On September 19 of 2013, my journey through the world of tea tasting brought me back to mainland China. The subject of my review is the Black Oolong Tea, provided by the Hunan Xiangfeng Tea Industry Co. Ltd.
Unfortunately, I have no specific information on this Black Oolong tea. As I opened the sample bag, the first thing I noticed was a woody, roasty, almost bakey scent that is similar to a Tung Ting oolong from Taiwan. However, due to the name variation, one can easily assume that this is not Tung Ting oolong, or the name Tung Ting would have been used, due to it’s popularity, quality, and high selling price. Perhaps after a detailed review of this tea, I will brew up some Tung Ting, which I always have nearby, and compare the details. If the two are similar, then this Black Oolong tea will be a much more affordable option than the authentic Tung Ting oolong for tea consumers to experience this style of highly oxidized semi-ball rolled oolongs. However, experiencing a high quality Tung Ting is absolutely necessary for any tea lover.
Let the journey begin…
The dry leaves of this Black Oolong tea are light to dark brown, with an obviously higher level of oxidation. With the name being black oolong, I am going to estimate the oxidation level at 70% to 80%. The aroma is earthy, woody, and a scent of roasted nuts is apparent. The dry leaves are semi-ball rolled, dense, with the average size being similar to a popcorn kernel. There is very little breakage, and almost no crumbs. The amount of stems is also low when compared to other semi-ball rolled oolongs.
For this sampling, I used 9 grams of Black Oolong tea in 21 ounces (620 ml) of purified water heated to 190°F (88°C). The leaves were infused for 2 minutes during the first infusion. The teapot of choice was a handmade American glazed ceramic pot.
The first infusion produced a lively pale yellow liquor that was perfectly clear and transparent. The aroma is most similar to roasted nuts, with slight earthy and woody scents. The liquor is medium bodied, with a smooth and mouth filling taste of roasted nuts and wood, with a floral finish and aftertaste, most similar to dandelion. Aftertaste lingers, seems to peak in floral strength after 5 to 10 seconds, then lasts for upwards of 30 to 45 seconds. The liquor feels like it is coating the throat.
The second infusion produced a slightly brighter, livelier pale yellow liquor, clear and transparent. The aroma maintains the roasted nuts, with woody and earthy scents. The tastes of roasted nut and wood is most prevalent, but tastes of dandelion are becoming stronger. The aftertaste has taken a different, more fruity character, reminiscent of ripe plum. The second infusion, I believe, is better balanced, with a more layered and complex taste than the first infusion.
The third infusion has the exact same color as the second infusion. The aroma is still dominated by the scent of roasted nuts, but a floral scent has gained strength. The taste has lightened some, with the strongest notes being roasted nuts, and dandelion. The body has lightened some, and the aftertaste has lightened also. A faint ripe plum finish is still noticeable, though slight. Despite the lighter taste and body, this is still a good tasting pot of tea. I would expect at least one to two additional infusions to be acceptable.
The infused leaves of the black oolong are fairly uniform greenish brown in color, with the edges of the leaves having a brown tint. The leaves are similar in shape and size, averaging a length of 1.25 inches (32 mm). Mostly fully intact leaves, with very few fragments. No bare stems, and very little stem generally on the leaves. The leaves have some durability, possibly indicating that another infusion or two may produce acceptable tasting liquors. The smell is woody and earthy, with a roasted hint.
Overall, this is decent tea. It is not on the level of a Tung Ting oolong, but it does have traces of similar characteristics. The aroma and taste is a bit earthy for the novice tea drinker, but can certainly be enjoyed by a veteran.