Monday, August 1, 2016

Floating Leaves: HeHuanShan High Mountain Oolong, A Tea Review

I do a decent amount of gluten free baking, basically because I like to bake and I don't like paying the store prices for mediocre GF sweets. However one particular sweet eludes my skills, blasted traditional style shortbread! I decided I really wanted shortbread the other night, so I made some (with added black sesame to make it extra tasty) and the taste was great, but the texture was so crumbly. No matter what blend of flours I try I just cannot get the texture right, adding various gums, using eggs, even trying a flax seed 'pseudo gluten' cannot get the texture to be like shortbread. My greatest challenge, it is funny since when I was not baking GF I was godlike at shortbread!

It is time for another theme week! This time I am looking at all the teas in the Taiwan High Mountain Oolong Sampler from Floating Leaves (there is a handy coupon at the bottom of the blog) starting with HeHuanShan High Mountain Oolong. What really excited me about this Oolong was it is from a mountain I have not sampled, meaning it is time for an adventure! HeHuanShan is part of the Taroko Gorge National Park and sits on the boundry of Nantou and Hualien Counties, and do yourself a favor and google the park and the mountain, both are serious eye-candy for nature lovers. So now I am going to explore those mountains vicariously though these beautiful green leaves. The notes I am picking up are very intriguing, somewhat expected notes of flowers, specifically a touch of honeysuckle and gardenia, a delightful burst of plumeria, and a mellow note of hyacinth. The part that made me giggle a bit maniacally was the distinct sweet note of lemon cheesecake. Seriously, there is even a hint of graham cracker crust, and that cheesecake creaminess with the sweet zingy lemon burst is mouthwatering.

After I finally convinced myself to pull my nose out of the leaves, it is steeping time! The aroma of the slightly unfurled leaves is buttery sweet and floral, notes of sweet cream, plumeria, gardenia, lilac, and teaberry. Ah yes, teaberry, a species of wintergreen that is made into a pink icecream in Pennsylvania that I would eat piles of when I worked at Dairy Queen, I was sad when they discontinued special flavors. It reminds me a bit of the same effect that Red Jade has, where it smells like mint but not minty, somewhat paradoxical but super delicious regardless. The aroma of the first steep's liquid is light and buttery, floral and sweet, with an underlying green crispness. One thing that really stands out about the liquid is the distinct note of lichen and rocks at a mountain spring or after a rain, it is ghostly and only present as I am pulling the cup away from my nose, but it is there and evocative of the mountains where this tea is grown.

Ok wow, the first thing that struck me about this steep is that thick mouthfeel, buttery and creamy, my mouth is coated with oolong goodness...I would go as far as to say it is viscous. Thickness aside, the taste is sweet and wonderfully floral at the front, notes of summer lilacs and plumeria with a sweet honeysuckle nectar. In the middle there is a gentle gardenia note alongside orange blossom and gentle creamy note. The finish is gently savory and buttery, more savory like butter than buttery vegetal, but there is a touch of bok choy with an aftertaste of distant flowers and lemons.

On to the second steep, the leaves have unfurled a great bit and the liquid looks like afternoon sunlight. The aroma is thick, heady notes of flowers and buttery green with a sweet lingering lemon cheesecake quality that hangs around in my nose for a while. Wow this is a thick tea! I am loving how mouth coating it is, combine the texture with the slightly sour/sweet lemon cheesecake and teaberry notes and you have me salivating, it is pretty awesome. After this initial burst of sweetness, a thick savory blend of cooked buttery cabbage and bok choy arises, and the finish is sweet lemony which lingers into the aftertaste.

Third steep time! The aroma is flowery and sweet with a gentle crisp green undertone, to me it smells like early summer with the flowers all in bloom. You know, I am torn as to which is more striking about this tea, the mouthfeel or the aftertaste. The aftertaste lingers for so long, I had to sit and wait a bit between the second and third steep because it stuck around that long. The taste is a blend of flowers and crisp lettuce, then boom, lemon cheesecake that lingers well into the aftertaste again. This tea has great longevity too, I got nine steeps out of it before it faded away. Now, coupon time! Use the code teageekery35 for 35% off the High Mountain Sampler before August 31st!

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.