Today I am looking at a rather hard to get tea, Orchid Isle Oolong from Second Alarm Farm, a 3-acre farm on the Big Island, Hawaii. Their small batch tea is completely harvested and processed by hand, composted with local rainforest material, nourished by lots of rain and volcanic soils, it is a tea that really captures the terroir. At least I believe it does, I have never been to a Hawaiian rainforest, though I have been in rainforest exhibits at zoos and aquariums, and the smell and taste of the air will stick with me forever. The leaves are a treat to look at, some have fuzzy trichomes, others are green and twisty, others a rainbow of browns, they are fascinating and colorful similar to the way a Bai Hao a looks. The aroma is exactly like an orchid hot house, specifically it reminds me of the orchid and citrus conservatory at the local garden. Of course, it reminds of a rainforest, wet leaves and rain on a warm humid day. There are also notes of cucumbers, magnolias, pine needles, peaches, and a touch of mineral. It is surprisingly evocative!
Into my little shiboridashi the leaves go, once steeped the aroma becomes slightly sweeter with notes of squash blossoms, magnolia blossoms, warm honey, with more green notes of cucumber and zucchini. The liquid has notes of gardenia, plumeria, orchid, with a tropical rainforest after a rainstorm undertone.
The mouthfeel was interesting, slippery in texture and glossy, with a slight thickness. The taste is light and sweet, starting with magnolia nectar and green notes of zucchini. It then moves to a refreshing cucumber and squash blossom with a mineral finish and light magnolia aftertaste. Again this tea is very evocative of its terroir, I really feel like I am drinking a bit of a Hawaiian rainforest.
I decided, of course, to have a second steep. The aroma is much the same, notes of various tropical flowers with gentle mineral and rain water. The taste stays pretty consistent, starting sweet and nectar-like and moving to greener notes while being crisp and not really savory. This seems like the kind of tea you would want to sip on a summer day, it feels vaguely cooling and the crisp vegetal notes blend well with the sweet but not too sweet tropical flower notes.
This tea is somewhat versatile, I found I enjoyed it bowl style as well as gongfu, and it had a decent amount of longevity both styles, and no bitterness which is always pleasant. I think my favorite thing about this tea is how it really does feel like I am drinking a little bit of the rainforest, allowing me to travel somewhere new that chances are I will never see!
This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.