Friday, November 7, 2014

Hancha Teahouse: Qilai Mountain, A Tea Review

Today has been kind of an odd day, I have had a headache all day and my energy level has gone from bouncing around to falling asleep in my chair. And speaking of chairs, I got a new one today for the desk my mom set up for me while I was visiting. Sadly her chairs suck (plus I cannot function without a spinning chair) so I got myself a super cheap desk chair that is especially comfy. I also visited one of my favorite bookstores (Cupboard Maker Books) and they had so many amazing dude cats that absolutely loved my mom and myself as we browsed the books. I was there to pick up a quick gift, but certainly plan to go back.

So today's tea is a little different than my usual reviews, since I did not buy this for myself or receive it to review, it came as part of the Summer Tasting Event held by Hancha Teahouse, an event geared towards spreading tea culture, not to advertise tea. As someone who is obsessed with spreading tea culture, this seemed right up my alley, so today we are looking at Qilai Mountain, Taiwanese High Altitude Oolong Tea. I admit to not knowing much about Qilai Mountain, from what I gathered from some (brief) research, is the highest point in its range, and is quite popular with mountain climbers. The tea came in a little cloth teabag, but you know me, given the option to brew it in a gaiwan I will, so I took the tightly balled leaves out of their pouch and placed them on a proper sniffing dish. The aroma of the leaves is pretty intense, very sweet floral notes of honeysuckle, orchid, lilac, and even a bit of lily waft out of the leaves. There are also notes of yeasty honey bread and a touch of toasted sesame seed. It has been a while since I did the tea dance with a green oolong, once again I am reminded why I love them!

Brewing the leaves brings out an underlying green vegetation aroma and a nose explosion of sweetness, it is very much so sweet yeasty bread with tons of flower nectar. Imagine eating honey biscuits in a flower filled conservatory and you have the aroma of the wet leaves. The liquid's aroma is creamy and slightly buttery with intense floral notes of orchid and honeysuckle, there is a hint of fresh bread and nutmeg at the finish.

The first steep is mellow, a very creamy mouth feel and a taste that starts sweet and full of flower nectar and honey. This transitions to smooth and buttery, and lastly if finished with fresh vegetation and a hint of dryness at the finish. The aftertaste was sweet chestnuts. I, as usual with oolongs, look forward to seeing how this tea blooms in flavor.

So this is going to be one of those weird moments where I compare the aroma of the tea to something completely out of left field, the aroma reminds me of Destroying Angel Mushrooms. This is a huge compliment (and not the first time I have compared an oolong to this mushroom) because even though it is deadly toxic, it smells delicious, just like a mix of baking bread, yeast, and a touch of lilies. Aromas are compared to things I know, and I really know mushrooms. The taste is really super sweet, a mix of flower nectars (like sipping honeysuckle nectar) and freshly baked yeasty bread. The finish is a tad bit dry, but there is a lingering floral sweetness that seemed to last for ages.

The aroma of the third steep is less mushroom and more growing green things and broken stems in late summer. There is of course still a strong floral aroma, but it is diminishing now. The taste is not as sweet as the previous steeps, more buttery and mellow with a distinct leafy quality. There is a hint of orchid at the finish and a lingering sweetness. This tea was just what I needed, a headily floral oolong to remind me there are more than just roasted oolongs and yancha in the realm of my favorite tea.

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