On September 18th of 2013, my tea tasting journey took me to one final visit to Sun Moon Lake in Yuchi, Taiwan. Hopefully this will not be my last taste of the fantastic black teas that Sun Moon Lake produces, but my first round of samples from Easy Tea Hard Choice has been finished. Thankfully, a new round of high mountain oolongs just got shipped, but I will leave those details for a later date.
This particular sample is the Red of Four Seasons black tea. According to Easy Tea Hard Choice’s website, this black tea is produced from the native leaf tea bush that is native to Taiwan. Produced in somewhat the same fashion as the famous Oriental Beauty (Bai Hao) oolong tea, the tea farmers wait for small cicada, commonly referred to as a leaf hopper, to begin feeding on the tea leaves. As the leaf hoppers feed, the tea bushes produce specific chemical compounds to fight off the cacadas. The transformation of these chemical compounds (secondary metabolites) during processing allows teas produced in this way to have very distinct aromas and tastes of honey and fruit. The difference between Oriental Beauty (Bai Hao) oolong tea and this Red of Four Seasons black tea is simple. Oriental Beauty is oxidized between 70% to 80%, and this Red of Four Seasons is oxidized to 90%. This 10% to 20% difference in oxidation causes significant aroma and flavor variations between the Oriental Beauty and the Red of Four Seasons. Both are phenomenal.
Let the journey begin…
The dry leaves of this Red of Four Seasons black tea have a very dark brown to black color, indicating the higher level of oxidation. There is a good amount of gold tips. The leaves appear hand plucked, and are tightly twisted. There is some breakage and crumbs, but the majority of the leaves appear to be fully intact, or at least large fragments. The aroma is sweet and slightly woody, with notes of dried fruit, honey, and light wood. The aroma definitely can be compared to an Oriental Beauty oolong. Leaves range in length from 0.5 inches (13 mm) to 1.75 inches (44 mm). Leaves are very dry, and crack easily into fine crumbs.
This tasting included 6.5 grams of tea leaves (yes, I finally got a digital scale), and 18 ounces (532 ml) of purified water heated to 200°F (93°C). The tea was infused for 2 minutes in a cast iron Japanese tetsubin.
The first infusion produced a golden liquor, very similar in color to light honey with a slight red tint. The aroma is rich and sweet with scents of fruit and honey, with a mild woody note. The taste that is most apparent is tree fruit or stone fruit, and honey. A very light woody taste is present, and a mentholated mouth feel is obvious. The aftertaste is sweet and persistent. The liquor body is medium and smooth. The characteristics are very similar to an Oriental Beauty oolong, but the higher level of oxidation definitely produces a black tea character. This is a great tea, and my love for Taiwanese black teas has been strengthened.
I brewed the second infusion for an additional thirty seconds, bringing the total infusion time to two minutes and thirty seconds. The liquor has a golden color, similar to the first infusion, but the red tint is lighter. The aroma is amazing, with strong scents of fruit and honey. The flavor maintains a medium body, with fruit and honey notes being most prevalent. The mentholated mouth feel remains, as well as the persistent and sweet aftertaste. The second infusion produced a great liquor, being just slightly less tasteful than the first infusion. I expect a third infusion to be highly acceptable.
The third infusion was brewed for a total of 2 minutes and 45 seconds. The color is nearly identical to the second infusion, being a golden color with slight red tint. The aroma is lighter, but still pleasant, with scents of honey and fruit. The aroma definitely indicates the higher oxidation level of the leaves, smelling much more like a black tea than an oolong. The taste is also lighter, but acceptable. The honey and fruit tastes have lightened noticeably, but are still prevalent. The mentholated mouth feel has dissipated some. The body is lighter, overall, but still smooth. The aftertaste is still fairly persistent, sweet and minty. I had no problem finishing the entire pot of this infusion, but do not expect a fourth infusion to be acceptable.
The infused leaves are a uniform darker brown color, with very little variance. The aroma is woody, and lightly sweet. The leaves maintain a good amount of durability, possibly indicating that additional infusions could produce an acceptable taste, despite the noticeably lighter character of the third infusion. There is very little breakage in the leaves, with a large majority being fully intact. The leaves are noticeably smaller than other Taiwanese black teas, indicating the small leaf bush variety used for this tea, as compared to large leaf hybrid bushes used for the Red Jade and Red Rhythm black teas. No bare stems present. Average length of the leaf is 1.25 inches (32 mm).
After tasting all three of the samples of Taiwanese black teas from Easy Tea Hard Choice, I am surprised that there is not a larger market for these teas in the western hemisphere. Perhaps these teas are kept for domestic use, and neighboring countries, and I hope that changes for the sake of the black and oolong tea drinkers in the west. I am incredibly impressed by these black teas, and would love to have a stockpile in my personal collection. Every characteristic of these teas was impressive, from the size, shape, and aroma of the dry leaves, to the aromas and flavors of the teas during all three infusions, to the size and shape of the infused leaves. Great products, and I hope to be able to enjoy them many times over in the future. Do yourself a favor. Go to http://www.eztea-tw.com, and purchase these 25 gram samples. Be warned, you may not want any other black teas from any other country or region after trying these! They are really that good.