After the horrible experience I had with their Quangzhou Milk Oolong, I have not had much of a desire to review many other Tealyra products. I tried this one for the first time in a gongfu session back in August and remembered really liking it, but for whatever reason, I never got around to posting a review. I was craving oolong all day yesterday though, and when I realized that I still had enough of this left for a couple of sessions, I plowed through the last of it.
I prepared this tea two ways. The first session was gongfu. After a 10 second rinse, I steeped 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 195 F water for 10 seconds. This initial infusion was followed by 10 additional infusions with an increase of 2 seconds per infusion. Steep times ranged from 10-30 seconds. The other session was a three step Western infusion. Following a brief (10 second) rinse, I steeped approximately 1.5 teaspoons of loose tea leaves in 8 ounces of 195 F water for 2 minutes. Additional infusions were conducted at 3 and 5 minutes respectively.
With regard to the gongfu session, I noticed that the dry leaves produced a lovely aroma of flowers, char, and coffee. After the rinse, I noted scents of saffron, vanilla, char, roasted grain, coffee, and cinnamon. The initial infusion produced a near identical aroma, as well as powerful flavors of saffron, violets, char, roasted grain, vanilla bean, graham cracker, cinnamon, caramelized banana, coffee, and molasses. Subsequent infusions really emphasized the melding of floral, savory, and roasted notes. I noted emerging aromas and flavors of tobacco, leather, and woodsmoke. There was also a slight minerality that emerged on the finish. The last 3 infusions were heavy on the mineral, smoke, char, tobacco, and leather notes, although I was still able to detect traces of violet, coffee, vanilla bean, and cinnamon in the background.
The Western infusion was much smoother with a more seamless integration of flavors. The floral aromas and flavors were milder, and the cinnamon, molasses, char, roasted grain, coffee, vanilla bean, and caramelized banana notes were very pronounced. The tea held its aroma and flavor well, with the minerality only becoming noticeable on the second infusion and not playing a significant role until the final infusion.
Overall, I really like this tea. I’m not really sure how it stands up to some of the higher end Taiwanese Tieguanyins on the market, but for an introduction to the unique Taiwanese take on this varietal, this is truly exceptional. The tea holds its aromas and flavors well through multiple infusions. I’m still far from the most proficient at gongfu brewing, but when even I can produce something that still retains considerable strength and complexity through 8 or 9 consecutive steepings with this tea, I really think that speaks for itself. Even with the longer steep times involved in a multi-step Western infusion, this tea went the distance. All in all, I’m impressed. This is a nice little oolong for the money.
Flavors: banana, Char, Cinnamon, Coffee, Floral, Graham, Leather, Mineral, Molasses, Saffron, Smoke, Tobacco, Vanilla, Violet