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…
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.
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.
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!