This week I am going to look at three different GABA Oolongs from three different growing regions, to see how terroir affects taste! I love being able to do comparisons and thought this was the perfect opportunity. First off, GABA Oolong is special because it gets exposed to a nitrogen heavy environment during its oxidation, making it high in gamma-Aminobutyric acid. This is thought to have a lot of health benefits and I am a complete skeptic (like I am with most health claims) but find it intriguing because yours truly took a synthesized gamma-Aminobutyric acid for the neuropathic pain and Fibromyalgia, granted I had to stop taking it because it caused me a mess of problems (like 'hey this isn't working anymore, take more until you get seizures, bahh) but in a low amount it can't hurt. Mainly I sought this out because I find taking tea and processing it out of the norm to be fascinating, and that brings us to Grey's Tea Formosa GABA Oolong, from Taiwan! The aroma of the leaves is sweet and surprisingly mellow for the level of sweetness present. Notes of peaches, papaya, raisins, raw honey and caramel mix with a woody undertone. The woody notes remind me a bit of fruit wood with a slight sourness and a distinctly odd 'GABA-ness' that I associate with this kind of tea but cannot accurately describe it. It is a like a mix of loam and fruit but with a familiar note that I just cannot place, it is maddening!
Into my gaiwan the leaves go for their first steeping. The aroma of the only lightly unfurled leaves (it takes GABA a while I have noticed) is very fruity and sweet, like a blend of dried papayas, peaches and mangoes with a touch of woodiness. The liquid is also quite sweet, but with the added note of dates and malt and just a little hint of loam. It is quite light but intensely sweet.
First steeping time, it is a fairly mild start, being thick in the mouth with an undertone of being very thirst quenching, like it sends the salivary glands into overdrive like some Shengs do. The taste is gentle, notes of sweet dried papaya and woodiness with a honey finish. This first steep is very light bordering on delicate in taste but the mouthfeel's thickness makes up for any lightness.
Second steeping time! The aroma is both woody and fruity, and really the wood notes are astoundingly fruity, it smells like apple wood blended with dried papaya and a touch of dried apples. All the fruit notes are definitely the sweeter dried versions rather than juicy fresh. This steep is darker and stronger, the mouthfeel is still just as thick. It has a distinct GABA-ness again that I find hard to describe, it is like tasting solely with the sinus cavities in my forehead rather than my mouth, it is weird and more of a sensation than a taste, again I only get this with GABAs. The taste is more balanced, still sweet and fruity but with more loam and woody notes and a sour finish. The sourness is not like a citrus, but like sucking on a piece of greenwood, it has a lingering apple note that stays for a while.
Third steeping and the aroma is quite woody, with a strong underlying sweetness of dried fruits and a touch of raisins. This taste is strong, the mouth is thick and slick, bordering on oily, and with the accompanying sour and sweet blend makes me salivate a lot. This steep is balanced in woody and fruity notes, dried papaya and apples are dominant, but a sour plum note sneaks in at the midtaste and gets stronger till it dominates at the finish. Of the various GABAs I have had, this one is the lightest while also being the woodiest.
This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.