Monday, August 31, 2015

Tea From Vietnam: Gui Fei Oolong, A Tea Review

I find myself torn on how to begin today's tea rambling. Do I go with neutral things like how much I enjoy my new painting table, or do I go bad news with how I have not really gotten the chance to use it because of these stupid seizures. Do I say happy news on how whatever was causing that really awful itchy rash has gone away (thanks, allergies) or do I say that my throat hurts constantly (thanks allergies) It is a problem living with chronic illness/pain, how much do you hide behind an internet or social persona, or how much do you let it all hang out. And why, for that matter. Are you looking for understanding or compassion, complaining because there is really nothing else you can do sometimes and you just need to vent, are you fixated with your health problems because it controls your life, are you bringing awareness to health problems? Are you hiding it for fear of trash talk, hiding it because if you don't talk about it maybe it really isn't that bad, avoiding it because you are tired of being a chronic complainer, hiding how bad it is because you are tired of being sickly and just want to be perceived as normal even if it is by a small group? The internal politics of what to reveal and why is staggering in its complexity. What I will say is that I am thankful for my readers, whether you are here simply as tea lover or here as friends sharing a digital cup with me, thank you all. It sounds silly, but tea and my blog is one of the greatest joys in my life, so being able to share it and keep at it means the world to me. 

Ok, ok, I am done being sappy and introspective, I want to write about tea, specifically one of my favorite teas, Gui Fei Oolong. Also known as Concubine Oolong, this tea is what happens when leafhoppers become great friends with the tea leaves, by friends I mean they go om nom nom, and the leaves go into defense mode and release an enzyme and start to oxidize, this makes the tea incredibly sweet, just like its non-rolled cousin Oriental Beauty and Honey Black Tea. This happy accident originated in Taiwan, though this specific Gui Fei comes from Tea From Vietnam, a new company focusing on introducing the Western world to the rather diverse world of Vietnamese tea. It is a passion of mine, exploring different lesser known to us barbaric westerners tea growing regions, I consider it research for the book I am perpetually working on! Anyway, this tea, as I was saying earlier Gui Fei is my favorite Oolong, hands down, when I opened the pouch and poured out the tea I was going to steep into my abalone for photographing, I was practically giddy. Photo taken, that means sniffing time, and I let out a very loud yay! It has been over a year since I had any Gui Fei, correction, any GOOD Gui Fei, and the aroma of these silvery leaves is so good. Notes of intense spicebush, orange blossom, sugar cane, honey, almonds, and a tiny bit of roasted sesame at the finish. Really, this tea smells heavenly, I want to invent scratch and sniff for computers so you all can sniff this too, now maybe it wouldn't smell as good to everyone else, it has been well known that these smells are some of my favorites, each note seems to resonate with some nostalgic happy time, so the emotions are wrapped up with sensory delight.

I decided that such a beautiful tea, it is named after Yang Guifei, one of China's legendary beauties after all, deserved my audacious princess of a gaiwan. The two seemed to be made for each other, the leaves matching the gaiwan beautifully. The now somewhat steeped leaves take on a very fruity tone, lots of citrus notes of  apples, pomelo, intensely floral with notes of orchid, grapefruit blossom, crepe myrtle, and a finish of sugary sweet almonds and cane sugar. It is heady and sweet. The liquid is nutty and sweet, with notes of almond and chestnut, pomelo and apples, plums and a touch of cooked cherries.

First steep...guys, I need a moment. The texture is smooth and thick, impressively so for the first steep. The taste starts out fruity and intensely sweet, it is very much like honey drizzled apples, pomelo and plums. This moves on to citrus blossom, a blend of orange and grapefruit, with a touch of orchid. The finish is spicebush, almonds, and gentle roasted sesame. The taste of citrus blossoms seem to linger for a while.

Second steeping time, I fear I might be getting tea drunk already, one of the problems of the golden gaiwan, it is a whopping 150ml, big compared to my 90-100ml ones! Also the headiness of this tea might be adding to the tea drunkenness, much like sitting next to a pile of blooming Angel Trumpets (a rather toxic flower, the Angel Trumpet, or Moonflower, is part of the Datura family, beautiful flowers but don't eat!) In fact the floral notes remind me of the sharp, heady, and slightly citrus notes of the Angel Trumpet flower, mix with honey, orange blossom, and a touch of almonds. Oh so much thick sweetness, it is a creamy flowery explosion of happiness in my mouth. Tea Bliss achieved. Notes of orange blossom, sweet cream, almonds, spicebush, pomelo, and a wonderful finish of orchids and toasted sesame.

The third steeping, the leaves have really unfurled and you can see little nibble holes, which I find endearing. The aroma really highlights the citrus notes this time, strong grapefruit and orange blossom with gentle pomelo and a tiny hint of lemon. The taste is nutty almond, sweet honey (oh so sweet) and wonderful spicebush. I sat with this tea all night, it kept me company for eight steeps, ending with gentle minerals and distant citrus flowers and a finish of honey. It was a grand companion for a night of gaming. I will treasure the rest of my sample and then promptly buy more, here on my blog, I solemnly swear, I am never running out of Gui Fei again!

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