Hwang Cha Gold 2016 Oolong Tea from Hankook Tea and Honam Tea Estate

If you have not yet had an opportunity to taste South Korean teas, I highly recommend that you do so as soon as possible. Whether your preference for green teas lies in the Chinese styles or Japanese styles, the South Korean green teas fit somewhere in between its two neighboring styles. It may just be the perfect bridge between the Chinese and Japanese styles, offering both a touch of the savory, umami-like character of Japanese teas, with a nutty, buttery taste of Chinese teas. The South Korean green teas have something to offer for all palates. Check out Hankook Tea for their fresh 2017 harvests of green teas, including the Ujeon Gamro and Gamnong Jaksul. They also offer an excellent powdered green tea, which they call “Malcha”, made from their Gamnong Jaksul.

Today’s review has nothing to do with South Korean green teas, however. Today is focusing on a partially oxidized, South Korean oolong tea from Hankook Tea, the Hwang Cha Gold from the Honam Tea Estate’s April 2016 Sejak (1st Flush) harvest. The 2017 product is not yet available.

UPDATE: Hankook Tea was quick to provide in the comments below additional information on the processing of this tea. They said:

“The oxidation level is between 60-70%, so it is definitely closer to a black tea. The processing is a bit different than an oolong in that the leaves aren’t dried on open racks, but rather inside a large linen cloth. The humidity and heat inside the cloth causes a natural oxidation in the leaves.”

Thank you to Hankook Tea for the additional information, and for the quick response. I always enjoy learning the specific processing details of the teas that I review. The above description certainly adds another unique detail to this tea.

You can purchase a canister with 80 grams of the Hwang Cha Gold from Hankook Tea for USD $39.99 plus shipping.

Let’s get to the review…

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Hwang Cha Gold 2016 Oolong Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a uniform dark chocolate brown color. The leaves consist of medium to large size fragments, with a few bare stems in the mix, and no obvious tips or buds. The leaves are hand picked, and machine rolled. They break easily into small crumbs. The aroma has scents of dark chocolate, lightly charred wood, dried fruit (raisins), and a touch of licorice.

Dry leaves were placed in a cast-iron tetsubin teapot, and infused with 190°F water for 3:00 minutes.

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Hwang Cha Gold 2016 Oolong Tea – Liquid

The liquid has an amber color. The aroma has scents of dry wood, dark chocolate, light apple, a touch of spice, and a general roasty character. The body is on the heavier side of medium, with a smooth, clean texture, and gives a peppery sensation on the sides of the tongue. The taste has notes of dark chocolate, dry wood (most similar to pine), fresh ground black pepper, a touch of granny smith green apple, and an acidity similar to lemon. The aftertaste carries a sweet, chocolaty character.

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Hwang Cha Gold 2016 Oolong Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform color of dark brown. The leaves consist of mostly medium and a few larger fragments. There are a few bare stems, and no obvious buds or tips in the mix. The leaves are delicate, soft, and easy to tear, as first flush leaves usually are. The oxidation level is quite high, giving the leaves a color and appearance similar to most black teas. The aroma has scents of dark chocolate, wood, a touch of apple, and a general roasty character.

The most unique characteristic of the Hwang Cha Gold 2016 Oolong Tea was the peppery sensation that hit the tongue, which was followed by a lemon-like acidity. The dominant dark chocolate scent of the dry leaves is very attractive. The fruity aspect of this tea took a while to identify as green apple, as it was quite subtle. Overall, this tea has a very unique set of characteristics, and is certainly different than any other oolongs I have had. It had many similarities to a lighter black tea, and yet had the sweetness of an oolong. I would be interested to know what the oxidation percentage is on this tea. If anyone from Hankook Tea happens to read this post, perhaps you can use the comment section to inform us of the oxidation level.

Another thank you to Hankook Tea for providing this sample of Hwang Cha Gold 2016 Oolong Tea! I am looking forward to reviewing the Gamnong Jaksul Green Tea in the next week. Cheers!

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Hwang Cha Amber Wulong Tea from Hankook Tea and Honam Tea Estates

Here is a tea that has caught my eye on many occasions, but just always seemed to get unfairly passed over in the sea of samples awaiting review. Today’s review will focus on the Hwang Cha Amber wulong tea from Hankook tea, sourced from the Honam Tea Estates in South Korea. To learn more about Hankook Tea and Honam Tea Estates, visit Hankook Tea’s website here.

This is the first tea that I have reviewed from Hankook Tea that is not a green tea. The sample package describes this tea as partially oxidized, thus my classification as a wulong tea. Although it appears and smells more like a black (red) tea, I will yield to the description of the manufacturer on the tea type.

This wulong tea was produced from the leaves of the second harvest or flush of the 2013 year. The grade of the leaves is called Joongjak (second flush).

The sample packet has been opened, and a sweety, woody scent is easily recognizable. Let the journey begin…

Hwang Cha Amber Wulong Tea Dry Leaves
Hwang Cha Amber Wulong Tea Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a dark brown to black color. The leaves are all medium fragments, with some bare stems in the mix. The leaves are somewhat loosely rolled. The level of oxidation looks quite high, and the appearance resembles a red tea more than a wulong. The aroma has scents of molasses, dry wood, and light spice.

Nine grams of dry leaves were placed in an eighteen ounce (530 ml) cast-iron Tokoname kyusu teapot. Purified spring water was heated to 195°F (90°C). The leaves were infused for three minutes, with thirty seconds being added to subsequent infusions.

Hwang Cha Amber Wulong Tea 1st Infusion
Hwang Cha Amber Wulong Tea 1st Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with an orange-amber color, clear and transparent. The aroma has scents of molasses, wood, very light nut, and light baked apples. The body is medium, with a thin juice-like, rounded texture. The taste has notes of wood, light molasses, and light apple. The aftertaste and lingering essence in the mouth is uniquely sweet and slightly fruity. I cannot say that I have experienced the same sweet essence with other teas.

Hwang Cha Amber Wulong Tea 2nd Infusion
Hwang Cha Amber Wulong Tea 2nd Infusion

The second infusion produced a liquor with a golden-yellow color. The aroma lightened some, retaining the scents of wood, very light molasses, and very light baked apple. The body and texture thinned some. The taste also lightened, retaining notes of wood, light molasses, and light apple. The aftertaste and essence also lightened, but remained sweet.

Hwang Cha Amber Wulong Tea 3rd Infusion
Hwang Cha Amber Wulong Tea 3rd Infusion

The third infusion produced a liquor with a lighter shade of golden-yellow color. The aroma, body, and taste all lightened significantly. I recommend only using these leaves for two infusions, as this third infusion is very light in aroma and taste. There is nothing bad about the third infusion. It is simply very light.

Hwang Cha Amber Wulong Tea Infused Leaves
Hwang Cha Amber Wulong Tea Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform dark copper color. The leaves are all medium fragments, with some bare stems in the mix. The leaves have a wet, very thin leathery feel to them, and are not as delicate as I expected them to be, given the character of the third infusion. The aroma has scents of wet wood and light spice.

This Hwang Cha Amber is an intriguing product. Although technically only partially oxidized, it appears to be a red tea in most aspects. The taste and aroma are fairly complex, and well layered. The sweet aftertaste and essence are truly unique, and this was the characteristic that left the most significant impression on me. The first infusion was very interesting and enjoyable, while the second and third infusions were significantly lighter than the prior infusion. I have one more sample similar to this, being the Hwang Cha Gold. I will be interesting to see what the difference is between the two.

Thank you to Hankook Tea for providing this interesting and unique tea. Cheers!