Tu Quy Oolong Tea from Lam Dong Province in Vietnam

Today’s review focuses on the Tu Quy Oolong Tea sourced from Phuang Nam in Lam Dong Province of Vietnam. It is one of two primary oolong teas produced at Phuang Nam, the other being Thuy Ngoc Oolong Tea. According to my research, tea bushes destined to be processed into oolong tea were first brought to Vietnam in or around 1992. These bushes now cover a wide area of the southern highlands of Vietnam, particularly the Lam Dong Province. The Vietnam oolong producers follow the guidelines of Taiwan oolong producers, including equipment imported from Taiwan, and pay very close attention to using non-chemical fertilizers.

Let the journey begin…

Tu Quy Oolong Tea Dry Leaves
Tu Quy Oolong Tea Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a light forest green to dark forest green color. The leaves are shaped into dense semi-balls. The leaves appear to be mostly whole, many having stems attached. The size of the semi-balls suggest a three to four leaf pluck. There are no bare stems in the mix, and a low amount of crumbs. The aroma has scents of brown sugar and cinnamon.

Five grams of dry leaves were placed in a 9.4 ounce (280 ml) Tokoname kyusu teapot. Purified spring water was heated to 195°F (90°C). The leaves were infused for 2:00 minutes for the first infusion, 1:15 minutes for the second, and 1:30 minutes for the third.

Tu Quy Oolong Tea 1st Infusion
Tu Quy Oolong Tea 1st Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with a light, greenish yellow color, perfectly clear and transparent, with a few fine particles in the cup. The aroma had light scents of brown sugar, sweet cream, and very light flowers. The body was medium, with a velvety, almost creamy texture. The taste had light notes of brown sugar, citrus, sweet cream, flowers, and a very light cooked vegetable hint. The aftertaste was sweet, and a pleasant flowery essence was left on the breath.

Tu Quy Oolong Tea 2nd Infusion
Tu Quy Oolong Tea 2nd Infusion

The second infusion produced a liquor with a brighter, bolder shade of golden yellow color. The aroma strengthened slightly, retaining the dominant scents of brown sugar, sweet cream, and light flowers. The body and texture maintained their medium and velvety texture. The taste also strengthened slightly, and retained the notes of brown sugar, sweet cream, flowers, and citrus. The vegetable taste was nearly non-existent, and I believe it could have been avoided all together in the first infusion by cutting the infusion time by 15 to 30 seconds. The aftertaste remained sweet, and the flowery essence maintained it’s strength.

Tu Quy Oolong Tea 3rd Infusion
Tu Quy Oolong Tea 3rd Infusion

The third infusion produced a liquor with a very similar shade to the first infusion, having a light greenish-yellow color. The aroma lightened some, but retained the general scents of brown sugar, sweet cream, and flowers. The body and texture thinned some from the second infusion, but remain medium and velvety. The taste also lightened, but retained the same notes as previous infusions. The aftertaste remains sweet, and the flowery essence thinned some, but was still strong enough to be enjoyed. I believe these leaves could provide at least one to two additional infusions of acceptable quality.

Tu Quy Oolong Tea Infused Leaves
Tu Quy Oolong Tea Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform forest green color, some displaying moderate levels of oxidation around the edges. The leaves are fairly broad, and display many characteristics of the Jin Xuan (TTES 12) cultivar, which would also explain the creamy aroma, texture, and taste. The leaves are mostly whole, with the remainder being large fragments. Most leaves are attached to stems, which display a three to five leaf pluck. Some stems are quite long, measuring about 3 to 4 inches (75 – 100 mm). The leaves have a smooth, wet leathery feel, and maintain a respectable amount of structural integrity. The aroma has scents of sweet cream, brown sugar, and very light flowers.

Of the four or five oolongs from Vietnam that I have tried so far, this Tu Quy Oolong Tea was in the top three. The aromas and tastes were consistent and enjoyable through three infusions. Although this product is not quite at the level of high quality oolongs from Taiwan, China, or even Thailand, the more competitive price could allow the oolongs from Vietnam to find a stable place in the market.

Please take a moment to check out my tea shop at http://www.teajourneymanshop.com. Cheers!

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Rou Gui Wulong Tea from Xin Yuan Tea Garden

I always enjoy the extra samples that the Lin Family from Xin Yuan Tea Garden include with my seasonal orders of their phenomenal Ti Kuan Yin Wulong Tea. This season they included their Rou Gui Wulong Tea, as well as some silver tips, 13 year aged Ti Kuan Yin (amazing), and Jin Jun Mei Black Tea. For a family owned farm that consists of under five acres (about 2 hectares) of land, the Lin family produces some truly world class teas.

Today I decided to focus on the Rou Gui Wulong Tea. I have had this tea before, but did not have the environment to properly analyze it, and thus did not publish a sub-par review of it. Rou Gui Wulong, when authentic, is produced from a tea bush cultivar of the same name, Rou Gui. The Rou Gui cultivar is known for producing aromas and tastes of cinnamon, or cassia bark. Due to the higher oxidation percentage and roasting technique, Rou Gui Wulong can appear similar to a Da Hong Pao Wulong.

The sample packet has been opened, and the reputation of the aroma is proving to be accurate. Let the journey begin…

Rou Gui Wulong Tea Dry Leaves
Rou Gui Wulong Tea Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a uniform dark brown to black color. Leaves range from medium to large fragments, with a considerable level of crumbs. The leaves are twisted and curled. The leaves are very dry, slightly rigid, and crumble without much effort. There are no bare stems in the mix. The leaves have an aroma of dry wood, cassia bark (or cinnamon), and molasses.

Five grams of dry leaves were placed in a 9.4 ounce (280 ml) Tokoname kyusu teapot. Purified spring water was heated to 205°F (96°C). The leaves were infused for 3:00 minutes.

Rou Gui Wulong Tea 1st Infusion
Rou Gui Wulong Tea 1st Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with dark brownish-red color, clear and transparent, with some coarse particles. The aroma has scents of cinnamon (cassia), tree bark, and a light sweetness (molasses). The body is medium, with a very smooth, silky texture. The taste has notes of cinnamon (cassia), tree bark, light molasses, and a light floral undertone. The aftertaste is sweet, and slowly converts into a floral essence on the breath.

Rou Gui Wulong Tea 2nd Infusion
Rou Gui Wulong Tea 2nd Infusion

The second infusion produced a liquor with a considerably lighter golden-orange color. The aroma has lightened, but retains the general scents of cinnamon (cassia), tree mark, and light molasses. The body has lightened, and the texture remains smooth, but thinner. The taste has lightened, but has a very nice balance of flavor, with a light mineral note being observed with the other notes of cinnamon (cassia), tree bark, very light molasses, and light floral. The aftertaste is not as sweet, with more of tree bark character, but the floral essence eventually kicks in.

Rou Gui Wulong Tea 3rd Infusion
Rou Gui Wulong Tea 3rd Infusion

The third infusion produced a liquor with again a light shade of golden-orange color than the second infusion. The aroma has lightened slightly, and retains the same general scents. The body and texture are similar to the second infusion. The taste has lightened some, and retains a nice balance of flavors, with the mineral note gaining some prominence. Despite lighter characteristics, the third infusion has plenty of aroma and taste, and I would expect it to provide at least two to three additional infusions of acceptable quality.

Rou Gui Wulong Tea Infused Leaves
Rou Gui Wulong Tea Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a very dark greenish brown to black color. The leaves are all medium to large fragments, with no stems in the mix. A few of the leaves are whole. The leaves have a fibrous, delicately rigid feel. The aroma has scents of wet tree bark, light cinnamon, and a very light floral hint.

The Rou Gui Wulong Tea is a unique style of wulong that certainly lives up to the reputation of having cinnamon-like aroma and taste descriptions. I found the second infusion to be my preference of the three, simply because the taste had balanced out considerably from the first infusion, and the mineral note that appeared gave the second infusion a very clean, refreshing character. Despite the similar appearance of the Rou Gui to a Da Hong Pao, the aromas and tastes are significantly different between the two wulong styles.

As always, the Xin Yuan Tea Garden has provided an interesting product that is unlike any other tea that I have had previously. You may learn more about the Xin Yuan Tea Garden at The Tea Journeyman Shop by Clicking Here. You may also view and purchase the fresh Spring 2014 Top Grade Ti Kuan Yin Wulong Tea from Xin Yuan Tea Garden by Clicking Here. Cheers!

Orthodox Assam Tips Black Tea from Heritage Tea Assam Co.

I received a package of samples today that I have been eagerly waiting to receive for some time. Therefore, I had to put everything else aside and do a review. Today I will be focusing on the Orthodox Assam Tips Black Tea direct from the Heritage Tea Assam Company, located in Dibrugarh, India.

Heritage Tea Assam Company is one of the few tea growers and manufacturers in the Assam district that are committed to producing high-quality loose teas, and not simply producing CTC teas for the mass market. I was having a rather difficult time finding such a company in Assam that produced above-average quality teas, and when I originally emailed Heritage Tea Assam, I had not heard back in weeks and assumed the worst. I later found out that severe storms had damaged communication lines in to the town. I was quite excited to see the reply email when it did arrive.

So now I have a few products here that I have not had before, high-quality orthodox Assam black, white, green, and even a smoked tea which smells intriguing! Naturally, I had to go with the best black tea first, as this is what Assam is known for.

As a quick reminder to those who may not be aware of what makes teas from the Assam district so unique from the teas of China or Darjeeling, the variety of tea bush that is grown in Assam is the Camellia Sinensis var. Assamica, known for having larger and broader leaves than the Camellia Sinensis var. Sinensis variety, and producing a fuller body and stronger tasting liquor. Many of the different breakfast blends contain at least some black tea from Assam.

The sample packet has been opened, and the bold smell of malt is already dominating the room. Let the journey begin…

Orthodox Assam Tips Black Tea Dry Leaves
Orthodox Assam Tips Black Tea Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a uniform dark reddish-brown to black color, with a generous portion of golden tips. The leaves are rolled, and are all small to medium sized fragments. There is a moderate amount of crumbs, and some bare stems in the mix. The aroma is strong and sweet, with scents of cocoa, malt, dried fruit, and wood.

Nine grams of dry leaves were placed in an eighteen ounce (530 ml) cast-iron Tetsubin. Purified spring water was heated to 205°F (95°C). The leaves were infused for 3:00 minutes.

Orthodox Assam Tips Black Tea 1st Infusion
Orthodox Assam Tips Black Tea 1st Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with a bright, deep red color, mostly clear and transparent, with a very slight “cream down” effect. The aroma is bold, with scents of malt, roses, and wood. The body is full, with a smooth texture. The taste is mouth-filling, with a strong astringency, and notes of malt, wood, light citrus, and light roses. The aftertaste is sweet and astringent, and the astringent character lingers in the mouth for a respectable amount of time.

Orthodox Assam Tips Black Tea 2nd Infusion
Orthodox Assam Tips Black Tea 2nd Infusion

One minute was added to the infusion time for the second infusion, bringing the total to 4:00 minutes. The second infusion produced a liquor with a lighter color, displaying more of an orange-red color, with the cream down effect no longer noticeable. This liquor is perfectly clear and transparent. The aroma has lightened, but retains scents of malt, light roses, and wood. The body has lightened some, and the texture has thinned. The taste retains a fairly strong astringency, however lighter than the first infusion. Lighter notes of malt, citrus, and wood remain. The aftertaste and essence have lightened.

Due to a lack of time and assumption that the third infusion will be quite light, I decided to pass on preparing the third infusion.

Orthodox Assam Tips Black Tea Infused Leaves
Orthodox Assam Tips Black Tea Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform dark copper color. All leaves are small and medium fragments. There are a few bare stems in the mix, as well as a respectable portion of tips averaging about 0.75 inches (15 to 20 mm) in length. The aroma has scents of malt, wood, and light flowers.

This Orthodox Assam Tips Black Tea is exactly what I was looking for in a high-quality Assam black tea. The color of the first infusion was deep and beautiful. The aroma and taste were robust and eye-opening. The body was full, yet the texture is smooth. This tea can definitely replace coffee in the morning, for those of you who care to try switching. The second infusion is certainly flavorful enough to enjoy also. Considering the amount of tips in the mix, I am expecting the other samples from Heritage Assam with less tips to be even stronger in flavor. That will be a welcome adventure. It will also be interesting to taste the silver tips white teas and the green teas. Stay tuned.

Thank you to Heritage Assam Tea for your generosity in providing these excellent samples! I look forward to reviewing the other teas included in the package. Cheers!

Look at These Leaves From the Radella Young Hyson Ceylon Green Tea!

How many green teas do you find that have leaves measuring four inches (100 mm) long by two inches (50 mm) wide? If I am to be conservative on the average length or the tea leaves that you will find in the Radella Young Hyson Ceylon Green Tea from The Tea Journeyman Shop, I would say the average length is two and a half to three inches (63 to 76 mm). I challenge my tea friends to post a picture with green tea leaves that are larger!

Radella Young Hyson Ceylon Green Tea - Large Leaves
Radella Young Hyson Ceylon Green Tea – Large Leaves

These leaves give the tea a strong mineral note, and can easily produce four or more infusions of great smelling and tasting tea! This tea is much different than any other green tea that I have ever experienced, and that is why I decided to offer it on my webstore. Experience this unique tea for yourself by visiting The Tea Journeyman Shop!

For the full review of the Radella Young Hyson Ceylon Green Tea, click here.