Today’s tea tasting journey will focus on the Mount Chilai Original Oolong from Easy Tea Hard Choice Co. Ltd. As the name suggests, this tea is grown and hand-picked in the infamous Chilai Mountains in Hualien County, Taiwan. Tea artisan Mr. Lee Ming Zheng put much effort into this tea, and based on the look and smell of the dry leaves, his efforts paid off! The sample pack is open, and a somewhat familiar scent is present. My first thought is the possibility that this tea could have been from the Jinxuan cultivar (TTES 12). I have asked the founder of Easy Tea Hard Choice to confirm whether or not this tea is Jinxuan, and if not, to let me know which cultivar this tea is from, because I am very interested in learning more about it.
Update 11/08/2013: Lawrence from Easy Tea Hard Choice has confirmed with the tea artisan, Mr. Zheng, that the cultivar for this tea is not the Jinxuan cultivar (TTES 12), but is the Chin Shin cultivar. Lawrence suggested to look at the infused leaves to differentiate between the two cultivars. Accordinging to Lawrence, “The tea leaf of Chin Shin Oolong is thinner and longer than what of Jinxuan (much bigger and more rounded).” Thank you very much, Lawrence, for verifying the cultivar and providing additional information on this product.
Let the journey begin…
The dry leaves of this oolong are green to dark green in color, indicating a lower oxidation percentage. The leaves are nicely hand-rolled, semi-ball shape. Size of the rolled leaves range from that of a corn kernel to a black bean. Many of the rolled leaves still have the stem attached. Leaves appear to fully intact, with few fragments or crumbs. The aroma of the leaf is sweet cream, very similar to Jinxuan (milk) oolong.
This sample was infused using the parameters for preparation that were provided on the sample packet. I decided to use these parameters instead of my usual oolong infusion technique. I had no time for tea yesterday, so I am making up for it today. Forty ounces of purified spring water were heated to a boil (212°F, 100°C). The entire sample packet, about 20 grams, of dry tea leaves were placed in the glass teapot. The leaves were infused for 1 minute and 10 seconds, then strained into a separate decanter.
The first infusion produced one of the brightest shades of yellow that I have ever seen in a tea. The liquor was truly vibrant, clear, and transparent. The aroma is a mix of sweet cream and floral (honeysuckle). The body is on the low side of medium, with a velvety smooth mouthfeel. The taste is almost entirely floral (honeysuckle), with some slight notes of sweet cream and mineral. The aftertaste is light and pleasant, and develops into a sweet, almost fruity (peach) taste as it trails off.
The second infusion uses a slightly lower steep time of 35 seconds, which turned into about 50 seconds after finishing the straining process. The liquor again was a vibrant bright yellow color, with no noticeable difference from the first infusion, despite the shorter steep time. The aroma maintained the sweet cream aroma, with the floral scent becoming slightly stronger than the first infusion. The body remains low-medium. The taste has changed some, remaining floral (honeysuckle), and slightly vegetal, with notes of mineral. Aftertaste remains light and lingering of honeysuckle and peach.
The third infusion used a steep time of 1 minute and 10 seconds. The liquor retained the bright, vibrant yellow of the first and second infusions, again with almost no difference in color. The aroma also maintained a sweet cream and floral scent, with a touch of wood. The body remains low-medium. The taste has lightened and changed some, but remains floral and vegetal (asparagus), with slight mineral notes. Aftertaste remains light, with less linger, and tastes of honeysuckle and peach. The vegetal taste strengthened, giving this infusion a different dynamic than the previous infusions. The taste is strong enough to lead me to believe that a fourth, and maybe even a fifth infusion may produce an acceptable flavor.
And it’s official! The Mount Chilai Original Oolong from Mr. Lee Ming Zheng has the best looking post-infused leaves that I have ever seen in any tea. Honestly, 99% of these leaves are fully intact and still attached to the stem. The pluck is four leaves and a tiny bud. There are very, very few broken leaves. This is an amazing display of artisanal leaf processing! The leaves are perfectly uniform fleshy dark green in color. There is very little sign of oxidation, with only some of the leaves displaying reddish edges. The longest leaf is well over two inches. Obviously, there are many thick stems. Some of the leaves are not completed opened, and there is a decent amount of durability to most of the leaves, suggesting that at least one or two additional infusions are possible. The aroma is fresh wet leaves, with a slight touch of wood and flowers. Absolutely amazing display of effort and art.
At this point, you probably think I am being paid by Easy Tea Hard Choice to post extremely positive reviews on every product that I review. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, aside from taking advantage of the promotional deals on sample pricing, I have paid for these samples, and the price has been worth every penny! I have the founder, Lawrence Lai, email me to let me know when new samples are available, just because I have loved every product that I have ordered from them, and I am always excited to see new products added. I am imploring you, please go to http://eztea-tw.com and order some of these samples! Any of them are great choices, ordering all of them is an even better choice! If I had more money, and my basement was not overstocked with tea as it is, I would be ordering kilos at a time. I am not exaggerating!
From start to finish, this Mount Chilai Original Oolong was just outstanding. The dry leaves looked nice, and had a delicious sweet cream aroma. The color of the liquor literally brightened my day. The smell and taste of the liquor had an uplifting effect, with an aftertaste that I wish left a permanent taste (thankfully it lingers quite long anyway). Three excellent tasting infusions, with more to give. The most perfect infused leaves that I have ever witnessed. Start to finish, this tea left me dumbfounded. Now I am sad, because my pot is almost empty. Mr. Lai and Mr. Zheng, thank you both very much for introducing me to this tea. I am eternally grateful, and am honestly considering to order a kilo for personal consumption. Excellent, excellent, excellent…