Sunday, February 4, 2018

Golden Tea Leaf: Gui Fei Oolong (Duchess Oolong), A Tea Review

Name: Gui Fei Oolong (Duchess Oolong)

Company: Golden Tea Leaf

Type of Tea: Nantou Taiwan Oolong that has been nibbled by leaf hoppers

Description of Dry Leaf: Dark in color, a medium brown and somewhat loosely rolled. A bit of green and white here and there, delightfully mottled from bug biting.

Aroma of Leaf: It smells so sweet, seriously it is intense! Rich thick caramel and honey with sweet toasted sesame and almond blend with a slight orchid undertone, and just a tiny hint of dried fruit. It smells immensely decadent and more like a dessert than a tea.

Aroma of Tea: Oh my, this is so sweet! Not cloying like say, a poptart, but rich and decadent like a Greek honey cake. I almost don't have the right words to describe how wonderfully sweet it is while not being gross, and trust me it is a fine line between intense pleasant sweet and intense cloying. It blends notes of roasted nuts and stone fruit with honey and caramel, distant orchids and honeysuckle show up as well.

Preparation Style: Gongfucha, the usual 195 F with a 100ml zisha teapot (re-purposed teapot, it was shou but was re-seasoned just for bug bitten oolongs) and using my oil spot jian zhan cup. There is a bit of a rumor flying around that jian zhan makes tea taste soooo much better, and it is a rumor. Clearly I should do a gongfoolery on that!

Taste: In a word, sweet. But just saying sweet is not helpful, or particularly interesting, it starts with honey and caramelized sugar, dates, lychees, honeysuckles, orchids, roasted plums, toasted sesames, almonds, and pecans. There is a lot going on and it changes each steep, this is one of those tea that truly evolves, not just more of a note with later steeps as the leaves unfold, but changes. The second steep has a toasted note of chestnut and the fruity notes leave, the third steep brings in a vast bouquet of flowers like magnolia and plumeria, the third brings in papaya and mangos with toasted goes on like this for six steeps then finally mellows out to a solid sugar cane and honey coasted sesame until the end several steeps later. I adored this tea, it is probably now my favorite Gui Fei, beating out my previous favorite with its delicious taste and incredible variety of flavor notes.

Oddball Notes:  So about that Gui Fei from Taiwan note, real Gui Fei can only be from Nantou, everything else is just a  bug bitten oolong. It was the result of a tragedy bringing about beauty, a monstrous earthquake hit Taiwan and as one expects, the tea fields were not top priority as people focused on clean up and rescue. This means a bunch of friendly leafhoppers went all happy and nibbled the leaves. This causes a chemical reaction in the leaves, which in turn partially oxidizes them when they are still on the plant and makes it much sweeter. The leafhoppers are not a huge fan of this so they leave and you get tea leaves with little nibbles rather than a completely chewed up leaf. Hilariously my favorite 'Gui Fei' (well second favorite now) is from Vietnam, meaning it is not a true Gui Fei, this is also a little funny since a lot of Taiwanese tea sold by less than honest people is imported from Vietnam. There was recently-ish a bit of a scandal when one of the growers in Nantou entered his tea in a competition and placed, but then it was revealed that he imported it from Vietnam. The tea world is a seedy place when you get past the delicious tea and into the politics!

How I Acquired The Tea: From a friend as a gift

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