Monday, November 4, 2013

Upton Tea Imports: China Oolong Buddha's Palm, A Tea Review

Ah, this time of year always leaves me in an emotional funk. I have been trying to cure it this year with copious amounts of Minecraft (because of course) reorganizing my stuff, and planning craft projects. I can see the light at the end of the proverbial cloud bank and my annual 'Beginning of November Funk' seems to be ended early. I am especially excited because my Rheumatoid Arthritis in my hands seems to be better so I can go back to Origami again, woohoo! Speaking of hands, today I am going to review a hand themed tea that has been in my notebook for a bit.

Upton Tea Imports has a fancy named Oolong named Buddha's Palm that I wanted to try because it has Buddha in the name and is an Oolong (I am easy to please) but sadly their website does not have much info on the tea other than it is from Fujian and it has superior aroma, flavor and leaf style. You know me, I want more info so I went researching! Buddha's Palm is not named after Buddha exactly but after the (kinda horrifying looking) Buddha's Hand Fruit, a kind of citrus. It is a Se Chung variety and also goes by the name Yong Chun Fo Shou. The aroma of this tea is very rich and heady to the point of making me dizzy. I notice intense malt and a bit of nuttiness and campfire smoke, but mainly there is the intense floral aroma. The floral is sickly sweet like flowers that are old and have been blooming for days, or like some of varieties of orchid. I admit the aroma is not too my liking, it is a little too intense and makes me feel a bit queasy.

Adding the tea to some nice warm water I notice the leaves start taking on a strong Tobacco aroma mixing with pine smoke and loam. It reminds me of a Gentleman's library in the Victorian era, complete with pipe smoke and polished wood bookshelves. The aroma is not entirely unpleasant but it certainly is a little too strong on the Tobacco front. The steeped liquid sans leaves is very rich, pine wood and campfire mixed with an undertone of honey.

The taste is crazy intense, and not in a good way. The taste is like pine fire mixed with cigar smoke, I kid you not it tastes like a cigar that has been stored in a pine box. It is a touch bitter, like the bitterness of oak wood, not astringency. There is a roasted aftertaste that is somewhat pleasant but the cigar taste is giving me a nasty headache!

I am going to try a second steep, sometimes I have noticed the unpleasantness of the first steep can make for a really delicious second steep, wish me luck. The taste is still a bit too much like a humidor for my liking, but it is better than the first steep. The bitterness is gone entirely and the taste (other than cigar) is piney and sweet. I am not going to say this tea is bad but it does have qualities that I am entirely not fond of. I think if I want a smokey Oolong I will stick with the significantly less expensive Shui Hsien and pass on the Buddha's Palm in the future.


  1. This is interesting...I've only had one Fo Shou / Buddha's Palm oolong, but it was very different from this one...I got it from Life in Teacup, and it was a very green oolong. It had a sharper flavor than most green oolongs (not buttery like high-grade green Tie Guan Yin or green Taiwanese oolongs) but I definitely enjoyed it.

    This tea looks much darker than the one I tried...more oxidized or more roasted?

    It doesn't sound too appealing from your review, but on the other hand, I tend to really like teas with strong aromas, and ones that have tobacco-like tones in the aroma. So I almost want to try it after reading your review...maybe I'll order a sample next time I order from Upton.

    The tea I tried from Life in Teacup is definitely not the sort of tea I'd imagine everyone liking. It was also quite bitter.

  2. I was fairly surprised by how different my experience was in comparison to the description of other Buddha's Palm teas I read about when hunting more info. I sometimes like bitter teas, but I definitely have to be in the mood for it and know it is bitter going in, so I am curious to try a more green version of this tea.

    I am pretty sure that Upton's version is more oxidized since it lacks that distinctive roasted Oolong taste, but it could be a combination of both. I wish I still had some left I could send you to try, it is certainly worth the experience.