Guest Post: The History of Bubble Tea by Mike at BubbleTeaology

I am pleased to have the opportunity to publish a guest post from Mike at BubbleTeaology, a distributor of equipment and machinery used to create the popular tea beverage known as Bubble Tea.

Bubble Tea is offered in some Asian restaurants, as well as independent stands and kiosks in malls, airports, and other high-traffic spaces. My son loves to get a cup of Bubble Tea as an after dinner treat at a local Thai restaurant near our home, Thai Foon.

I would like to thank Mike for taking his time to prepare this write-up for the Tea Journeyman blog. If you own a restaurant, beverage or snack stand, or any business that could benefit from offering Bubble Tea, please contact Bubble Teaology. They have all the tools and supplies to help jumpstart your new Bubble Tea product line.

Now, let’s give the spotlight to Mike, and allow him the opportunity to teach us more about Bubble Tea.

The History of Bubble Tea

      Tea has been enjoyed by many for thousands of years and over that time, various recipes and varieties have been created by tea lovers. One fairly recent addition is called bubble tea. Let’s take look at the history of bubble tea and find out where and how this variation came about. 

It all began in the early 1980s in a small tea shop in Taiwan. Tea is popular with school children in Taiwan, and tea stands set up outside of schools would compete for the students’ business. One enterprising owner started mixing fruit flavors with the tea, creating a delicious and refreshing drink that the children loved. Mixing the flavor with the tea required some vigorous shaking, which resulted in thousands of tiny air bubbles and gave rise to the name “Bubble Tea”.

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The next step in the history of bubble tea is the introduction of tapioca pearls to cold infused beverages. Credit for this advancement is given to Taiwanese resident Liu Han-Chieh, who began topping drinks with the pearls in 1983. The tapioca pearls are meant to be consumed along with the beverage, giving the tea drinker a truly unique experience.

The tapioca pearls looked like another set of bubbles, this time residing at the bottom of the glass. The term “bubble tea” was used for shaken, flavored tea whether it had the pearls or not. So a new variety was born.  This trend has taken off around the world and in the US with bubble tea shops opening up everywhere. Adding to the fascination of bubble tea are the bubble tea machines that shake and seal bubble tea.

Fans of bubble tea with tapioca pearls enjoy their distinctive flavor and consistency. The pearls can be white or black, with the white pearls being pure tapioca and the darker ones mixing in some cassava root or brown sugar. In either case, the result is a gummy, chewy ball that is called the tapioca pearl. Bubble tea beverages that contain these pearls are served with an extra wide straw so you can suck up the pearls as you are drinking your tea.

The use of tapioca pearls gave rise to many other names for bubble tea. You may see it offered as pearl milk tea, boba tea, pearl ice tea and tapioca ball drink to name a few. Most bubble tea has a cold, fruit-infused tea as its foundation. You can easily identify this beverage by the pearls, which appear to be bubbles, at the bottom of a clear glass, or by the wide straw provided with your drink.

Though it originated in Taiwan and became wildly popular in that country, the taste for bubble tea has spread throughout the world. New mixtures using milk and different ingredients to create the pearls are constantly being tried. You can get a bubble tea beverage with pearls comprised of green tea, sago, taro or jelly, to name a few. It seems that the only limiting factor is the imagination of the creator, ensuring that the history of bubble tea is still a work in progress. Try a glass and see if you agree that it is a unique and refreshing beverage. You’ll probably be back for more!

Author Bio:

Mike is originally from the US but has spent the past 6 years in Taiwan and 2 of those years working for one of the largest bubble tea shops in Taiwan.  Now he is the owner of BubbleTeaology which supplies Boba Tea Machines and Wholesale Ingredients to drink shops around the world.

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Wenshan Baozhong Oolong Tea From Fong Mong Tea

Occasionally, I come across a sample that I pass over at first. Eventually, it comes back around, and I realize that I have not experienced such a type of tea in a really long time. That sample suddenly becomes much more interesting, and the choice of what was getting the review today became easy (for once).

In fact, as it appears, I have never actually reviewed a Baozhong (or pouchong) style oolong tea from Taiwan, where the original and best Baozhongs come from. I have tried green and black varieties from Indonesia, but none from Taiwan. Thinking further, I believe the only time I have had a Taiwanese pouchong tea was when I was studying with either World Tea Academy or International Tea Masters Association, and a basic sample was included with the study materials. That is most unfortunate, but thankfully, that run ends today.

Today, I will be reviewing the Wenshan Baozhong (Pouchong) Oolong Tea from Fong Mong Tea. You can purchase 300 grams of this tea for USD $34.99 from Fong Mong Tea.

Generally speaking, the best pouchong teas are grown in the Pinglin District, Taipei County, Taiwan. You can see the general location of the Pinglin District in the Google map below.

Wenshan Baozhong teas are lightly oxidized, usually between 6% and 12%, putting it on the green side of the oolong scale. In fact, the Taiwanese classify Baozhong tea in its own category altogether. Another characteristic of Baozhong tea that differentiates it from other oolong teas produced in Taiwan is the lightly rolled, twisted appearance of the leaves, compared to the dense, tightly compacted ball shape of most other styles of Taiwanese oolongs.

The leaves are harvested from Qing Xin cultivar bushes at an average elevation of 500 meters (1,640 feet) above sea level. These bushes can be harvested in all four seasons of the year.

Let’s get to the review…

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Wenshan Baozhong Oolong Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a fairly uniform color of pale forest green to pale dark forest green. The leaves consist of mostly detached (individual), whole leaves. There are a few small stems in the mix which have very little leaf attached. There are no buds or tips. The leaves are lightly rolled, giving them a relatively fluffy appearance. The color of the leaves indicates a low oxidation level. There are no signs of roasting. The aroma is incredible and pronounced, with dominant scents of Chinese cinnamon, honey, sweet butter, and dried apple. This is a very high quality and luxurious aroma.

Five grams of dry leaves were placed in an eight ounce (240 mL) bizen ware kyusu teapot, and infused with 185°F (85°C) water for 3:00 minutes. Infusion time was lowered to 2:30 on the second infusion, then 15 seconds of time were added to each subsequent infusion. In total, seven infusions were drawn from the leaves.

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Wenshan Baozhong Oolong Tea – 1st Infusion

The first infusion has a green-gold-yellow color, perfectly clear and transparent. The later infusions took a more gold yellow color without any green. Again, the aroma is beautiful, with scents of Chinese cinnamon, honey, gardenia flowers, and apple. The body is medium, with a fresh, lively texture. There is no bitterness, and a very light astringency to the first infusion, which further dissipates in later infusions. The taste has pronounced notes of Chinese cinnamon, gardenia, apples, and honey, with maybe a light touch of sweet cream. The aftertaste carries the gardenia and apple notes, with a lingering, powerful, and noteworthy floral bouquet being left on the breath. Very impressive!

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Wenshan Baozhong Oolong Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform fresh dark forest green color. Some of the leaves show slight reddening of the edges, some show no discoloring (oxidation) at all. The leaves are mostly individual, detached, whole leaves. There are some large leaf fragments, a few nearly bare small stems, and no tips or buds. Most of the leaves show some tearing or ripping from the rolling stage of production. The largest unbroken leaf measures in at 2 inches (50 mm) long. The leaves appear very fresh, and there is no much variance in the size. The aroma carries the attractive scents of gardenia, apple, and honey. I do not feel much of the cinnamon scent in the infused leaves.

I must say that I am very happy with my decision to focus on this Wenshan Baozhong Oolong Tea today. Luckily, I had the time to really focus and enjoy it as much as possible, because this tea deserves the drinkers full attention. This tea is highly impressive from dry leaf to the multiple infusions through the observation of the infused leaves. This tea has among the most pronounced scents and flavors of Chinese cinnamon and gardenia that I have experienced, and the scents and flavors of honey and apple beautifully compliment the cinnamon and gardenia. All seven infusions gave a very good quality of liquid, and I only wish I had more time to pull additional infusions out of these leaves. It was a true pleasure being reintroduced to the fantastic quality and character of Wenshan Baozhong Oolong Tea.

Many thanks to Fong Mong Tea for providing this sample! Cheers!

Gaoshanchi Fushoushan Oolong Tea From Fong Mong Tea

It’s been a busy past week and a half, but I am happy to finally get some time today to focus on some excellent tea. Today’s review will feature the Gaoshanchi Fushoushan Oolong Tea from Fong Mong Tea.

You can purchase 75 grams of the Gaoshanchi Fushoushan Oolong Tea for USD $35.90 from Fong Mong Tea Shop.

The leaves of this tea are harvested by hand from bushes of the Qingxing cultivar, which are grown at altitudes above 2,200 meters (7,200 feet) above sea level, in the Lishan area of Taiwan. This is a true high mountain oolong. The leaves are harvested only once or twice per year during the winter and spring seasons. The leaves are permitted a light degree of oxidation, and given a light roast.

Let’s get to the review…

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Gaoshanchi Fushoushan Oolong Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves vary in color from pale forest green to dark green, indicating the light oxidation level and light roast applied to the leaves. The leaves are tightly compressed into the common ball shape that Taiwan oolongs are known for. The balls appear to consist of mostly unbroken, whole leaves, most of which are still attached to a stem. I expect to find the standard three to four leaf pluck. There are no bare stems, and no buds in the mix. There also appears to be a few large fragments, or smaller, unbroken leaves that have detached from the stem. There are a few small to medium fragments. The aroma is sweet and fruity, with scents of brown sugar, baked peaches, and Ceylon cinnamon.

Five grams of dry leaves were placed in an eight ounce (240 mL) bizen ware kyusu teapot, and infused with 190°F (87°C) water for 30 seconds. 15 seconds were added to each subsequent infusion.

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Gaoshanchi Fushoushan Oolong Tea – Liquid

The liquid has a pale, light yellow-green color. The aroma has scents of brown sugar, peaches, and lighter scents of honey, Ceylon cinnamon, and sweet cream. The body is medium, with a refreshing, clean texture. There is no astringency or bitterness. The taste has notes of brown sugar, peaches, floral honey, and lighter notes of Ceylon cinnamon and sweet cream. The aftertaste carries the sweet floral notes, and leaves an impressive lasting floral essence on the breath.

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Gaoshanchi Fushoushan Oolong Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a fairly uniform forest green color, with most leaves displaying some reddish-brown edges, again indicating the light level of oxidation. The leaves are mostly unbroken, whole leaves attached to stems showing mostly a two to three leaf pluck, and some even have a very small bud. The largest whole leaves are detached from stems, and measure well over two inches long (50 mm) and an inch wide (25 mm). There are a few small to medium size fragments, and no bare stems. The leaves have a soft, leathery texture. The aroma carries the scents of peaches, floral honey, light Ceylon cinnamon, and spinach.

The Gaoshanchi Fushoushan Oolong Tea from Fong Mong Tea has much to offer to even the tea enthusiast well versed in Taiwanese oolongs. This is not a one dimensional tea, but offers sweet, fruity, and floral qualities in all infusions, with variation from infusion to infusion on which quality stands out the most. There is an evolution of aromas and tastes as the infusions go on. This is not your everyday drinking tea, but demands time and attention to fully enjoy all that it has to offer. The effect of the tea is refreshing and relaxing, and does not seem to give a powerful jolt of energy, but rather a calm, mindful alertness. These leaves should last a few hours before being depleted of quality. Enjoy each sip!

Thank you to Fong Mong Tea for providing this sample of Gaoshanchi Fushoushan Oolong Tea. And thanks to my readers who took their time to learn about this product. Have a great weekend, everyone.

Si Ji Chun Oolong Tea From Taiwan M’s Tea

Today’s review will focus on the Si Ji Chun Oolong Tea from Taiwan M’s Tea. This oolong tea is from the fall of 2017 harvest season, and sourced from Nantou County in Taiwan.

This style of Taiwanese oolong is harvested from cultivar bushes of the same name, Si Ji Chun. This tea usually has a lighter oxidation level around 20%, and a light roast applied to the leaves during processing.

The name Si Ji Chun translates into “four seasons”, a reference to the continual growth of fresh leaves on this cultivar. The continual growth is due to the lower elevations that these bushes are usually grown at (about 500 meters or 1,600 feet above sea level). Unlike many of the cultivars grown and used in Taiwan, the Si Ji Chun does not have a TTES number designation, as this is a semi-wild bush that was not developed by the TTES (Taiwan Research and Experimentation Station).

Let’s get to the review…

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Si Ji Chun Oolong Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a pale forest green to pale dark forest green color, with the stems being a pale yellow-brown color. The leaves are tightly compressed into the common Taiwanese oolong ball shape. The blend consists of mostly unbroken, whole leaves still attached to stems, some large fragment and detached whole leaves, one or two mostly bare stems, and no buds. I expect to find a three to four leaf plucking standard. Based on the size of the compressed balls, I expect the leaves to not be as large as one may find in many other Taiwanese oolong styles. The color of the leaves indicates the light oxidation (about 20%), and a light roast. The smell is amazing, sweet, and fruity, with scents of brown sugar, baked apples, and cinnamon.

Five grams of dry leaves were placed in an eight ounce (240 mL) bizen ware kyusu teapot, and infused with 190°F (88°C) water for 30 seconds. 10 seconds of steep time was added to each subsequent infusion.

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Si Ji Chun Oolong Tea – Liquid

The liquid has a light, pale green-yellow color. The aroma has attractive scents of baked apples, caramel, brown sugar, cinnamon, and a touch of apple blossom (which intensifies as the number of infusions increases). The body is medium, with a juicy, silky texture. There is no bitterness whatsoever, and a very light astringency that nicely compliments the flavor. The taste has notes of baked apples, caramel, brown sugar, cinnamon, and apple blossoms. The aftertaste carries the apple notes, which evolves into a refreshing apple blossom essence left on the breath.

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Si Ji Chun Oolong Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a fresh dark forest green color. Most of the leaves have some reddish color showing on the edges, an indication of the oxidation level. The plucking standard is three leaves without a bud. There are a few detached, whole leaves in the mix, and a few large fragments (almost whole). There are also a few mostly bare stems. The leaves have a thin, soft leathery feel. Most of the whole leaves measure well under 2 inches (50 mm), but the largest one measured about 2.5 inches (63 mm). The leaves are fairly broad, with an appearance somewhat similar to the TTES 12 Jin Xuan cultivar leaves. The aroma carries the scents of wet apple blossom, and lighter scents of baked apples and brown sugar.

It had been a couple of years since I last experienced a Si Ji Chun Oolong. I don’t know if my tastes have developed so much over the years, or if that particular product just wasn’t of the same quality as this one, but this product from Taiwan M’s Tea is absolutely delicious. The apple character could be felt throughout this tea, and came in both the form of the fruit and blossom. Other than apple, the sweet tastes of brown sugar and caramel, blended with the apple and notes of cinnamon, made this tea a desert-like treat. The juicy, silky texture had a luxurious feel, and the slight touch of astringency perfectly complimented the flavor. The apple and apple blossom aftertaste and essence was a perfect finish. And, as usual with Taiwanese oolongs, the observation of the infused leaves was a good time. Overall, an excellent Taiwanese oolong with a lot of high quality infusions to offer.

Thank you to Michelle at Taiwan M’s Tea for providing this sample of Si Ji Chun Oolong. Have a good weekend, everybody! Cheers!

 

Gaoshan QingXiang Lishan Oolong Tea From Fong Mong Tea Shop

Today’s review will focus on the Gaoshan QingXiang Lishan Oolong Tea from Fong Mong Tea Shop. You can currently purchase 150 grams of this tea for USD $42.99 from Fong Mong Tea Shop.

The English translation for the name of this tea is “High Mountain (Gaoshan) Sweet Scent (QingXiang) Pear Mountain (Lishan) Oolong Tea”. If the aroma and taste of this tea lives up to the name and reputation of other Lishan oolong teas, then this is going to be a great tea session.

Lishan (Pear Mountain) is located in central Taiwan, in Taichung. A map showing the Lishan area is below.

The Qingxing cultivar bushes for this tea are grown at altitudes between 1,500 meters to 2,200 meters (4,900 feet to 7,200 feet) above sea level. At this altitude, the weather is rather cold and harsh on tea bushes. The results of growing tea in this environment are slow developing leaves, rare harvests (one to two per year, usually), and limited production. The limited supply of this product makes the necessity to slowly enjoy this experience even more of a priority.

Let’s get to the review…

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Gaoshan Qingxiang Lishan Oolong Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves vary in shades of green from forest green to dark forest green. The leaves are very tightly rolled and condensed into the standard Taiwanese oolong ball, making them quite dense. I expect most of the leaves to be unbroken and fully intact on the stem, with a pluck in the three to four leaves and no bud. The other leaves should be unbroken but detached from the stem. There appears to be no fragments, all unbroken leaves, which is impressive! There is one stem that is almost entirely bare. The leaves appear to be on the lighter side of the oxidation scale (under 25%), and perhaps given a very light roast. The aroma is excellent, with inviting scents of brown sugar, baked apples and pears, ceylon cinnamon, floral honey, and orchids.

Five grams of dry leaves were placed in an eight ounce (240 mL) bizen-ware kyusu teapot, and infused with 190°F (88°C) water for 1:00 minute. Each subsequent infusion had another 15 seconds of time added.

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Gaoshan Qingxiang Lishan Oolong Tea – Liquid

The liquid has a bright, light yellow color. The aroma has scents of stewed apples and pears, orchids, brown sugar, and touches of Ceylon cinnamon and floral honey. The body is light-medium, with a honey-like texture. There is no trace of bitterness, and just a touch of astringency. The taste has notes of stewed apples and pears, floral honey, orchids, and lighter notes of brown sugar and Ceylon cinnamon. The aftertaste is incredible, carrying the fruit and honey notes, then evolving into an excellent orchid essence left on the breath.

As infusions get past four, the fruity and honey flavors diminish, leaving the floral character front and center with a touch of vegetal notes. The orchid essence on the breath remains as potent and amazing from the first infusion through the last.

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Gaoshan Qingxiang Lishan Oolong Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform dark forest green color. The leaves are all unbroken, some still attached to stems, and some detached. The stems show either a three leaves or four leaves pluck. There are no buds in the mix, and only one mostly bare stem. Some of the leaves display a light amount of oxidation, and there are signs of a light roast. There are also a few leaves showing signs of bug bites. The leaves are very smooth and soft, and rather long and narrow. It’s always a pleasure to play with and observe leaves from high quality Taiwanese oolongs like this. The aroma continues the scents of honey, stewed apples and pears, orchids, and a touch of brown sugar.

I am not sure if I could have picked a better tea to review before the long holiday weekend coming up. This Gaoshan QingXiang Lishan Oolong Tea was incredibly floral and sweet in the aroma and taste. I see some reviews using words like “vegetal”, and I just did not pick up any of that until maybe the fifth infusion. Even then, any vegetal character was very light, and the floral character dominated. The sweet aftertaste and lingering floral essence was the real highlight of this tea, in my opinion. To me, a tea that tastes this good for a minute after the liquid is consumed is an instant favorite. And to think, this tea is not even the best grade of this style from Fong Mong Tea Shop.

Many thanks to Fong Mong Tea Shop for providing this sample of Gaoshan QingXiang Lishan Oolong Tea! Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Mixiang Hongcha Black Tea From Taiwan M’s Tea

Today, I will focus on the Mixiang Hongcha, also known as Honey Black Tea, from Taiwan M’s Tea.

This tea is generally made from the harvested leaves of TTES # 13 cultivar bushes (Tsuiyu), and are grown at around 500 meters altitude (1,600 feet) in Nantou County, Taiwan. The leaves are allowed to oxidize over 50%, then given a heavy roast. The Mixiang Hongcha is another of Taiwan’s bug bitten style of teas, so I expect to smell and taste honey in the tea. I am also interested in seeing how this tea will differ from the Ruby # 18 Black Tea that I reviewed recently.

Let’s get to the review…

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Mixiang Hongcha Black Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a mostly uniform charcoal-grey-black color, with a few dark red-brown areas, indicating that there is not full oxidation to the leaves. There are also a few small gold tips, and a few bare stems in the mix. The leaves are lightly rolled. The pluck varies from one small leaf and small bud to individual unbroken leaves with no stem attached. The mix consists mostly of large fragments and unbroken leaves. The heavy roast causes the leaves to crack fairly easily into coarse crumbs. The aroma has scents of anise, dry forest floor, honey, dried apples, and a touch of orchid.

Eight grams of dry leaves were placed in an 18 ounce cast-iron tetsubin teapot, and infused with 200°F water for 3:00 minutes.

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Mixiang Hongcha Black Tea – Liquid

The liquid has a bright, radiant orange-red color. The aroma has scents of anise, apple, honey, and touches of malt and toasted grains. The body is full, with a layered, juicy texture. There is a pleasant, balanced astringency. The taste has notes of apple, honey, anise, and touches of malt and toasted grains. The aftertaste is sweet and mellow.

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Mixiang Hongcha Black Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a dark forest green to dark brown color. The mix consists of large fragments, unbroken leaves, a few bare stems, and a few smaller buds. The leaves are fairly long and narrow. Most of the leaves are individually plucked, with no stem attached. The aroma has scents of apple, honey, anise, and malt.

The Mixiang Hongcha Black Tea from Taiwan M’s Tea is another example of the diversity and quality of specialty teas being made in Taiwan. This black tea is very different than the Ruby # 18 Black Tea that I reviewed recently, which is also from Taiwan. Both black teas are remarkable in their own rite. This Mixiang Hongcha is sweeter, and has a touch of the malt aroma and flavor typical in black teas. The Ruby # 18 (Hongyu Hongcha) is spicy and herbal, dominated by notes of mint and licorice. The texture of this Mixiang Hongcha is another highlighter, having a layered and juicy texture, which reminds me of apple juice or apple cider. The mild astringency also adds another layer of taste. The scent of the infused leaves is also very pleasant and comforting.

Thank you to Taiwan M’s Tea for providing this sample of Mixiang Hongcha Black Tea! When this company has a functional website, I will try and remember to update these posts with pricing and links.

Hongyu Hongcha Ruby # 18 Black Tea From Fong Mong Tea

Today, I will be reviewing the Hongyu Hongcha Ruby # 18 Black Tea from Fong Mong Tea. You may purchase 100 grams of this tea for USD $26.99.

This Hongyu Hongcha Ruby # 18 Black Tea is sourced from the Sun Moon Lake area of Nantou County, Taiwan. The climate of Sun Moon Lake makes it ideal for growing some world-class teas. Ruby # 18 (TTES 18) is also the name of the cultivar of tea bushes that the leaves are hand-plucked from. See the map below to get an idea of the location of Sunmoon Lake.

Let’s get to the review.

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Hongyu Hongcha Ruby # 18 Black Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a uniform dark charcoal-black color (fully oxidized). The leaves appear to be medium to large size fragments. There are a few small bare stems in the mix, and no apparent buds. The leaves are lightly rolled. The aroma has scents of dried apricot, molasses, lavender, and a touch of pine. This is a very unique aroma, and I am looking forward to how it evolves in the cup.

Five grams of dry leaves were placed in a 250 ml (8.5 ounces) bizen-ware kyusu teapot, and infused with 200°F water for 1:00 minute.

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Hongyu Hongcha Ruby # 18 Black Tea – Liquid

The tea liquid has a bright, clear, orange-red color. The aroma is very interesting, with scents of apricot, molasses, licorice, mint, and a touch of lavender and pine. The body is full, with a layered, complex texture, and a brisk character. The taste is complex and amazing, with dominant notes of licorice, mint, and pine, with less dominant notes of molasses and even coffee, and a light touch of lavender. The aftertaste carries the notes of licorice, pine, and a touch of the lavender, with a mentholated effect.

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Hongyu Hongcha Ruby # 18 Black Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform copper-brown color. The leaves consist of all medium to large size leaf fragments. There are a few buds in the mix, as well as a few bare stems. The leaves have a thin, smooth wet leathery feel. Again, the aroma is the most noteworthy characteristic of the wet leaves. It has strong, deep scents of licorice and mint. I also pick up on a scent that I do not know how to describe any better than that of classic bubblegum. There are also lighter scents of lavender and pine. This is a very memorable aroma.

With all due respect to the many amazing teas I have reviewed this year, I have to be honest in saying that this Hongyu Hongcha Ruby # 18 Black Tea has really captured my attention, and burned itself into my organoleptic memory unlike other teas, specifically the taste of the liquid and the aroma of the infused leaves. The combination of herbal spiciness, sweetness, touch of floral and pine, and the brisk, layered character of the liquid is simply mind boggling. It had a flavor profile that was so clearly identifiable, and each flavor was so distinct from one another. This is a luxurious, rich tea that will certainly draw and hold the attention of whoever is lucky enough to experience it. I have had other Ruby # 18 black teas before, but none were as rich in flavor as this one from Fong Mong Tea. The aroma of the infused leaves is my second most noteworthy aspect of this tea. Again, with the licorice and mint sweet/spiciness, and the lighter touches of lavender and pine, and the “bubblegum” scent that I cannot shake from my memory. It was truly an awesome experience, and the highlight of my day.

Go to the link at the top of this page, and buy this tea. You can thank me later.

And thank you to Fong Mong Tea for supplying this sample of Hongyu Hongcha Ruby # 18 Black Tea. Cheers!

Alishan Jinxuan Oolong Tea From Taiwan M’s Tea

As my readers may have figured out, I have been extremely busy at work, which is a good thing, but has kept me from being able to post regular reviews. To be honest, I do start to get restless when I see a pile of great tea samples just begging to be opened and experienced. I also get a touch of guilt, knowing that the people and companies that sent me the samples are waiting for feedback on their products. Believe me, I wish I had more time to relax and enjoy more tea and write more reviews. It is truly a pleasure for me to analyze every sample to the best of my ability, and introduce my readers to teas that they did not know existed, or where to find them.

Anyway, back to the matter at hand. A new friend of mine, Michelle at Taiwan M’s Tea, sent several different Alishan Jinxuan oolong teas to me. I am in the process of finding a new source for Alishan Jinxuan for one of my consulting clients, and Michelle has been a great resource in my search. So let me give Michelle a quick thank you for her help. Once her company website is fully functional, I will post a link.

Focusing on the product, Alishan Jinxuan is commonly referred to as Milk Oolong. This tea is grown and produced in the Ali Mountains in Chiayi County, Taiwan, using the TTES # 12 Jinxuan cultivar bushes. A map of the Alishan area is below.

Generally speaking, Alishan Jinxuan oolong teas are on the greener side of the oolong spectrum, meaning the oxidation and roast levels are relatively low and light. The leaves of the Jinxuan cultivar are quite broad in width. They contain a naturally occurring compound called lactones, which are thought to give the brewed leaves the aroma and taste of milk or cream. Thus the common alias for this tea, again, is milk oolong.

Let’s get to the review…

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Alishan Jinxuan Oolong Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves vary in color from light to dark forest green, some bordering greenish-brown. The leaves have the common Taiwan oolong pluck of three to four leaves attached to the shoot, and are tightly compressed into the common ball shape. Other leaves are single, and not attached to a stem. There are no bare stems in the mix. I expect most of the leaves to be fully intact and unbroken. The aroma is very sweet, with scents of sweet cream, brown sugar, toasted oats, and a touch of sweet cinnamon.

Five grams were placed in a 210 ml bizen-ware kyusu teapot and infused with 190°F water for 2:30 minutes.

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Alishan Jinxuan Oolong Tea – Liquid

The liquid has a light greenish-yellow color to the first infusion, which became brighter and more on the yellow side with the follow up infusions. The aroma is sweet and very pleasant, with scents of sweet cream, brown sugar, and a sweeter floral scent, like peony. The body is light and uplifting, with a milky smooth texture. The taste has notes of sweet cream, peony, brown sugar, and a light touch of cooked spinach. There is also a very light astringency that compliments the sweet, floral notes. The aftertaste carries the sweet cream and floral notes, with a lingering flowery essence left in the mouth.

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Alishan Jinxuan Oolong Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a fairly uniform fresh forest green color, many with reddish-brown edges reflecting the oxidation level. The pluck is as expected, with most being a three to four leaves attached to the shoot. There is also a good number of individual unbroken leaves with no stem attached. There are no bare stems. The leaves are rather broad in width, as is expected with the jinxuan TTES # 12 cultivar, and have a smooth, soft, yet durable texture. The aroma has scents of sweet cream, peony, steamed spinach, and a touch of oats.

The Alishan Jinxuan Oolong Tea from Taiwan M’s Tea is a perfect example of a classic, naturally delicious milk oolong tea. This tea is light and refreshing, with a sweet and floral aroma and taste that are comforting and uplifting. The leaves can handle many infusions and still give a great experience. Not only is the tea liquid a pleasure to enjoy, but observing and playing with the large, unbroken leaves is always a treat to a tea enthusiast. Since Jinxuan leaves are known for being broad in width, they are fun to compare side-by-side with other cultivars from Taiwan and other origins. Delicious and affordable, Alishan Jinxuan Oolong Tea would be a perfect addition to a tea collection.

Many thanks to Michelle at Taiwan M’s Tea for supplying this sample of Alishan Jinxuan Oolong Tea. And thanks to my readers for taking your time to read my review. Have a great weekend!

Oriental Beauty Oolong Tea From Taiwan M’s Tea

Today, I will be focusing on an Oriental Beauty Oolong Tea from a vendor that I have had the pleasure of talking to recently, Taiwan M’s Tea. Michelle and her family have been in the tea business for fifteen years. Up until the past three years, their business focused on catering to the domestic Taiwanese market, but recently they have had their eyes set on supplying foreign markets. Michelle also has an uncle who is a tea farmer in Taiwan. From talking to Michelle, I can feel her and her family’s passion for quality Taiwanese tea is very strong. These are the types of people that I love to support and introduce to my readers.

Taiwan M’s Tea is currently getting their retail website designed, but if you want to learn more about this company, please visit their blog. If you are interested in purchasing this tea, simply contact Michelle, and I am sure she will be happy to work with you. Taiwan M’s Tea is also active on Twitter.

Now, a little reintroduction to Oriental Beauty Oolong Tea, since it has been a couple of years since I last reviewed similar products. Oriental Beauty goes by a number of aliases, including Dongfang Meiren, Bai Hao, White Tip Oolong, and Champagne Oolong. This type of tea undergoes a very unique step during the growing process. The tea farmers allow specific bugs, called leafhoppers (or Jacobiasca Formosana), to feast on the leaves and buds of the tea bush. As a defense mechanism, the tea bushes produce metabolites to discourage the leafhoppers from feeding on the bush. The leaves and buds also begin to naturally oxidize at the areas where the leafhoppers were feeding. The combination of the metabolites and higher oxidation levels give this tea a uniquely sweet scent and flavor. By the time the processing of the leaves is completed, the final oxidation level is around the 70% range. No roasting is applied to the leaves during production. What other non-tea products in the world have such interesting, creative, and effective methods to producing a unique product?

Let’s get to the review…

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Oriental Beauty Oolong Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves vary in color from light brown to dark brown and dark charcoal grey, with a nice amount of fuzzy silver buds in the mix. The leaves and buds appear to be mostly unbroken, many still attached to a think, soft stem. There are also some large fragments in the mix. The pluck is two leaves and a fairly mature bud. The leaves are lightly rolled, giving them a delicate, fluffy feel. The aroma has scents of dried peaches, peony flowers, light potpourri, and honey.

Five grams were placed in a 150 ml porcelain gaiwan, and infused with 190°F for 10 seconds on the first infusion, with an additional 5 seconds added to each subsequent infusion.

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Oriental Beauty Oolong Tea – Liquid

The liquid had a bright, clean, red-orange color. The aroma had scents of fresh peaches, peony flowers, and honey. The body is medium, with an incredibly smooth, honey-like texture. The taste had notes of peaches, peony, honey, and a touch of hay. There was no bitterness to this liquid. The aftertaste carried the sweet notes, with a very light touch of flowers. A honey-like taste and texture seemed to stick to the teeth and tongue.

After about seven infusions, the leaves are still going strong, and giving a very pleasant, high quality aroma and taste.

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Oriental Beauty Oolong Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves and buds vary in color from green-brown to dark brown. Some of the leaves do appear to have signs of bud bites. All leaves show an obvious high level of oxidation. The pluck is mostly two leaves and a fairly mature bud. Many of the leaves and buds are fully intact, with medium and large fragments making up the rest of the mix. The aroma of these infused leaves is really potent and attractive, with strong scents of peaches, potpourri, and honey. It even seems to have a touch of passionfruit in the aroma. As they cool, they actually smell stronger and sweeter than when fresh out of the water.

The Oriental Beauty Oolong Tea from Taiwan M’s Tea is a true testament to the creativity and specialization of Taiwanese tea growers and makers. Their understanding and observation of nature at work allowed them to create a uniquely sweet product. The peach and honey flavors, combined with the soft floral taste of peony, gave this tea a luxurious character. The honey-like texture and aftertaste, both of which lingered in the mouth for a nice amount of time, also gave the tea a high quality feel. Finally, the aroma of the cool infused leaves was a true pleasure.

Thanks again to Michelle at Taiwan M’s Tea for reaching out to me, and providing this sample of Oriental Beauty Oolong Tea. Look for more reviews of Taiwanese teas from Taiwan M’s Tea in the near future. Thanks for taking your time to read my review. Cheers!

Taiwanese Pekoe White Tea from Fong Mong Tea

Today, I will be reviewing a white tea from Taiwan. Many thanks again to Fong Mong Tea for providing this sample. I have never had a white tea from Taiwan before, so I am quite excited for the new experience.

This white tea is first harvested from wild mountain tea bushes (Wild Shan Cha) in Nantou county (see map below) in the spring and winter seasons. The altitude of the tea garden is about 5,900 feet (1,800 meters) above sea level. The tea leaves are not bruised, rolled, or altered in any way, permitting them to naturally oxidize to light degree before being fired. The leaves are unroasted, and not shaped in any way prior to packaging, leaving them light, fluffy, crisp, and natural looking, as if they fell off the tea bush and dried on the ground.

Below are some beautiful images provided by Fong Mong Tea of the tea gardens, bushes, leaves, and the local insects that live happily among the bushes.

The photos with the butterflies and lady bug are awesome. As a weak attempt to spare myself some masculinity, I want you all to know that I play ice hockey and football regularly! And yes, I do take tea as my beverage in an insulated travel water bottle when I play! And yes, my teammates do know that I have tea in the water bottle! No, they do not make fun of me for it (usually)!

Don’t forget to check out Fong Mong Tea on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook!

You can purchase 30 grams of this tea at the Fong Mong Tea website for USD $21.99. This price includes shipping costs.

Anyway … Let’s get to the review.

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Taiwanese Pekoe White Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves vary in color from light forest green to very dark (almost black) green, to light reddish brown, and some silver on the buds. There is much to appreciate about the visual qualities of this tea. Its appearance is most comparable to the more common Chinese white peony teas. The oxidation is easy to observe in the leaves, as well as the delicate handling during processing. The pluck is mostly one or two leaves and a mature bud, but there are a few with three leaves and a mature bud. The mix consists of many unbroken leaves and buds, and large fragments. There are no bare stems in the mix. The leaves are very fluffy, crisp, and delicate, breaking easily into small fragments and crumbs. The aroma is truly incredible, among one of the most attractive aromas I have ever smelled in a tea. There are scents of dried papaya, dried apricots, vanilla beans, orange blossoms, wild honey, and dried autumn leaves. It is one of the fruitiest smelling teas I have experienced. I cannot pull my nose away from the cup holding these leaves.

The dry leaves were placed in a porcelain gaiwan and infused with 185°F water for 1:00 minutes. Ten seconds were added to each subsequent infusion time.

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Taiwanese Pekoe White Tea – Liquid

The liquid has a bright, inviting, honey-like yellow color. The aroma again is remarkable, with scents of papaya, apricot, peach, orange blossom, vanilla, wild honey, and autumn leaves. The body is medium, with a lush, juicy, luxurious texture. The taste continues to highly impress, with the same notes of apricot, peach, papaya, orange blossom, wild honey, autumn leaves, vanilla, and a touch of wet stones for a nice mineral note. Undoubtedly the fruitiest tasting tea I have ever experienced. The aftertaste continues the fruity, floral, and light mineral notes, and lingers on the breath patiently.

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Taiwanese Pekoe White Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a blend of color including fresh, pale forest green and reddish brown. Many of the leaves are unbroken, and the remaining leaves are large fragments. They have a fairly thick, hearty texture. There is a generous portion of mature buds, and some younger buds, and no bare stems. The oxidation levels of the leaves varies greatly, a consequence of the natural and unadulterated oxidation process. I enjoyed observing these leaves so much, that I took several additional photos, included below. The aroma continues to amaze, with the sweet scents of papaya, apricot, peach, orange blosson, autumn leaves, and wild honey.

I am not sure where to even begin my concluding statements on the Taiwanese Pekoe White Tea. It was fantastic, delicious, amazing, jaw-dropping … place any of your best descriptive words here … from the dry leaves to the liquid to the wet leaves. There was no aspect of this tea that was anything less than the highest quality. With the dry leaves, I could not stop smelling them. With the liquid, I could not stop infusing the leaves and drinking that nectar. These poor leaves did not know what they were in for when they got packaged and shipped to me. With the wet leaves, I could not stop playing with them and taking photos. I think the hardest part of my day today will be eventually disposing of these leaves. I may just have to show them the highest respect, put them in a container, take them home and lay them to rest in my vegetable patch. They are too good for the trash can.

The dominantly fruity, sweet aroma and taste of this tea is beyond words. The texture of the liquid is truly luxurious. The aftertaste is beautiful, like most Taiwanese teas boast. I give a standing ovation to the tea master that created this tea. Bravo!

At the request of Fong Mong Tea, I have returned to posting reviews on Steepster. Click here to see my review of the Taiwanese Pekoe White Tea.

The sincerest thank you to Fong Mong Tea for including this sample of Pekoe White Tea! What an awesome, amazing tea experience. I hope the rest of the long weekend goes as well as my Friday morning did because of this tea. Many cheers!