Thursday, June 5, 2014

Teavivre: Oriental Beauty (Bai Hao) Oolong Tea, A Tea Review

I am having a great nostalgia moment. Ben's family went out for sushi and brought me back some, which is awesome since I love sushi. I thought back to my first experience with sushi, I had to be three or four, visiting my grandparents. My uncle was also visiting and making sushi, I remember getting my greedy hands on the toasted nori and loving it, and my grandmother teaching me to eat with chopsticks. I have no memory of the sushi itself, but the preparation is clear in my mind all these years later.

Today's tea is Teavivre's Oriental Beauty (Bai Hao) Oolong Tea, (or Dong Fang Mei Ren) a very fancy Taiwanese oolong that has an interesting symbiotic relationship with leaf hoppers. High in the mountains of Xinzh, Taiwan, leaf hoppers nibble on the leaves of the tea plant causing an immune response, which gives us a very unique taste and aroma. Without this little adorable green bugs, we would not have this tea. The aroma is quite rich, a blend of yeasty sweet bread, sharp muscatel, and sweet raw honey. There are also faint notes of loam and smoke at the finish. Overall the aroma of this tea is quite sweet.

Brewing the tea, the leaves have a very deep and rich aroma. It is a blend of caramel and muscatel sweetness with an almost earthy, almost loamy finish. There is also a very faint hint of cinnamon that gives the tea a layer of warmth that blends really well with the loam and earthy notes. The aroma of the liquid is warm and sweet, with notes of caramel, molasses, and a finish of muscatel. The aroma of this tea reminds me of late summer and the promise of autumn. It warms me and is very soothing.

The first sip fulfills the promise of warmth and richness from the aroma. At first the taste is richly sweet and muscatel, as the sip slides down my mouth it changes to honey and lastly loam. The aftertaste is sweet and like honey. I found that the mouthfeel was smooth and slightly tingly, probably from the adorable little fuzzy bits on the leaves. This steep managed to have a very distinct presence while being delicate and light, now onto steep two!

The aroma of the second steep is much more muscatel sweet and has an extra intensity. After the initial muscatel aroma it fades to a gentle loam. The mouthfeel is drier than the first steep and it does not have the tingling feeling. The taste is great, a tiny bit of stewed plums, a hint of cinnamon warmth, and a nice heavy dosage of sweet muscatel and loam. Again I am reminded of summer, except this is very late summer after the harvest and you are getting ready for the creeping chill of autumn.

For the third steep the aroma of the liquid is sweetly muscatel, a bit of loam, and a sweet finish of stewed spiced plums. Like the second steep, the mouthfeel is dry, which gives it a mouth smacking brightness. Yes, I did the lip smacking yummy sound, I am very dignified. The taste is very similar to the second steep, just more of it. Stronger notes of stewed plum and muscatel, with hints of spice and a sweet aftertaste.

Time for the fourth and final steeping. The aroma is mildly sweet and loamy, it is faint in comparison to the previous steep, but still quite nice. The taste sings the same song, this tea has  performed its beautiful song and now it nears the finish. The taste is a delicate blend of loam and sweet plum. It is refreshing, like the tea you would want to sip after a long day outside harvesting your garden. Bai Hao Oolong has been on my 'must taste' list for a very long time, now that I have experienced it I can see why Queen Victoria (The first and best) called it Oriental Beauty, it is truly a beautiful tea.

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