Thursday, December 31, 2015

Xin Mu Cha: Nonpareil Taiwan LaLa Shan Oolong Tea, A Tea Review

Thank my lucky stars, my camera is back and functioning again. Sadly I do have several teas where my only option was to photograph them with my phone, but it is not terrible, just not what I prefer. On a completely unrelated note, Ben challenged me to build Neuschwanstein Castle in Minecraft...ughhh that will be an undertaking. My sky castle is vaguely inspired by it, since it is my favorite castle and that little bit of Bavarian history has been a favorite area of study of mine since I was a youngin' so you know, why not? It is not like I get tired of ridiculously huge builds or anything.

Shortly before Christmas, new to me company Xin Mu Cha contacted me to review some of their teas, this excited me immensely because they specialize in Taiwanese teas, yes, it is well known I get excited over teas from Taiwan at this point, they were my first love and have stayed at the forefront of my attention since I was a teenager. Today's tea is Nonpareil Taiwan LaLa Shan Oolong, a green Oolong from not often talked about LaLa Shan in northern Taiwan, and let me tell you, LaLa Shan is gorgeous! From what I can tell (and I might be wrong on this one) LaLa Shan is similar to Da Yu Ling where the majority of the area is a nature preserve and there are only a few tea farms high in the mountains. From the moment I opened the little vacuum sealed pouch I was greeted with a powerfully aromatic tea. Notes of creamy custard and sesame seeds dance with cane sugar and snap peas, with an accompaniment of yeasty sweet cake batter and spring flowers.

Gaiwan time, at first I was torn between brewing this tea in a gaiwan or my XiShi, but I really wanted to see the leaves unfurl, glad I did too because there were some real beauties in this leaf pile. The aroma of the wet and slowly unfurling leaves is a powerhouse of floral, strong notes of iris, hyacinth, narcissus, dianthus, and lotus. The blend of flowers with notes of creaminess and vanilla give it a slight baby powder aroma which I found quite fascinating, it was heady and very sweet. The liquid of the first steep is sweet! Notes of honey and creamy custard blend with lots of heady floral notes, lilac, hyacinth, and dianthus with a touch of honeysuckle and a yeasty sweetness at the finish. Very spring bouquet tea going on here.

First steep is surprisingly thick on the mouthfeel, it is buttery and heavy, I feel as though I am sinking into a warm pile of flower petals. I think that is why I love these floral oolongs, they are vaguely intoxicating, much like being in a hot house full of full bloom flowers but I get to drink it in rather than just smell it. Yes, this tea is sweet and creamy, but it is very floral, strong notes of hyacinth and dianthus with a slight hint of sassafras flowers and lotus. The finish is a blend of sesame seeds and snap peas adding a touch of green to the sweet headiness.

Second steeping's aroma is intensely heady, strong notes of lilac, dianthus, and hyacinth dance out of my cup. Tasting this tea is quite enjoyable, it starts with a thick and creamy mouthfeel and finishes with a slight dryness. The flavor begins with a strong yet delicate blend of floral notes, it is heady without overpowering with notes of hyacinth, dianthus, and lilac with accompanying notes of lotus, again it vaguely reminds me of baby powder, but you know, without soap or perfume. The finish blends sugar cane and snap peas with lingering sweetness that lasts into the aftertaste.

Third steep, the aroma is still very floral and heady, but with the previous notes of lilac and hyacinth, there are also notes of orchid and freshly broken vegetation. It smells like springtime. This steeping has much stronger green notes, fresh vegetation mix with snap peas and sugar cane. There is still a good bit of floral as well, specifically hyacinth and lilac, but it has become more balanced with green notes. The aftertaste is sugar cane and it lingers for quite a while. I pulled several more steeps out of this tea, it transitioned to green before finishing with mineral sweetness.
This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

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