Silk Oolong Tea From Araksa Tea Garden

Today’s review will focus on the Silk Tea from Araksa Tea Garden in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Although not specified as an oolong tea by Araksa Tea Garden, the leaves are definitely partially oxidized, and have undergone more processing than a white tea. Thus, for the purpose of reviewing the tea, and determining steeping guidelines, I have classified this as an oolong tea.

For more information on Araksa Tea Garden, check out my Company Spotlight post.

Let’s get to the review…

The dry leaves vary in color from pale dark green to pale light brown to pale dark brown, with some pale gold-yellow buds and silverish buds. The leaves consist almost entirely of unbroken, whole leaves and buds attached to stems, showing a range of plucking standards from one leaf and bud to three leaves and bud. There are a few detached, large leaf fragments. There is a generous amount of mature, large buds, and no totally bare stems. The leaves and buds are partially oxidized (as an estimate, maybe 30 to 40%), are very lightly hand rolled, and appear to have been pan fired. It is obvious that great care was put into shaping these leaves. The aroma has scents of toasted oats, light brown sugar, dried corn, and dried chrysanthemum flowers.

Eight grams of dry leaves were placed in an eighteen ounce (530 mL) cast iron tetsubin teapot, and infused with 190°F (88°C) water for 3:00 minutes.

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Araksa Silk Tea – Liquid

The liquid has a bright, golden yellow color, perfectly clear and transparent. The aroma has interesting scents of chrysanthemum, sweet corn, and a touch of hay. The body is surprisingly full, will a silky, very smooth texture. There is no bitterness or astringency. The taste has notes of sweet corn, chrysanthemum, and hay. The aftertaste carries the hay and floral qualities, but with a subtle developing undertone of rose apples. There is lasting floral essence left on the breath.

The infused leaves vary slightly in the depth of the pale brown tones of color. The blend consists mostly of unbroken, whole leaves and buds attached to stems. There are a few large leaf fragments, detached from the stems, and no totally bare stems. The plucking standard varies from one leaf and mature bud to three leaves and mature bud. The largest buds measure nearly two inches (50 mm) long. Most of the buds this size are enveloping a younger bud. These are beautiful tea leaf specimens to observe. While hot, the leaves carry the aroma of chrysanthemum and corn. As they cool, the infused leaves hold a strong scent of magnolia flowers.

The Silk Tea from Araksa Tea Garden is a truly unique product. The leaves are beautiful to visually observe and handle in both the dry and infused forms. As mentioned above, it is obvious that the people at Araksa took incredible care of these leaves during production to not tear, detach, or otherwise damage the appearance. The taste is also unique, a blend of floral and corn notes. I cannot say I expected to find these characteristics in this tea, and although the combination was  a challenge to understand and interpret at first, the final description seemed to come rather easily. The aroma of the cool, infused leaves is spectacular. It feels as if I stuck my nose into one of the large blooming magnolia flowers in the front of my house. Overall, this was a fascinating experience, and I would recommend this more to fellow tea enthusiasts who can appreciate the specific qualities offered by this tea.

Thanks again to the management at Araksa Tea Garden for providing this sample of Silk Tea. Keep up the interesting and innovative work! Cheers!

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Luan Tze Oolong Tea from Doi Inthanon Tea Partnership in Thailand

Today, I will be focusing on the Luan Tze Oolong Tea. This is an organically grown high mountain (Kao Shan Cha) oolong tea. The raw tea leaves are harvested from the TTES # 17 (Qing Xin) cultivar.

The Doi Inthanon Tea Partnership is located in Bhan Khun Wang, Tambon Mae Win, Amphoe Mae Wang, Chiang Mai Province, north Thailand. The garden cultivates only five acres (2.02 hectares) of land, and of these five acres, only about half is covered in tea. The cultivars grown are the TTES #17 (Qing Xin) and TTES #12 (Jin Xuan). The tea garden has an average altitude above 1,500 meters (4,900 feet). The factory focuses completely on the production of oolong and green tea. A Google map of the Bhan Khun Wang area is provided below. For more information on the Doi Inthanon Tea Partnership, please visit their website here.

The sample packet has been opened, and a sweet, biscuity smell is filling the air. Let the journey begin…

Doi Inthanon Luan Tze Oolong Tea Dry Leaves
Doi Inthanon Luan Tze Oolong Tea Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a uniform dark greenish-brown color. There is a generous portion of buds that lean more to a golden color. The leaves are almost entirely whole leaves, many attached to stems with buds, and very few large fragments. There are no crumbs whatsoever. The leaves are obviously hand plucked, and based on the uniformity and good condition of the leaves, hand rolled. There was much care put into the production of this tea. The pluck is mostly two young leaves and a bud, with a few of the plucks not having a bud. The buds appear to be fairly young also. The leaves appear to be oxidized to about a 30% to 40% level. The smell of the dry leaves has scents of sweet dry tree bark, cinnamon, caramelized brown sugar, fresh baked biscuits, and baked peaches.  As seems to be the case with all of the teas from Doi Inthanon Tea, the appearance and smell of the dry leaves are quite impressive.

Three grams of dry leaves were placed in a five ounce (150 ml) porcelain infusion cup. Purified water was heated to 205°F (96°C). The leaves were infused for 4:00 minutes.

My suggestion for at home preparation is to use three grams of dry leaves for every six to eight ounces (180 to 240 ml) of water to be used. Heat water to 195°F (90°C). Steep the leaves for 2:00 to 3:00 minutes. Expect three or more infusions out of the same serving of leaves.

Doi Inthanon Luan Tze Oolong Tea Infusion
Doi Inthanon Luan Tze Oolong Tea Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with a bright golden yellow color, like natural bee honey, and perfectly clear and transparent. The aroma has scents of stewed peaches, brown sugar, cinnamon, and reminds me of baked peach pie. The body is solid medium, with a honey-like tongue coating texture. The taste has notes of sweet tree bark, cinnamon, fresh baked biscuit, and light honey, with baked peach and floral undertones. The aftertaste is peachy and floral, and these two tastes linger for an impressive amount of time.

Doi Inthanon Luan Tze Oolong Tea Infused Leaves
Doi Inthanon Luan Tze Oolong Tea Infused Leaves

The infused leaves display either a fresh slightly dark forest green or greenish-brown color, evidencing an oxidation level of around 30% to 40%. 99.9% of the leaves are whole and attached to stems. The very few fragments I did find were of buds, not opened leaves. The majority of plucks have a bud attached also. The pluck is either two slightly more mature leaves and no bud, or two young leaves and a fairly young bud. The buds have an average length of about 0.5 inches (10 – 15mm). The leaves are long and lean more towards having a narrow shape. The leaves are soft, smooth, and leathery, having a more sturdy feel than the other two teas from Doi Inthanon. There are no bare stems in the mix. The smell of the infused leaves has scents of stewed peach, wet tree bark, biscuits, light honey, light flowers, and light cooked leafy green vegetables. Again, the appearance of the infused leaves is very impressive.

The Doi Inthanon Tea Partnership went three for three with regard to receiving high marks on all samples that they sent to me. This Luan Tze Oolong, produced from leaves of the TTES 17 (Qing Xin) cultivar, had a higher quality, more refined taste than the Yun Bi and Jade Tea, both produced from leaves of the TTES 12 (Jin Xuan) cultivar. As I mentioned in my two previous posts, one on the Yun Bi Oolong and the other on the Jade Tea, the amount of precision and care that is taken to harvest and produce the teas at Doi Inthanon Tea Partnership is among the highest that I have seen. This is certainly the result of skillfully hand plucking and hand rolling the leaves. The quality of the aroma and taste are consistent through the first three infusions, and finally begin to gradually dissipate thereafter.

This Luan Tze Oolong, as well as the Yun Bi and Jade Tea, are all a true pleasure to analyze and appreciate from the moment that the package is opened. The management at Doi Inthanon Tea tells me that these products are not sold outside of Thailand, and in fact only sell these teas out of the small shops in and around the national park where the tea garden is located. With that being the case, I am truly honored to have had an opportunity to experience these teas, and I certainly hope this is not the last time I will get the pleasure of trying them. I am considering to purchase a small quantity of each of the three teas to offer on The Tea Journeyman Shop, as well as at tea tasting events that will focus strictly on teas from Thailand. Interested in trying some? Leave me a message of encouragement on this post or in a private email!

A huge thanks to the management at Doi Inthanon Tea Partnership for their generosity in sending these phenomenal samples! Cheers!

Jade Tea from Doi Inthanon Tea Partnership in Thailand

Today, I will be focusing on the Jade Tea from the Doi Inthanon Tea Partnership. This is an organically grown high mountain green oolong tea. The raw tea leaves are harvested from the TTES # 12 (Jin Xuan) cultivar.

The Doi Inthanon Tea Partnership is located in Bhan Khun Wang, Tambon Mae Win, Amphoe Mae Wang, Chiang Mai Province, north Thailand. The garden cultivates only five acres (2.02 hectares) of land, and of these five acres, only about half is covered in tea. The cultivars grown are the TTES #17 (Qing Xin) and TTES #12 (Jin Xuan). The tea garden has an average altitude above 1,500 meters (4,900 feet). The factory focuses completely on the production of oolong and green tea. For more information on the Doi Inthanon Tea Partnership, please visit their website here.

The sample packet has been opened, and the leaves are definitely hand plucked and hand rolled. Let the journey begin…

Doi Inthanon Jade Green Tea Dry Leaves
Doi Inthanon Jade Green Tea Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a dark cloudy green color, with some variation in the darkness of the leaves. There is an impressive amount of silver tips. The leaves are all whole, unbroken leaves. There are no crumbs or fragments whatsoever. The pluck is mostly two tender leaves and the bud, or one tender leaf and the bud. The buds are fairly mature. The leaves are obviously hand plucked, and hand rolled. There was much attention and care put in to the plucking and processing of these leaves. The leaves appear to be pan-fired. It looks like there was a little oxidation that occurred, but certainly less than the Yun Bi oolong tea from Doi Inthanon. I would guess that the oxidation percentage would be about 10%, making this a “green oolong”, as opposed to a true green tea. The aroma has scents of fresh baked bread, toasted seeds, stewed peaches, molasses or brown sugar, and light grass. The aroma seems to jump right out of the packet.

Three grams of dry leaves were placed in a five ounce (150 ml) porcelain infusion cup. Purified water was heated to 185°F (85°C). The leaves were infused for 3:00 minutes.

My suggestion for at home preparation is to use three grams for every six to eight ounces (180 to 240 ml) of water to be used. Heat water to 175° (75°C). Infuse the leaves for 1:30 to 2:00 minutes for the first infusion. Expect at least three or four quality infusions out the same serving of leaves. Decrease the infusion time on the second infusion to 1:00 to 1:30 minutes, then add 15 to 30 seconds to each additional infusion.

Doi Inthanon Jade Green Tea Infusion
Doi Inthanon Jade Green Tea Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with a light yellowish-jade green color, perfectly clear and transparent. The aroma has scents of toasted seeds, steamed leafy green vegetables, light peach, light brown sugar, and light valley flowers. The body is medium, with a smooth, almost brothy texture. The taste has notes of toasted seeds, steamed leafy green vegetables, valley flowers, light wood, and light peach. There is a mild astringency, and no bitterness. The aftertaste leans to the grassy and steamed vegetable notes, but the essence left on the breath is pleasantly floral.

Doi Inthanon Jade Green Tea Infused Leaves
Doi Inthanon Jade Green Tea Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a perfectly uniform fresh light forest green color. I am still guessing the oxidation level to be about 10%. All the leaves and buds are whole and unbroken. There is not a single broken piece, fragment, or crumb in the sample! The pluck is either two fine leaves and a bud, or one fine leaf and a bud. The leaves are quite small and fine, with a soft, thin texture. The buds are fairly mature, with an average length of about 0.8 of an inch (20 mm). The uniformity of the size of the leaves and buds is very impressive. The aroma has scents of toasted seeds, valley flowers, light stewed peach, light wood, and cooked leafy green vegetables. Below is an extra photo of some of the individual infused leaves.

Doi Inthanon Jade Green Tea Infused Leaves Closeup
Doi Inthanon Jade Green Tea Infused Leaves Closeup

Interestingly, I did not sense any of the cream or milk characteristics that the Jin Xuan (TTES # 12) cultivar is renowned for providing. Not that this fact took away any of the pleasure I had in trying this tea, but it is an observation with this Jade Tea, as well as the Yun Bi Tea, which was also produced from the leaves of the Jin Xuan cultivar. With that being said, this tea had much to offer! The beautiful, masterfully cared for appearance of the dry leaves, the bright and lively color of the infusion, and the uniformity and wholeness of the infused leaves, were all very visually impressive! As noted earlier, the aroma of the dry leaves jumps out of the package. The tea itself has a great energy, and a satisfying texture. The taste was dominant with toasted seeds and steamed leafy green vegetables, providing a healthy taste that makes your body feel happier with each sip. This is another great product from Doi Inthanon Tea Partnership!

I am sad to say that I have only one product from Doi Inthanon left to review. That is the Luan Tze oolong. Thanks to Doi Inthanon Tea Partnership for providing these impressive samples! Cheers!

Yun Bi Oolong Tea from Doi Inthanon Tea Partnership in Thailand

I always get excited to receive samples from a new source, especially when it is a new tea farm looking to get some well-deserved attention for their products.We all know that I have come to love the teas from Thailand, specifically the oolong teas. So when the Doi Inthanon Tea Partnership contacted me to request that I review two of their oolong teas and one green tea, I did not hesitate for one moment to accept the generous request. Let me thank the management team at Doi Inthanon Tea Partnership for their generosity!

Today, I will be focusing on the Yun Bi Oolong Tea. This is an organically grown high mountain oolong tea. The raw tea leaves are harvested from the TTES # 12 (Jin Xuan) cultivar.

The Doi Inthanon Tea Partnership is located in Bhan Khun Wang, Tambon Mae Win, Amphoe Mae Wang, Chiang Mai Province, north Thailand. The garden cultivates only five acres (2.02 hectares) of land, and of these five acres, only about half is covered in tea. The cultivars grown are the TTES #17 (Qing Xin) and TTES #12 (Jin Xuan). The tea garden has an average altitude above 1,500 meters (4,900 feet). The factory focuses completely on the production of oolong and green tea. A Google map of the Bhan Khun Wang area is provided below. For more information on the Doi Inthanon Tea Partnership, please visit their website here.

The sample packet has been opened, and the appearance of this tea is quite different than any other oolong tea that I have seen. Let the journey begin…

Yun Bi Oolong Tea Dry Leaves
Yun Bi Oolong Tea Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a fairly consistent color of dark greenish-black, with plenty of goldish tips in the mix. The leaves appear to be all large fragments and a very high number of whole leaves with stems and buds intact. The uniform appearance indicates hand processing from the pluck to rolling. The leaves appear to be quite small compared to those used in semi-ball shaped oolongs. The pluck is varied, with some showing a single leaf and bud, and others showing two leaves and bud. From the color, the oxidation level looks quite high, with my guess being about 40%, give or take 10%. The leaves also appear to be roasted significantly. The aroma has scents of brown sugar, sweet wood, cinnamon, and fresh baked bread. The appearance and aroma of the dry leaves are both intriguing and impressive!

Three grams of dry leaves were placed in a five ounce (150 ml) porcelain infusion cup. Purified water was heated to 205°F (96°C). The leaves were infused for 4:00 minutes.

My suggestion for at home preparation is to use three grams for every six to eight ounces (180 to 240 ml) of water to be used. Heat water to 195° (90°C). Infuse the leaves for 2:00 to 2:30 minutes for the first infusion. Expect at least three or four quality infusions out the same serving of leaves. Decrease the infusion time on the second infusion to 1:00 to 1:30 minutes, then add 15 to 30 seconds to each additional infusion.

Yun Bi Oolong Tea Infusion
Yun Bi Oolong Tea Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with a bright golden-yellow color, perfectly clear and transparent. The aroma has scents of cream, light brown sugar, light vanilla, light wood, cinnamon, and light flowers. The body is medium, with a silky, creamy texture. The taste has quite an array of descriptions, with notes of wood, cream, brown sugar, vanilla, peaches, flowers, and very light cooked leafy vegetables. The aftertaste is sweetly floral, and a persistent floral bouquet can be felt on the breath.

Yun Bi Oolong Tea Infused Leaves
Yun Bi Oolong Tea Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a consistent fresh forest green color, with some minor reddish hints around the edges, and brown stems. The oxidation does not seem as high now that the leaves have been infused. These leaves are 99% whole and unbroken! I found very few fragments in the sample, further indicating the careful hand plucking and hand processing of the leaves. The leaves are quite small and many appear young, with the majority measuring well under one inch (25 mm), and very few measuring over 1.5 inches (38 mm). The leaves are fairly narrow. Their is a generous portion of nicely developed buds, and the pluck varies from three leaves and no bud to one leaf and a large bud. The aroma has scents of vanilla, sweet wet wood, light cooked vegetables, a touch of cinnamon, light peach, and light flowers.

I have reviewed many teas whose manufacturers have claimed that the entire production process is completed by hand, but few teas have proven this claim so clearly as this Yun Bi Oolong Tea from Doi Inthanon Tea Partnership. This tea was among the most interesting reviews, from the dry leaves to the infused leaves, that I have completed on this blog. It is amazing to see such small farms do what Doi Inthanon Tea Partnership is doing. If you read their website (I linked to it in the introduction above), you will see what the land was used for before it was rehabilitated and turned into tea, Chinese Mulberry, and Japanese persimmons. Amazingly, I can still taste all of the old crops, such as the peaches from the peach orchards, and the leafy green vegetables. This tea paints a very clear picture of the history of the land, as well as the care that goes into manufacturing it. I feel like I could write a book about this tea alone. It is seriously that interesting to me.

With that being said, I will cut the rambling off here. What I will say is that I simply cannot wait to get to the other two samples from Doi Inthanon Tea Partnership. Another thank you to the management and all of the workers at Doi Inthanon for producing these amazing teas, and for the generosity in sending them to me. This has been a very noteworthy experience, and I look forward to watching this garden grow and develop! Cheers!

Four Seasons Oolong Tea from Thai Tea Suwirun Gardens

Finally, back to tea reviews! I am looking forward to getting to more of these more often again, having been overwhelmed with other personal and business obligations for the past couple of months. I have some Darjeeling second flushes coming, as well as one Darjeeling specialty tea from Jungpana Tea Estate. I also have the quality season black teas from Uva Greenland Estate in Sri Lanka coming soon. To finish things off for my current sample supply, TeaVivre is sending some Chinese puer and white teas. I am also trying to find some exporters from Tanzania who can supply me with black, white, and green tea samples from that part of Africa. Basically, I have some interesting reviews coming up in the near future.

Also, all tea reviews going forward will be conducted according to professional standards. Higher water temperatures and longer steep times will be used to extract all of the character of the leaves. However, I will continue providing recommendations on water temperature and steep times for daily and normal consumption. I have decided to only write detailed descriptions of the first infusion to minimize redundancy in the posts. However, if I do prepare subsequent infusions, the photos will be posted, along with any noteworthy changes in character. You will also notice watermarks on my photos now. After having some trouble with my photos being used without permission or proper credit being given, I was forced to add watermarks.

Now that the updates and disclaimers have been given, let’s get to a review. The subject of today’s review is the Four Seasons Oolong Tea from Thai Tea Suwirun Gardens. Rather than retype information about Thai Tea Suwirun Gardens, click here to find all of the information and photos that I have on The Tea Journeyman Shop Tea Garden’s page. I am proud to offer two oolong teas from Thai Tea Suwirun Gardens at the shop, the Thea Kuan Imm and the Jing Shuan (Jin Xuan or Milk Oolong).

The sample packet has been opened, and a welcoming sweet scent is instantly detectable. Let the journey begin…

Four Seasons Oolong Tea Dry Leaves
Four Seasons Oolong Tea Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a pale light green to dark brownish-green color. Leaves are mostly whole, with few large fragments and very small portion of crumbs. Leaves are in semi-ball shape. A coarse pluck of three to four leaves with stem intact is assumed. Oxidation appears to be in the 50% area, give or take 10%. The aroma is very sweet, with scents of brown sugar, honey, and dry tree fruit.

Three grams of dry leaves were placed in a five ounce (150 ml) ceramic infusion cup. Purified spring water was heated to 205°F (96°C). The leaves were infused for four minutes.

Normal at home preparation will be one teaspoon of leaves (about 3 grams) per six ounces (180 ml) of water to be used. Water temperature should be 190°F to 195°F (88 to 90°C). Infusion time should be 1:30 to 2:00 minutes on the first infusion, then 1:00 minute on the second infusion, with 0:15 to 0:30 seconds being added to subsequent infusions. Three to five quality infusions can be expected.

Four Seasons Oolong Tea 1st Infusion
Four Seasons Oolong Tea 1st Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with a bright golden yellow color, perfectly clear and transparent, with few fine and coarse particles. The aroma is quite powerful and sweet, with scents of honey, nectarines, light brown sugar, and a light floral scent that I will compare to lavender. The body is medium, with a lively, mouth filling texture. The taste has notes of honey, nectarines, light brown sugar, and lavender. The aftertaste is persistent, and the notes of lavender and nectarine are very pronounced for an impressive amount of time. The aftertaste honestly reminded me of that of a bite of fresh nectarine. Very impressive!

Four Seasons Oolong Tea 2nd Infusion
Four Seasons Oolong Tea 2nd Infusion

The second infusion continued to impress by being highly aromatic and flavorful. Taste was slightly lighter, but nicely balanced. No negative notes on the second infusion.

Four Seasons Oolong Tea 3rd Infusion
Four Seasons Oolong Tea 3rd Infusion

The third infusion is also quite sweet in aroma and bright in color. The taste is lighter, but still has plenty of flavor. The aftertaste continues to impress with a lingering floral character. No negative notes on the third infusion.

Four Seasons Oolong Tea Infused Leaves
Four Seasons Oolong Tea Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform forest green color, with reddish edges. Many leaves appear to have edges that have been bitten by insects, which helps explain the honey aroma and taste. Most of the leaves are whole, with some very large fragments, and few smaller fragments. Pluck is coarse and ranges from two to three leaves with stem intact, some with small buds attached. The leaves appear to be of either the TTES 17 (Chin Shin) or TTES 12 (Jin Xuan) cultivar, or perhaps a blend of the two. I am siding more with the Chin Shin. Even though some of the leaves are more broad like Jin Xuan leaves, the aroma and taste lacked the creamy (milky) characteristics that Jin Xuan is known for. The aroma of the infused leaves has scents of nectarine, light honey, and light floral.

Thai Tea Suwirun Gardens produces some truly high end oolong teas, in my opinion. I have had several other “four seasons” oolongs before, all from Taiwan, but I do not recall having such pleasant memories of any of those teas like I have of the Four Seasons Oolong from Thai Tea Suwirun Gardens. I have been told by others who are more familiar with the tea gardens of Thailand that Thai Tea Suwirun is good, but there are better tea gardens in Thailand. If that is true, I beg for more information on these other gardens! I believe they are out there, and if they are better than Thai Tea Suwirun, then I am in for some very pleasurable moments of tea sampling in the future! Not to take anything away from Thai Tea Suwirun, as they always leave me with a satisfied smile on my face. If I never find another garden in Thailand, I will be perfectly fine with my supply coming from Thai Tea Suwirun!

Thanks to the management at Thai Tea Suwirun Gardens for including this generous packet of Four Seasons Oolong Tea! Cheers!

Thea Kuan Imm Oolong Tea from Thai Tea Suwirun Garden in Northern Thailand

Thanks to the generosity of the management at the Thai Tea Suwirun Garden near Chiang Rai City in northern Thailand, I have fresh samples of their Thea Kuan Imm and Jing Shuan (TTES # 12) oolong teas ready for sampling.

Thai Tea Suwirun Garden is a certified organic garden consisting of 480 acres of land. They have been operating for about thirty years, and now offer a variety of oolong, green, and black tea products, including Wirun, a green tea powder. Today’s review will focus on the Thea Kuan Imm oolong tea.

Let the journey begin…

Thea Kuan Imm Oolong Tea Dry Leaves
Thea Kuan Imm Oolong Tea Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a pale green to very dark green color. The leaves are in the semi-ball shape. I am expecting mostly whole leaves attached to stems. The semi-ball leaves are about the size of a black bean, and they are fairly consistent. The leaves appear to be moderately roasted. The aroma is very attractive, with scents of sweet wood, molasses, light cinnamon, and light brown sugar.

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.

Thea Kuan Imm Oolong Tea 1st Infusion
Thea Kuan Imm Oolong Tea 1st Infusion

The first infusion produced a bright golden-yellow liquor, clear and transparent, with few particles. The aroma is quite fruity, with scents of ripe pears, very light wood, and light honey. The body is medium, with a gentle, silky texture, and a very clean, refreshing energy. The taste has notes of tree fruit (ripe pears), light sweet wood, light honey, and very light mineral. The aftertaste has notes of honey and light wood, and a floral and light mineral essence is left on the breath.

Thea Kuan Imm Oolong Tea 2nd Infusion
Thea Kuan Imm Oolong Tea 2nd Infusion

The second infusion produced a liquor with a slightly darker shade of golden-yellow color, with few particles remaining. The aroma continues to be very attractive, with the same scents of pears, honey, and light wood. The body, texture, and energy have lost very little character from the first infusion. The taste has leveled nicely, with the pear and honey notes being most dominant, and the sweet wood and mineral notes continuing to be light. The aftertaste retains the honey and light wood notes, and the essence remains floral.

Thea Kuan Imm Oolong Tea 3rd Infusion
Thea Kuan Imm Oolong Tea 3rd Infusion

The third infusion produced a liquor with a lighter shade of golden-yellow color, lighter than the first and second infusions. The aroma has lightened some, but retains very pleasant scents of pears and honey. The body and texture have thinned some. The taste has also lightened some, and the strengths of the various notes have changed, with the mineral note gaining strength, and the honey and pears notes losing strength. The third infusion is still quite enjoyable, and I expect a fourth and maybe even fifth infusion to produce a worthy experience.

Thea Kuan Imm Oolong Tea Infused Leaves
Thea Kuan Imm Oolong Tea Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a forest green to dark forest green color. Most of the leaves display reddish edges, indicating moderate oxidation. The pluck is three leaves and a bud, some of the the buds being fairly well developed (see photo). The larger leaves are about 1.25 inches (30 mm) long. The leaves are silky and quite delicate. The aroma has scents of wood, and a strange spicy scent that reminds me of the incense burned in the church that I attended throughout my childhood. As the leaves cooled, the scent became sweet and fruity.

This Thea Kuan Imm Oolong Tea from Thai Tea Suwirun is an instant favorite! The aromas and tastes of all three infusions were nothing short of incredible. The energy of this tea was obvious, and it gave the body a refreshing, clean feeling. The level of oxidation and assumed roasting of this tea makes it much different than other Ti Kuan Yin (TieGuanYin) products that I have had, and this one I definitely enjoyed more than the others, even the other roasted varieties. There is only one Ti Kuan Yin that I prefer over this, and I will be doing a review on the fresh spring harvest Ti Kuan Yin top grade in the next week or two, once it arrives.

Thank you very much to the management at Thai Tea Suwirun Garden for providing this excellent sample. Cheers!

 

The Battle of the Jin Xuan Wulongs – Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam

Admittedly, my wife and I are lovers of Jin Xuan (AKA Milk Wulong) teas. Our love for this style of tea began with the imposter milk wulongs, which are usually cheaper types of wulong tea with milk or a similar flavoring being added. As my knowledge of teas, specifically wulongs from Taiwan and China, increased, I learned the difference between a true Jin Xuan milk wulong and the flavored milk wulongs. When I learned how the Taiwan Tea Experimentation (Extension) Station, TTES, developed the Jin Xuan (TTES # 12) cultivar, I immediately began looking for sources of natural, unflavored Jin Xuan directly from Taiwan. I found several good suppliers, and I never stop looking for better ones.

More recently, I have began receiving samples of Jin Xuan wulongs grown in other countries, namely Thailand and Vietnam. Naturally, my first thought was how these Jin Xuans from Thailand and Vietnam compare to the Jin Xuan from it’s founding country, Taiwan. Today, I decided to find out in a side-by-side-by-side comparison.

My initial thought is that Taiwan would have the best Jin Xuan wulong, as the cultivar was created in Taiwan, and the tea producers of that country have had the most time to improve the characteristics of this tea. I currently have two Jin Xuan wulongs from Taiwan in my collection. One is a mid-price range quality, and the other is a high-price range quality. For this comparison, I will use the mid-price range quality, as the Jin Xuan products from Thailand and Vietnam are also in a comparable price range.

First, the basic origin information on each Jin Xuan wulong. The first Jin Xuan is from the Alishan area of Chiayi County, Taiwan. It is grown at an altitude of around 1,300 meters (3,900 feet). The second Jin Xuan is from a plantation outside of Chiang Rai City in northern Thailand. The third Jin Xuan is from Vietnam. Unfortunately, that is the only information I had available at the time of this review. If I receive more information on this product from Vietnam, I will revise the post.

Let the journey begin…

Jin Xuan Wulong Tea Comparison - Dry Leaves
Jin Xuan Wulong Tea Comparison – Dry Leaves
Alishan Taiwan Jin Xuan Wulong - Dry Leaves
Alishan Taiwan Jin Xuan Wulong – Dry Leaves
Chiang Rai Thailand Jin Xuan - Dry Leaves
Chiang Rai Thailand Jin Xuan – Dry Leaves
Vietnam Jin Xuan - Dry Leaves
Vietnam Jin Xuan – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves of the three Jin Xuan products had a similar appearance. All were pale, light green to dark brownish-green in color. All were in the semi-ball shape. The Vietnam product had the largest semi-balled leaves of the three. All products appear to be whole leaves and large fragments, some with stems intact. All three seemed to have similar levels of oxidation. The primary difference came in the form of the aroma, where the Taiwan product had the best aroma, with scents of sweet milk and brown sugar. The Thailand product came in a small sample packet, so I do not feel that there was enough of the product to gauge a fair aroma analysis. The Vietnam product also had a milky aroma, but not as potent as the Taiwan product, and with less sweet character.

Three grams of each product were placed in their respective five ounce (150 ml) ceramic infusion cups. Purified spring water was heated to 195°F (90°C). The leaves were infused for two minutes thirty seconds on the first infusion, and one minute thirty seconds on the second and third.

Jin Xuan Wulong Tea Comparison - 1st Infusion
Jin Xuan Wulong Tea Comparison – 1st Infusion
Alishan Taiwan Jin Xuan Wulong - 1st Infusion
Alishan Taiwan Jin Xuan Wulong – 1st Infusion
Chiang Rai Thailand Jin Xuan - 1st Infusion
Chiang Rai Thailand Jin Xuan – 1st Infusion
Vietnam Jin Xuan - 1st Infusion
Vietnam Jin Xuan – 1st Infusion

The first infusions of the Taiwan and Vietnam Jin Xuan products had similar appearances, having a light jade green color. The Thailand Jin Xuan had more of golden-yellow color with a slight jade green tint. All three were clear and transparent.

The aromas of the Taiwan and Thailand products were similar, with scents of sweet milk, orchids, brown sugar, and peaches. Both had amazing aromas. I give a slight edge to the Thailand product, because I felt it was slightly more potent. The Vietnam product had a light sweet milk scent, but seemed to have more of a vegetable character to the aroma than the other products.

The Thailand product had the heaviest body (still medium), followed by the Taiwan product, then the Vietnam product had the lightest body. All three had creamy, very smooth textures. The texture of the Taiwan product was the best, just slightly better than the Thailand product.

The taste of the Thailand product and the Taiwan product were very similar, but I give a slight edge to the Thailand product again. I felt the taste was slightly sweeter, with better balance of milk, brown sugar, and peach notes. There was also a light floral (orchid) note. The Taiwan product was stronger on the sweet cream and orchid notes, and by no means is any lesser quality than the Thailand product. Simply my preference in tastes made me give the Thailand tea the top ranking. The Vietnam product had a lighter milk note, a touch of cooked vegetable, and a light orchid note. All three teas had impressive orchid floral aftertastes, and persistent flowery essences to leave on the breath.

Overall, I would have to say that the Thailand Jin Xuan was my first preference in this comparison. It seemed to be fuller in every respect, the color, aroma, body, and taste. The Taiwan product was a very close second, having some different strengths than the Thailand product, but overall just a touch lighter. The Vietnam product was respectable, but seems to need some slightly different brewing parameters to have it’s peak aroma and tastes come out. I will experiment with some various brewing techniques, and perhaps compare these three again if and when I find an ideal set of parameters.

I did three infusions of each product, and noted my rankings of preference for infusions two and three. Here are the photos of the second infusion.

Jin Xuan Wulong Tea Comparison - 2nd Infusion
Jin Xuan Wulong Tea Comparison – 2nd Infusion
Alishan Taiwan Jin Xuan Wulong - 2nd Infusion
Alishan Taiwan Jin Xuan Wulong – 2nd Infusion
Chiang Rai Thailand Jin Xuan - 2nd Infusion
Chiang Rai Thailand Jin Xuan – 2nd Infusion
Vietnam Jin Xuan - 2nd Infusion
Vietnam Jin Xuan – 2nd Infusion

The outcomes of the second and third infusions were roughly the exact same as the first. The Thailand Jin Xuan had the best ranking in terms of appearance, aroma, taste, and body. The Taiwan product was a very close second place. The second infusion of the Vietnam product was better than the first infusion, but still not quite at the level of the Thailand and Taiwan products. Through three infusions, all three products held their properties quite well, and most impressing was the strong flowery orchid aftertastes and essences that all three teas had.

Here are the photos of the infused leaves.

Jin Xuan Wulong Tea Comparison - Infused Leaves
Jin Xuan Wulong Tea Comparison – Infused Leaves
Alishan Taiwan Jin Xuan Wulong - Infused Leaves
Alishan Taiwan Jin Xuan Wulong – Infused Leaves
Alishan Taiwan Jin Xuan Wulong - Infused Leaves
Alishan Taiwan Jin Xuan Wulong – Infused Leaves
Chiang Rai Thailand Jin Xuan - Infused Leaves
Chiang Rai Thailand Jin Xuan – Infused Leaves
Chiang Rai Thailand Jin Xuan - Infused Leaves
Chiang Rai Thailand Jin Xuan – Infused Leaves
Vietnam Jin Xuan - Infused Leaves
Vietnam Jin Xuan – Infused Leaves
Vietnam Jin Xuan - Infused Leaves
Vietnam Jin Xuan – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves all had a similar dark forest green color, with a few leaves displaying slightly reddish edges. The leaves of the Vietnam product were overall the largest and most impressive. All three products displayed a two to four leaf pluck, and all consisted mostly of whole leaves, with the remainder being large fragments. There were no bare stems in any of the products. All three had leaves that were consistent with the Jin Xuan cultivar, having long, broad leaves. The Taiwan and Vietnam leaves had a wet, thin leathery feel, while the Thailand product’s leaves were slightly softer and more delicate.

The infused leaves of the Taiwan Jin Xuan had the best aroma, followed closely by the Thailand product. Both had scents of brown sugar, sweet milk, and orchids. The Vietnam product had scents of light milk and orchids, but was not as sweet as the Taiwan and Thailand products.

This comparison was a great experience. Most surprisingly, the Thailand Jin Xuan was my preference of the three, while the Taiwan Jin Xuan was a close second place. If and when I get a chance to get another sample of the Thailand Jin Xuan, I will be putting it up against my better quality Taiwan Jin Xuan to see how it stands up to a higher quality competitor. Again, I want to work with the remainder of the Vietnam product sample to see if there are more favorable results from different brewing temperatures and times.

The best part of this comparison was sipping on good quality Jin Xuan for a few hours. I know Taiwan is starting to replace Jin Xuan bushes with Chin Shin, which is unfortunate in my opinion, even though many good wulongs are produced from Chin Shin. On the bright side, it seems that other regions are more than capable of picking up where the Taiwan farmers are choosing to leave off on the Jin Xuan production.

Many thanks to the companies who provided these samples. Even more thanks to the people who pluck the leaves, process them, and form them in to these absolutely amazing teas. Cheers!

Gabaron Oolong Tea from Daokrajai Lanna Fine Teas

Here is a relatively new style of oolong tea that has been gaining some attention in the health and nutrition fields recently. This is the Gabaron Oolong Tea from Daokrajai Lanna Fine Teas, sourced from a tea estate in the area outside of Chiang Rai City in northern Thailand.

What is different about Gabaron (or GABA) teas? During processing, the tea leaves are flushed with nitrogen gas, causing the level of GABA (Gamma-Aminobutryic Acid) in the leaves to increase, unlike tea leaves processed in strictly oxygen environments. GABA is marketed as a promoter of relaxation due it’s neurological effects in the brain. However, in normal to even reasonably above normal amounts that can be ingested through GABA tea consumption, this tea will most likely not have any relaxation inducing effects beyond that of other teas. I prepared this sample fairly late in the evening, and although I had no trouble falling asleep, I cannot say that I felt any additional relaxation beyond what a Sunday evening usually brings.

The sample packet has been opened, and a sweet, fruity, woody, and slightly spicy scent is filling the air. Let the journey begin…

Gabaron Oolong Dry Leaves
Gabaron Oolong Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a light to dark brown color. The leaves are shaped into semi-balls. The leaves appear to be large fragments and whole leaves with stems attached. There are no bare stems in the mix. Although the leaves appear to be higher on the oxidation scale, I would be interested to know the oxidation percentage, and if the exposure to nitrogen causes any color change in the dry product. The aroma is sweet, with scents of brown sugar, molasses, apples, citrus, light wood and spice.

Four grams of dry leaves were placed in a 9.4 ounce (280 ml) Tokoname kyusu teapot. Filtered tap water was heated to 195°F (90°C). The leaves were infused for two minutes.

Gabaron Oolong 1st Infusion
Gabaron Oolong 1st Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with light golden-yellow color and a light orange tint, clear and transparent. The aroma is sweet, with fruity scents of apples and citrus, and spicy, most similar to cloves. The body is light-medium, with a lively, spicy, almost sharp texture. The taste is somewhat brisk, with strong notes of citrus (lemon or grapefruit), apples, and spice (cloves), with lighter notes of flowers and minerals. The aftertaste is light, sweet and floral. There is very little flowery or otherwise of an essence that is left on the breath.

Gabaron Oolong 2nd Infusion
Gabaron Oolong 2nd Infusion

The second infusion produced a liquor with a darker shade of golden-yellow color and more of an orange tint. The aroma remains fruity and spicy. The body is medium, and the taste is not quite as sharp as the first infusion. The taste has balanced some, with the notes of citrus, apple, and spice blending more evenly with the flowers and mineral taste. The aftertaste is still sweet and floral, but the floral hints have gained some ground on the sweetness. I preferred this second infusion to the first.

Gabaron Oolong 3rd Infusion
Gabaron Oolong 3rd Infusion

The third infusion produced a liquor that was very slightly lighter than the second infusion, but remains golden-yellow with an orange tint. The aroma continues to be fruity and spicy, but lighter in strength. The body remains medium. The taste has lightened and balanced more, with the floral and mineral notes having gained some ground on the fruity and spicy notes. The third infusion had plenty of aroma and taste to offer.

Gabaron Oolong Infused Leaves
Gabaron Oolong Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform dark reddish-brown color. Many of the leaves are whole, and are long and narrow. My guess is that the cultivar used for this product is Chin Shin. The broken leaves are large fragments, and many leaves are attached to stems that show a three leaf and small bud pluck. The leaves have a wet, thin, leathery feel to them. The aroma is also fruity (apples), spicy (cloves), with a unique mineral (wet stone) aroma that I do not remember smelling in other infused leaves. I believe these leaves could produce another infusion or two of acceptable aroma and flavor.

This Gabaron Oolong is definitely a unique product. The dominant fruity and spicy flavors are unlike any other oolong that I have had. The aroma of the infused leaves was very potent, and had a mineral scent that was unusual, yet pleasing. The appearance of the infused leaves was impressive. Despite the appearance and aroma of the dry leaves, which more resembled a higher oxidized or roasted oolong, the aroma and taste of the liquor was nothing like the higher oxidized or roasted oolongs. If you have not tried a GABA product yet, and like fruity and/or spicy teas, you may find a new favorite in the Gabaron Oolong from Daokrajai Lanna Fine Teas.

Cheers to another unique, aromatic, and tasteful product from Daokrajai Lanna Fine Teas!

Jing Shuan Oolong Tea from Daokrajai Lanna Thai Teas

I cannot wait until the Spring finally hits the western Pennsylvania area and the number of sicknesses being recycled in schools and offices begin to dwindle. My son honestly got sick maybe once in the two years of his life prior to going to daycare. Now he is sick more often than he is completely healthy, and the same applies to me. My senses of smell and taste have been completely useless over the past week, but I can wait no longer. I have received so many interesting samples since I first lost my smell, and I have been itching to get to these reviews.

This review will focus on the Jing Shuan oolong tea from Daokrajai Lanna Thai Teas. The tea farms’ total acreage of 550 acres is divided between two plantations located slightly over an hour away from Chiang Rai city in northern Thailand. One plantation is in higher elevations, and the other plantation is in lower elevations.

You will be seeing a substantial amount of reviews posted in the near future of products from Daokrajai, and I am excited about that fact. In fact, many of my upcoming reviews will be focusing on teas from regions that are relatively new to me, such as Napal, South Korea, Indonesia, and Thailand. I am also hoping to come up with samples from Vietnam and Turkey in the near future. Plus, a few good samples from Malawi are waiting for my time, as well.

Anyway, back to the Jing Shuan oolong. As you may have figured out by the name, this oolong is produced from the leaves of TTES 12 (Jin Xuan) cultivar bushes that were imported to Thailand from Taiwan. The farms use organic methods to care for their tea bushes, and all tea leaves are hand plucked.

Being an enthusiast for Taiwan high mountain wulongs, especially Jin Xuan teas, I am interested to see how the tea masters at Daokrajai have developed their strategies for growing and processing the Jin Xuan bushes, and how the results compare to the Jin Xuan products of Taiwan. In the near future, I will compare this product to two Jin Xuan products from Taiwan that I have in my collection, one being quite expensive and the other having an average cost.

The sample packet has been opened, and the familiar sweet scent of light brown sugar and sweet milk is reviving my sense of smell. Let the journey begin…

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The dry leaves have a pale dark green to dark green color. The leaves are formed into dense semi-ball shapes, having an average size of a pea. The leaves appear to be mostly whole, many having the stem attached. The aroma is sweet, with scents of light brown sugar and sweet milk.

Four grams of dry leaves were placed in a 9.4 ounce (280 ml) Tokoname kyusu teapot. However, the teapot was filled with roughly 7 ounces (210 ml) of water to compensate for the lower weight of dry leaves. Filtered tap water was heated to 190ºF (88ºC). The leaves were infused for three minutes on the first infusion, one minute on the second infusion, and two minutes on the third infusion.

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The first infusion produced a liquor with a pale yellow-light gold color, clear and transparent. The aroma is sweet, with scents of light brown sugar, sweet cream, and a hint of orchid flowers. The body was medium, with a creamy, silky texture. The taste had notes of sweet cream, orchids, light brown sugar, and a very light citrus hint. The finish was very smooth to the point where I barely noticed I was swallowing anything. The aftertaste was lightly sweet at first, and gradually converted to a floral essence, reminiscent of a Taiwan wulong.

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The second infusion produced a liquor with a lighter shade of pale yellow color. The aroma remains sweet and lightly floral. The body remains medium, with a creamy texture. The taste maintains the same characteristics, and any lightness can be attributed to the significant difference in infusion time. To explain briefly why I cut down on time so much, I always find the second infusion of most Taiwan wulongs to be quite time-sensitive. A difference of thirty seconds causing the second infusion to become somewhat vegetal. This tea, on the other hand, I believe could have withstood an extra thirty seconds and not had such an effect. I will test this theory on the third infusion, and infuse the leaves for two minutes.

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The third infusion produced a liquor with a color nearly identical to the second infusion. The aroma has balanced some, lightening on the sweet scents, giving the floral scent more definition. The body has lightened some. The taste has lightened also, but there are some interesting changes in taste to this infusion. The sweet cream has lightened significantly, but the citrus (lemon) hint has become much more prominent, and is creating quite an enjoyable combination with the orchid notes. The creaminess can be felt most in the finish and aftertaste. A lighter, but no less enjoyable infusion than the second.

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The infused leaves have a dark forest green color to them, with some leaves displaying the common reddish edges. The leaves display the long, broad leaves that are characteristic of the Jin Xuan cultivar. The pluck varies, with some stems displaying anywhere from a five leaf and bud to three leaf and bud pluck. The leaves are either whole or almost whole, most attached to the stem, some loose. The aroma is sweet and floral, maintaining scents of sweet milk and orchids.

Among the reasons that I chose this out of the twenty plus samples from Daokrajai to sample first was my interest in seeing how a Jin Xuan from Thailand can compete with a Jin Xuan from it’s native Taiwan. I can say with confidence that this Jing Shuan from Daokrajai can certainly compete with many Taiwan Jin Xuan teas. In fact, I will give the Daokrajai Jing Shuan a higher mark than most of the Taiwan Jin Xuans for the fact that there was not a hint of vegetal quality to any of the three infusions, regardless of infusion time. I also like how the taste evolved from being dominated by notes of sweet cream to orchid in the second infusion, then orchid to citrus (lemon) in the third infusion. Even the fourth infusion, which I did test, maintained the citrusy dominance. It was quite enjoyable. I am impressed with the quality of this product from Daokrajai, and I think any fan of wulong and Jin Xuan will appreciate this tea.

Thank you to John and Kelly, who introduced me to the Daokrajai Lanna Thai Teas and provided samples. And as always, thank you to the workers and employees at Daokrajai. Your efforts have not gone unnoticed. I look forward to the many reviews coming up in the near future. Cheers!

Thank you for taking your time to read this review. Please leave a comment and start a discussion.