Today I will be reviewing a Heavy Roasted Tu Quy Oolong Tea from the Lam Dong Province of Vietnam. I had previously completed a review of the standard Tu Quy Oolong, which you may read here.
As I had mentioned in a post yesterday, I have been experimenting with roasting various teas at home. The Tu Quy oolong sample was one of the teas selected for roasting experimentation. Altogether, this tea spent a toasty 90 minutes in the oven, with the temperature being increased gradually at specific time intervals. After roasting, the leaves were allowed a short time to cool (5 minutes), then placed in an airtight aluminum tea tin.
The previous review of the Tu Quy Oolong Tea resulted in a favorable review, so I am excited to see what characteristics will be affected by a heavy roast. The tea tin has been opened, and a remarkably sweet, inviting smell is immediately evident. Let the journey begin…
The dry leaves range in color from dark greenish-brown to very dark brown. The leaves are pressed in the semi-ball shape, with the average size being that of a black bean. The pluck should be three to four whole leaves intact with the stems. There are some leaves that have separated from the stems, but for the most part the leaves should be whole, with the remaining being large fragments. The leaves are very dense, with some being smooth and others rigid. The smell is incredibly sweet, with scents of brown sugar, sweet cream or butter, sweet wood, and vanilla.
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 1:30 to 2:30 minutes. Expect four worthy infusions out of the same serving of leaves. Decrease steep time on the second infusion by 0:30 to 0:45 seconds, then increase by :30 seconds on subsequent infusions.
The first infusion produced a liquor with a bright, golden-yellow color, clear and transparent. The aroma has enticing scents of brown sugar, sweet cream or butter, baked apple, vanilla, and light orchid. The body is medium, with a clean, silky texture that becomes more creamy as the liquor cools. The taste has notes of baked apple, brown sugar, sweet cream or butter, honey, vanilla, and light orchid. The aftertaste carries the baked apple and orchid notes, and an impressive, lingering sweet floral essence is left on the breath.
The infused leaves have a uniform dark greenish-brown color. The leaves are mostly whole with stems intact, with some whole leaves detached from the stem, and some large fragments. The pluck is three to four leaves, with no visible buds. The leaves are long and broad, more closely resembling the TTES#12 (Jin Xuan) cultivar. The leaves have a leathery texture, yet tear quite easily. The smell has scents of sweet wood, brown sugar, forest floor, and light baked apple.
It seems that the heavy roasting of the Tu Quy Oolong brought out some very positive qualities that were not felt in the standard product. The baked apple, more powerful sweet cream, and vanilla qualities were not noted in the review of the standard Tu Quy. The roasted version is definitely sweeter, less vegetal, and has a remarkably clean, silky, and creamy texture. The leaves last an easy four infusions, with the fourth being lighter, but still enjoyable. I can say without any doubt that I prefer the heavily roasted version of the Tu Quy better than the standard. This result will certainly inspire me to continue experimentation with roasting.
Don’t forget to check out The Tea Journeyman Shop and take advantage of the closing sale prices from now until the planned closing date of April 15th.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Another review, another difficult decision on which sample will have today’s full attention. I still have quite a few interesting teas from Vietnam to try out, so let’s have a taste of the Kim Tuyen Oolong Tea, which originates in the mountains of Lam Dong Province in south Vietnam.
The sample packet has been opened, and a very sweet, fragrant aroma is welcoming me to begin the evaluation. Let the journey begin…
The dry leaves have a forest green to dark forest green color. The leaves appear to be on the lower side of the oxidation scale. The leaves are in the semi-ball shape, and vary in size from the size of a corn kernel to the size of a kidney bean. These appear to be whole leaves with stems intact, and perhaps a few large fragments. There are no bare stems. The aroma is very sweet, with fragrant scents of brown sugar, molasses, and cinnamon. This is a phenomenal smelling tea.
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 two minutes thirty seconds.
The first infusion produced a liquor with a light greenish-yellow color, clear and transparent, with few moderately coarse particles. The aroma has scents of sweet milk, light brown sugar, and light orchids. The body is medium, with a silky smooth texture, and a calming energy. The taste has notes of sweet milk, light brown sugar, light orchids, and a very light touch of fruit (too light to identify right now). The aftertaste is sweet and floral, and an impressive floral essence in left on the breath.
The second infusion produced a liquor with more of bright golden-yellow color with a modest green tint. The aroma remains fragrant with scents of sweet milk, brown sugar, and light orchids. The body remains medium, and the texture silky. The taste is slightly stronger overall, but retains the notes of sweet milk, light brown sugar, light orchid, and the fruity note remains very light but present. The aftertaste remains sweet and floral, and the floral essence remains potent.
The third infusion produced a liquor nearly identical to the second infusion. The aroma has very slightly lightened, but remains quite fragrant and attractive, with scents of brown sugar, sweet milk, and light orchids. The body and texture thinned very slightly. The taste also had a slightly lighter character, but remains very tasteful, with notes of sweet milk, light brown sugar, light orchid, light mineral (wet stone), and light tropical fruit. The aftertaste and essence lightened slightly, but are both very enjoyable.
The infused leaves have a uniform dark forest green color. The leaves are mostly whole with stems intact. There are a few large fragments in the mix. The pluck varies from two leaves and a bud to four leaves and a bud. Some of the buds are quite developed (as pictured below). The leaves are long and fairly narrow, indicating that this tea is produced from the Chin Shin or closely related cultivar. Few of the leaves had moderate reddish edges, displaying the low level of oxidation. The largest leaf measures 2.75″ (70 mm) long and 1.25″ (32 mm) wide. The leaves have a thin wet leather feel, and are not entirely smooth on the surface. The leaves still have some durability, and I believe at least one to two additional infusions could be produced. A few of the leaves appear to have been bitten by insects. The aroma has scents of mineral (wet stones), light tropical fruit, and very light flowers.
Of the six or so samples of Vietnam oolongs that I have evaluated in the past month or so, this Kim Tuyen Oolong has received the highest rating. The aroma of the dry leaves and liquor was incredibly sweet and inviting, and the taste followed suit. Three quality infusions, with more to offer, made this entire analysis a pleasure from start to finish. Even the infused leaves made for an interesting analysis, showing mature buds, insect bites, and large whole leaves. This Kim Tuyen Oolong tea was truly a pleasure to experience.
Recently, I received a large package of samples from many growing areas of Vietnam. This package included samples of various grades and versions of black, oolong, and green teas. I did not know Vietnam teas very well before this package arrived, but I will undoubtedly be much more experienced with their teas by the time I reach the bottom of this three kilogram package.
The first Vietnam tea to get a full review will be the oolong tea produced in the Lam Dong province of southern Vietnam. The high altitudes of Lam Dong make it a perfect location for growing high quality tea bushes, which are destined to become oolong teas. According to my source in Vietnam, “Cao Son” means “high mountain”. This post originally said that this tea was from the Cao Son area of Lao Cai Province in northwest Vietnam. My source clarified this for me, while giving me a quick vocabulary lesson in Vietnamese. Thank you for your help, Pham.
The sample packet has been opened, and an incredibly sweet scent is rising from the packet. Let the journey begin…
The dry leaves have a pale green to very dark green color. The leaves are in the semi-ball shape, with an average size similar to a black bean. The leaves appear to be full leaves with stems intact. There are no bare stems, and very few crumbs. The aroma is very sweet, with scents of dark brown sugar, molasses, light cinnamon, and a very light grass scent.
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.
The first infusion produced a liquor with a bright, light yellow-jade green color, clear and transparent. The aroma is fairly delicate, with scents of brown sugar, light vegetable, and light sweet cream. The body is light, with a soft and velvety texture. The taste has notes of brown sugar, light cooked vegetable, light flowers (most similar to orchid), and very light cream. The aftertaste is sweet and lightly floral, and an impressive floral essence is left on the breath.
The second infusion produced a liquor with a slightly fuller shade of color, stronger on the yellow and lighter on the jade green tints. The aroma is also stronger, with scents of sweet cream, brown sugar, cooked vegetable, and very light flowers. The body has thickened some to a light-medium, and the texture remains velvety. The taste has also strengthened some, with notes of sweet cream, brown sugar, cooked vegetable, and orchid. The aftertaste remains sweet and floral, and the essence remains impressive.
The third infusion produced a liquor with a color similar to the second infusion, but perhaps slightly stronger on the jade green tint. The aroma retains the scents of sweet cream, brown sugar, cooked vegetable, and light flowers. The body and taste are comparable in strength and flavor as the second infusion, with very little noticeable diminishing quality.
The infused leaves have a uniform dark forest green color. The stems show a uniform four leaf pluck with small bud. There are very few fragments, and those few are large. Many of the leaves are quite large. The leaves have a soft but sturdy texture, indicating that they have more quality infusions to offer. The aroma has scents of brown sugar, sweet wood, and a light spice.
This oolong tea from Cao Son, Vietnam was very nicely balanced in flavor. Although I am usually not an admirer of cooked vegetable tastes, this tea had just enough of the cooked vegetable taste to be noticeable, but not enough to be unpleasant. The aroma of the dry leaves was very attractive. This tea produced three quality infusions, and if I had time to prepare a fourth and fifth, I have little doubt that they would have been a good quality, as well. The infused leaves were impressive in appearance. If I had to guess at the cultivar, my response would be Chin Shin (TTES 17). Although the texture of the leaves seemed more sturdy than most other Chin Shin products that I have reviewed. This Cao Son oolong tea had a comforting energy to it, and certainly helped me stay calm and relaxed in my office during a long afternoon.
I really enjoyed this experience, and look forward to tasting the differences from one growing region in Vietnam to the others. Cheers!
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…
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.
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.
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.
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!