Today's tea from What-Cha is a funky little number, Thailand Sticky Rice 'Khao Hom' Oolong Tea, hailing from Thailand, this tea takes Jin Xuan and scents it with Nuo Mi Xiang Nen Ye, an herb from China whose leaves smell uncannily like sweet sticky rice. Used quite a bit with Puerh, (if you have ever seen sticky rice Puerh, this is the herb used) and I will be honest, mixed with Shou Pu, I find it utterly repugnant, usually because it is mixed with the really low grade fishy garbage and those are two things I do not want mixed. Ever. So I was really curious to try it in something else, specifically the glory that is Oolong. The aroma of this tea is something else, I advise not sticking your nose into these leaves, sniff from a distance because wow is it strong. Super sweet sticky rice notes with sweet cream, rice pudding, coconut milk, and an underlying almond nuttiness. So much sweetness, it is a little overwhelming.
So the first time I tried this tea I made the mistake of brewing it when I had a headache, one whiff of those brewed leaves and I needed to lie down, something about sticky rice scented teas make me feel really ill and dizzy if I have a headache (which is often) so I waited for a day when I had no headache to try the rest of the sample. It was a good idea because whoa, it is super strong, very sweet notes of rice pudding, caramel, flowers, green beans, grass, spinach...it is a bit of a cacophony, though oddly it blends well together. The liquid is more subtle thankfully, though not by much. That sticky rice scent is strong and sweet, notes of coconut milk, almonds, and rice pudding mix with a creamy underlying floral note.
I thought for a second, this could be one of those sensory overload things that happens to me with certain smells, so I got Ben to sniff it and he thought it smelled mild and sweet, where I thought it was like being face planted in pudding. The longer I sniffed it, the more I started developing a headache...oh dear. So, enough being nervous, I tasted it, it is smooth and sweet, and surprisingly cooling for an oolong. There are strong notes of cream, rice pudding, orchids, and warm milk. This moves on to caramelized sugar and a nutty aftertaste. There is however something 'wrong' about the rice taste, not wrong as in toxic or something like that...wrong as it tastes like rice but doesn't. Like how stevia leaves are sweet but don't taste like sugar, so when used as a substitute you can tell, it is uncanny and hard to process for some reason.
Second steep, the aroma at this point has permeated my tea area, which I am not entirely happy with. The taste is milder on the rice front, more of the underlying orchid and creamy notes of the Jin Xuan showing their color. The finish has a nutty rice note that lingers for some time. I called it quits after this steep sadly, the taste was quite pleasant, but the smell of the leaves was way too intense and killing my head, not to mention I spilled some on my tea table and just can't get the smell out, whenever I get a whiff of it I am slammed with vertigo, it is safe to say that my sensory weirdness could not handle this herb. Clearly if I try to drink this tea again, I should do it with a nose plug, or maybe store the leaves in another room. It is a pity I had such a negative reaction to the aroma, the taste was really quite fascinating.