like sweetness (or another dried fruit of some sort), and a touch of the citrus I picked up in the aroma of the dry leaves. The infusion has moderately thick body, a nicely coating mouthfeel, and a lingering honeyed aftertaste. The other thing that strikes me about this tea is that it has just a slightly tannic edge to it that puts it just on the borderline of the flavors typically associated with certain types of black (red) tea, but it definitely isn’t a black tea at all. It is something else altogether, which, in my opinion, is what makes Oolong processing so amazing.

Preparation Guideline:
I recommend steeping this tea gongfu style to truly enjoy the layers of flavor that reveal themselves as the leaves unfurl over a series short steepings. I would start with about 7 grams of tea in a 150 ml Gaiwan or teapot, and begin your steeping process with a 20-30 second steep using 190-195°F water. Gradually increase the steeping time and temp with each subsequent infusion. This tea can also steeped in the Western manner with good results.

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