Recently, I received a large package of samples from many growing areas of Vietnam. This package included samples of various grades and versions of black, oolong, and green teas. I did not know Vietnam teas very well before this package arrived, but I will undoubtedly be much more experienced with their teas by the time I reach the bottom of this three kilogram package.
The first Vietnam tea to get a full review will be the oolong tea produced in the Lam Dong province of southern Vietnam. The high altitudes of Lam Dong make it a perfect location for growing high quality tea bushes, which are destined to become oolong teas. According to my source in Vietnam, “Cao Son” means “high mountain”. This post originally said that this tea was from the Cao Son area of Lao Cai Province in northwest Vietnam. My source clarified this for me, while giving me a quick vocabulary lesson in Vietnamese. Thank you for your help, Pham.
The sample packet has been opened, and an incredibly sweet scent is rising from the packet. Let the journey begin…
The dry leaves have a pale green to very dark green color. The leaves are in the semi-ball shape, with an average size similar to a black bean. The leaves appear to be full leaves with stems intact. There are no bare stems, and very few crumbs. The aroma is very sweet, with scents of dark brown sugar, molasses, light cinnamon, and a very light grass scent.
Three grams of dry leaves were placed in a five ounce (150 ml) ceramic infusion cup. Purified spring water was heated to 195°F (90°C). The leaves were infused for three minutes.
The first infusion produced a liquor with a bright, light yellow-jade green color, clear and transparent. The aroma is fairly delicate, with scents of brown sugar, light vegetable, and light sweet cream. The body is light, with a soft and velvety texture. The taste has notes of brown sugar, light cooked vegetable, light flowers (most similar to orchid), and very light cream. The aftertaste is sweet and lightly floral, and an impressive floral essence is left on the breath.
The second infusion produced a liquor with a slightly fuller shade of color, stronger on the yellow and lighter on the jade green tints. The aroma is also stronger, with scents of sweet cream, brown sugar, cooked vegetable, and very light flowers. The body has thickened some to a light-medium, and the texture remains velvety. The taste has also strengthened some, with notes of sweet cream, brown sugar, cooked vegetable, and orchid. The aftertaste remains sweet and floral, and the essence remains impressive.
The third infusion produced a liquor with a color similar to the second infusion, but perhaps slightly stronger on the jade green tint. The aroma retains the scents of sweet cream, brown sugar, cooked vegetable, and light flowers. The body and taste are comparable in strength and flavor as the second infusion, with very little noticeable diminishing quality.
The infused leaves have a uniform dark forest green color. The stems show a uniform four leaf pluck with small bud. There are very few fragments, and those few are large. Many of the leaves are quite large. The leaves have a soft but sturdy texture, indicating that they have more quality infusions to offer. The aroma has scents of brown sugar, sweet wood, and a light spice.
This oolong tea from Cao Son, Vietnam was very nicely balanced in flavor. Although I am usually not an admirer of cooked vegetable tastes, this tea had just enough of the cooked vegetable taste to be noticeable, but not enough to be unpleasant. The aroma of the dry leaves was very attractive. This tea produced three quality infusions, and if I had time to prepare a fourth and fifth, I have little doubt that they would have been a good quality, as well. The infused leaves were impressive in appearance. If I had to guess at the cultivar, my response would be Chin Shin (TTES 17). Although the texture of the leaves seemed more sturdy than most other Chin Shin products that I have reviewed. This Cao Son oolong tea had a comforting energy to it, and certainly helped me stay calm and relaxed in my office during a long afternoon.
I really enjoyed this experience, and look forward to tasting the differences from one growing region in Vietnam to the others. Cheers!