Considering that I believe my knowledge of and experience with Sri Lankan teas to be among my more extensive of the tea producing countries, I am rather surprised to look back through my records and realize that the tea I am reviewing today, the Sapphire Oolong Tea from Herman Teas and Handunugoda Tea Estate, is the first oolong style tea from Sri Lanka that I will have reviewed. Yes, I have tried other teas from Sri Lanka that were marketed as green tea but should have probably, in reality, been called an oolong tea, but this Sapphire Oolong is the first oolong tea from Sri Lanka that is actually marketed as oolong.
On another quick side note, I have quite a few sample packages arriving in the next couple of weeks from some very unique places, some coming from countries and regions that I have never experienced before. In the past, I have tried to share information on a single estate or supplier piece by piece and spread out over the several reviews of products from that source. Going forward, I will change the format some, in order to both save myself some time, and prevent information from recurring over a series of posts. I plan to write a single post for individual estates or suppliers that will highlight their farm/business, and all the pertinent information about them, then simply link to the corresponding post in all reviews of products from that source. This will allow me to post more product reviews in less time, and give these sources their own individual spotlight. This new format will begin with Lumbini Tea Valley, whose sample package sadly appears to be stuck in UPS customs limbo as of the typing of this post.
With that being said, if you want to learn more about Herman Teas and Handunugoda Tea Estate, please simply enter “herman” into the search box on this page, and you will find all my past reviews of their other products. Most of the interesting information will be found on the first and second product review, which I believe were the Rainforest Black Tea and Ceylon Souchong Black Tea.
You can purchase a retail package of pyramid style teabags of the Sapphire Oolong Tea from the Herman Teas website for USD $11.50.
Finally, let’s get to the review…
The dry leaves have a uniform dark charcoal gray color, with a few spots of pale yellow-brown. The leaves appear to be a combination of medium to large leaf fragments, with the possibility of a few unbroken, whole leaves, and a noteworthy amount of mostly bare to entirely bare stems, some of which are quite long (between 3 to 4 inches in length). The pluck also varies, with some stems showing a two leaf pluck, some showing a Taiwan oolong pluck of three to four leaves, and some just a single leaf. The leaves are lightly rolled, and vary in appearance from long and wiry to loose and fluffy. The dark color indicates a high level of oxidation. The most remarkable part of the dry leaves in the aroma, which has unique, highly attractive scents of dark chocolate, malt, dried prunes, and forest floor.
Eight grams of dry leaves were placed in an eighteen ounce (530 mL) cast-iron tetsubin teapot and infused with 200°F (94°C) water for 3:00 minutes.
The liquid has a gold-yellow color, clear and transparent. The aroma is intoxicating, and nothing like that of the dry leaves, with amazing scents of Ceylon cinnamon, baked sweet potato, baked pumpkin, light brown sugar, and light gardenia. The body is medium, with a lively and layered texture. There is no bitterness or astringency, a touch of the briskness that Ceylon teas are known for, and an uplifting, eye opening energy. The taste has notes of Ceylon cinnamon, baked sweet potato, baked pumpkin, light gardenia, and light brown sugar. The aftertaste carries the cinnamon and sweet potato notes. I can say with complete honesty that I have never experienced a tea similar to this in terms of aroma and taste. This is absolutely phenomenal.
The infused leaves range in color from dark forest green to dark brown, with the greener leaves displaying reddish edges, indicating the relatively high level of oxidation. The blend consists of mostly large leaf fragments, with quite a few totally bare stems or mostly bare stems, and a few unbroken leaves. The leaves are fairly thin, with a smooth, rubbery texture. The bare stems display a range of plucking standards, from one leaf to four leaves, with no buds. The aroma carries the enticing scents of sweet potato, pumpkin, Ceylon cinnamon, and wet gardenia flowers.
The second aIsmelled and tasted this tea nectar, my mind immediately landed on two comparable autumn time foods: sweet potato casserole and pumpkin pie. The combination of sweet potato, pumpkin, cinnamon, and brown sugar are absolutely delicious, and unlike any tea that I have smelled or tasted before. The touch of gardenia flower is just a pleasant bonus. If it were missing, this review would give no less praise to this product. The appearance and consistency of the leaves are unremarkable, and I am contributing the incredible sweetness of this tea partially to the high number of bare, large stems in the mix. However, the lack of an impressive appearance is quickly brushed off once the aroma of the liquid hits the nose, and the taste hits the tongue. I cannot recommend this tea enough to you, my readers. Order some today, and post your comments here when you are knocked off your feet by the aroma and taste.
Congratulations to Herman Teas and Handunugoda Tea Estate for their success and hard work in creating this Sapphire Oolong Tea! It is, in all honesty, an instant favorite of mine. I will be sad when the day comes that I am out of this tea, and that day is going to come sooner than later.
It is really good! Seriously.