Top Grade Autumn 2014 Harvest TieGuanYin Oolong Tea from Xin Yuan Tea Garden

My friend DongQin in Quanzhou City, Anxi County, China was very generous in sending me fresh samples of her family’s TieGuanYin from the recent Autumn harvest at Xin Yuan Tea Garden. For those of you who have been following me for a while, the TieGuanYin from this specific garden is the only TieGuanYin that I keep stocked in my personal supply. I usually purchase a kilogram of the spring harvest and a kilogram of the autumn harvest. The summer harvest is considered the least impressive, and given the cost of shipping such small quantities, I choose to pass on purchasing the summer harvest.

I do have some of the Spring 2014 harvest still available for purchase at The Tea Journeyman Shop. Click here to check it out. It has been stored in airtight steel containers, so the quality is just as good as the day I received it. I am getting low in stock, only about 1 kilogram left, so try it out while you can. Readers of this post will get 15% off any purchase of the Spring 2014 TieGuanYin Oolong Tea. Use coupon code TGY15% at checkout.

For more information on the Xin Yuan Tea Garden, click here to go to the introductory page at The Tea Journeyman Shop.

The sample packet has been opened, and I never get tired of this scent. Let the journey begin…

Xin Yuan Autumn 2014 TieGuanYin Oolong Tea Dry Leaves
Xin Yuan Autumn 2014 TieGuanYin Oolong Tea Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a fresh, bright green to dark forest green color. The leaves are all detached from the stems, and there are no bare stems in the mix. The leaves are mostly whole leaves, and some large fragments. The leaves are hand plucked, and rolled into oblong balls. The leaves appear to be light on the oxidation level, and I am guessing about 20%, give or take 5%. The scent is incredibly fresh and strong, with clear smells of orchid flowers, honeydew melon, unsweetened milk, and light brown sugar. The scent is simply phenomenal.

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 2:30 minutes for the first infusion, 1:30 for the second, and add 15 seconds to subsequent infusions. Expect four or more quality infusions from the same serving of leaves. Also, another noteworthy quality of this TieGuanYin is that it is quite forgiving in terms of brewing parameters. Don’t worry if you allow the leaves to sit in the water for a couple of minutes longer than suggested, the taste may not be optimal, but it will still be quite pleasant.

Xin Yuan Autumn 2014 TieGuanYin Oolong Tea Infusion
Xin Yuan Autumn 2014 TieGuanYin Oolong Tea Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with a very bright, lively yellowish-jade green color, perfectly clear and transparent. The aroma again is amazing, with scents of butter, orchid flowers, honeydew melon, light peach, and light steamed leafy vegetable. The body is medium, with a buttery, creamy, rich, and smooth texture. The taste has notes of honeydew melon, orchid flowers, butter, light peach, light mineral (wet stone), and very light steamed leafy vegetable. There is a very mild astringency. The aftertaste is quite possibly the best part of an overall phenomenal tea. The notes of honeydew melon and orchid flowers linger on the breath for minutes after the tea is swallowed.

Xin Yuan Autumn 2014 TieGuanYin Oolong Tea Infused Leaves
Xin Yuan Autumn 2014 TieGuanYin Oolong Tea Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform fresh dark forest green color. There is some slight red showing on a few of the leaves’ edges, as well as a few light red spots on other areas of a few of the leaves. I would still guess the oxidation level is about 20%. Many of the leaves a whole, while the remainder are large fragments. The leaves have a hearty, leathery texture, which the TieGuanYin cultivar is known for. The leaves have a fairly uniform length of about two inches (51 mm) and a width of about one inch (25 mm). All leaves are completely detached from the stem, and there are no bare stems or buds in the mix. The smell carries scents of orchid flowers, butter, honeydew melon, and steamed leafy vegetables. The smell is certainly sweeter and more floral as the leaves cool.

Here is a photo of the side by side comparison that I performed on the Spring and Autumn 2014 harvests from Xin Yuan Tea Garden. Spring is on the left, Autumn is on the right.

Spring and Autumn 2014 TieGuanYin Oolong Tea Comparison
Spring and Autumn 2014 TieGuanYin Oolong Tea Comparison

It is no secret that I am completely smitten by the TieGuanYin Oolong Teas from Xin Yuan Tea Garden. I have told my tea tasting audiences time and time again when asked if I had to choose only one tea to drink for the rest of my life, that the Autumn harvest TieGuanYin from Xin Yuan would be the easy choice. I do not have many Yixing teapots, two to be exact, but one is used specifically for this product from this tea garden. The Autumn 2014 harvest continued to impress, with the incredible orchid, butter, and honeydew scents and tastes that won my preference in 2013. The appearance of both the dry and wet leaves, and the liquor itself, tells the story of how much care and attention the Lin family puts in to their garden and products. Another harvest, and another superior TieGuanYin Oolong Tea from Xin Yuan Tea Garden!

Thanks again to DongQin Lin from Xin Yuan Tea Garden for providing these fresh and phenomenal samples! Cheers!

Advertisements

13 Year Aged Ti Kuan Yin Wulong Tea from Xin Yuan Tea Garden

Every time I order a personal supply of the season’s fresh Ti Kuan Yin wulong tea from Xin Yuan Tea Garden, or Lin Farm as I had previously referred to this garden, they are always kind enough to throw in a few other samples of interesting teas. I was happy to make a larger order of this year’s Spring harvest top grade Ti Kuan Yin, which is available for purchase at The Tea Journeyman Shop, and to give some well deserved revenues to the Lin family, who honestly makes the best Ti Kuan Yin that I have ever had. If you have not had the Ti Kuan Yin from Xin Yuan Tea Garden before, and there is a very high chance that you have not, then I implore you to get some. It will redefine your opinion on Ti Kuan Yin.

With this order, Dong Qin Lin, the daughter whom I communicate with, sent me a very interesting sample which is the focus of my review today. This sample is the 13 years aged Ti Kuan Yin. One of the first teas I ever reviewed from the Lin Farm (Xin Yuan) was an aged Ti Kuan Yin, but it did not look anything like this sample. This sample is darker in color, with less stems, and seems to be a much higher quality.

To learn more about the Xin Yuan Tea Garden, Click Here to see their profile on The Tea Journeyman Shop website. Let the journey begin…

13 Year Aged Ti Kuan Yin Oolong Tea Dry Leaves
13 Year Aged Ti Kuan Yin Oolong Tea Dry Leaves

The dry leaves are dark brown to black in color, possibly from periodic roasting during the aging process. Appears to be mostly large leaf fragments, and possibly some whole leaves, some with stems intact. The leaves are in the semi-ball shape. The aroma has scents of dried raisins or prunes, molasses, and aged wood (oak?).

Eight grams of dry leaves were placed in an 18 ounce (530 ml) cast-iron tetsubin teapot. Purified spring water was heated to 205°F (95°C). The leaves were infused for two minutes.

13 Year Aged Ti Kuan Yin Oolong Tea 1st Infusion
13 Year Aged Ti Kuan Yin Oolong Tea 1st Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with a golden-orange color and slight red tint, clear and transparent. The aroma has scents of wood resin or sap, prunes, and light molasses. The scent is very unique, and almost difficult to read, all in a good way. The body is medium, with a very smooth, silky, clean texture. The taste has notes of sweet wood sap, prunes or raisins, wet stones, and a slight touch of ripe blood orange.The aftertaste is lightly sweet. Again, like the aroma, the taste is somewhat difficult to read, and almost took me to the bottom of the pot to begin defining what I tasted. I was impressed that there was no unpleasant tastes that can often occur in the first infusion of aged teas. This first infusion tasted very clean, despite not being rinsed.

13 Year Aged Ti Kuan Yin Oolong Tea 2nd Infusion
13 Year Aged Ti Kuan Yin Oolong Tea 2nd Infusion

The second infusion produced a liquor with a slightly darker golden orange with red tint color. The aroma lost absolutely no strength or character from the first infusion, and may have even strengthened by a slight amount. The body and texture remain medium, smooth, and clean. The taste seems to be slightly fuller, but retains the same general taste notes of sweet wood sap, raisins or prunes, wet stones, and blood orange. The second infusion was slightly better than the first, and I expect the aroma and taste to persist until the end of my work day forces me to prematurely dispose of them.

13 Year Aged Ti Kuan Yin Oolong Tea 3rd Infusion
13 Year Aged Ti Kuan Yin Oolong Tea 3rd Infusion

The third infusion produced a liquor with a golden-orange color similar to the first infusion, and perhaps a touch lighter in color. The aroma has lightened some, but has plenty of potency. The body and texture are the same. The taste has lightened some, but retains the majority of the taste notes, with the blood orange diminishing some. I still believe these leaves could give at least three or four more worthy infusions. Unfortunately, the end of my work day has arrived, and I have to cut the review off at three. Thankfully, I have another eight gram sample of this same tea, and I know to set an entire day aside to enjoy it.

13 Year Aged Ti Kuan Yin Oolong Tea Infused Leaves
13 Year Aged Ti Kuan Yin Oolong Tea Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a fresh tar black color. The leaves are still quite tightly rolled, and unrolling them reveals a fibrous, almost stringy structure of the aged leaves. The texture reminds me of a loosely knit dry burlap sack, lacking any softness. The leaves that I am able to unroll without completely destroying do appear to be large fragments and whole leaves. A few of the stems display a two leaf and small bud pluck. The aroma has scents of sweet wood sap and molasses. This was among the most interesting set of tea leaves that I have inspected.

13 Year Aged Ti Kuan Yin Oolong Tea Infused Leaf
13 Year Aged Ti Kuan Yin Oolong Tea Infused Leaf

I realize the quality of the above photo is not great, but it is good enough to show the fibrous character of the infused leaf. This is what happened to every leaf that I tried to unroll.

This 13 Year Aged Ti Kuan Yin Wulong Tea from Xin Yuan Tea Garden was a fascinating review subject from start to finish. The aroma and taste were so unique that they were difficult to identify, and my descriptions may not be the most accurate. Regardless, both the aroma and taste were amazing, and the texture of the liquor was remarkably clean, especially for an aged tea. As if the organoleptic experience of the tea was not enough, it was very interesting to inspect the infused leaves. If every tea review I conducted was as interesting as this one was, then I would never get my normal work done at my office.

A heart-felt thank you to Dong Qin Lin and Xin Yuan Tea Garden for providing this fascinating sample. I am so glad they included two samples of it, because I will be ready to get every last infusion out of the second sample. Cheers!

Finally, if you have not already done so, please do me a personal favor and check out my new webstore which I just launched on May 27th. I am adding new products on an almost daily basis, and there are some really interesting teas on this site, as well as five to ten more coming in the next couple of weeks. Please check it out, and share it with your tea loving friends and family. I truly appreciate your help in getting my business name out, and I think tea lovers will appreciate the high quality and low price of the teas in my shop. Thanks again!

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!

 

Ti Kuan Yin A++ Autumn Wulong Tea from Lin Farm

This is a review that I have been wanting to finish for a few months now. A few months back, I reviewed the Ti Kuan Yin A+ Wulong Tea from the summer harvest at Lin Farm in Anxi county, Fujian Province, China. As I had mentioned in that post, I do not always enjoy the Ti Kuan Yins that I receive in sample sets, thus not many get reviewed on my website. The Lin Farm summer harvest was the best Ti Kuan Yin that I had ever tasted up to that point. When I found out that the Autumn harvest produced the best Ti Kuan Yin from Anxi county, I was quick to let the Lin’s know that I wanted to make an order. I purchased the best grade of leaf, and waited with much excitement for the package to arrive.

The package arrived, and I quickly opened it, as I had an airtight canister prepared for this teas arrival. The freshness of the aroma was unimaginable. The color of the leaves was such a bright, lively green that I had never seen before. Upon brewing this tea for the first time, I had found an instant favorite. Thankfully I bought 500 grams, so I would be set for a few months. Since the day that I received that package, this tea has been the one that I brew for guests and special occasions in my house. In my opinion, this is the best quality tea that I have in my personal collection.

But now, it is time to give this tea the review that it deserves. Let the journey begin…

Ti Kuan Yin A++ Autumn Dry Leaves
Ti Kuan Yin A++ Autumn Dry Leaves

The dry leaves either have a bright, lively green color or a dark green color. The leaves are rolled, but not quite semi-ball shape, and have a fairly uniform size. There are absolutely no stems present. The leaves appear unbroken. The aroma is incredibly fresh and floral (orchid), with a light brown sugar scent.

Five grams of dry leaves were placed in an 8.5 ounce (240 ml) kyusu teapot. Purified spring water was heated to 190°F (90°C). The leaves were infused for one minute thirty seconds on the first infusion, one minute on the second, and one minute fifteen seconds on the third.

Ti Kuan Yin A++ Autumn 1st Infusion
Ti Kuan Yin A++ Autumn 1st Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with a light, clean jade green color, perfectly clear and transparent. The aroma is delicate and floral (orchid), with slight scents of light brown sugar and apple. The body is delicate medium, with a buttery feel. The taste is dominantly floral (orchid), with very light notes of apple and light honey. The aftertaste is amazingly fresh and flowery, with a very noteworthy persistence. In addition to the common sensual characteristics of this tea, there is a noticeable energy to it, as well. This tea has an immediate relaxing and uplifting effect. The quality of the leaves and the care taken by the growers can be felt as easily as tasted.

Ti Kuan Yin A++ Autumn 2nd Infusion
Ti Kuan Yin A++ Autumn 2nd Infusion

The second infusion produced a liquor with a slightly deeper shade of jade green color. The aroma and taste remain dominantly fresh and floral. The taste has strengthened some over the first infusion, but the same general notes are present. The second infusion is overall better than the first.

Ti Kuan Yin A++ Autumn 3rd Infusion
Ti Kuan Yin A++ Autumn 3rd Infusion

The third infusion is nearly identical to the second infusion in all respects. The color, the strength of the aroma and taste, the body and feel are all nearly identical from the second infusion to the third. Every single sip is phenomenal.

Although I do not have photos of the additional infusions, I did brew these leaves four more times. The aroma and taste of the seventh infusion is still better than most other Ti Kuan Yin products that I have had.

Ti Kuan Yin A++ Autumn Infused Leaves
Ti Kuan Yin A++ Autumn Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a perfectly uniform fresh forest green color. All leaves are unbroken, with a small number having slight tears from processing. The size of the leaves is also fairly uniform. After three infusions, these leaves have a wet leathery feel, and it is obvious that they have much flavor left to offer. There are no stems at all. The aroma is fresh, sweet, and floral, almost reminding me of apple blossoms. The appearance and aroma of the infused leaves is as appetizing as the liquor itself.

Honestly, I do not know if I can even put into words the level of enjoyment that I get out of this Ti Kuan Yin A++ Autumn Harvest Wulong tea from Lin Farm. I will say with 99.9% certainty that if I had to choose one tea from my collection to take with me on a vacation, voyage, or into the afterlife, this tea would be my choice. It looks beautiful, smells beautiful, tastes beautiful, feels beautiful … you get the idea. If you will take one conclusion from this review, it is this: I love this tea.

Thanks and praises to the Lin Family, and many thanks to Linda Lin for reaching out to me last year. I hope your family and their teas gain the recognition that I feel they deserve. Happy Chinese New Year to the Lin’s, and to all who celebrate it! Cheers for the Year of the Wood Horse.

Dark Roast TieGuanYin from Tealet Teas and Mountain Tea

On October 6th of 2013, my journey through the world of tea tasting took me back to the Wushe Mountains (I think) of Nantou County, Taiwan. This sample of Dark Roast TieGuanYin was purchased from Tealet Teas, who sourced it directly from Mountain Tea in Taiwan. For information on Tealet and Mountain Tea, please visit Tealet’s website here.

If you have followed my blog for even a short time, then you have noticed that I have reviewed several TieGuanYin (Ti Kwan Yin) products. So what is the difference between this TieGuanYin and the other Ti Kwan Yin’s that I have previously reviewed? There are two main differences. First, this TieGuanYin was grown in the mountains of Taiwan, and the other Ti Kwan Yin’s were grown in the Fujian Province of mainland China. Second, this TieGuanYin is dark roasted, and the other Ti Kwan Yins seemed on the lighter side of the roasting. Both of these factors are going to create a completely different taste and feel to this TieGuanYin compared to previously reviewed Ti Kwan Yins.

Although my preferences in oolong tea are beginning to strengthen on the lighter oxidized and greener varieties due to their fruity and floral characteristics, I will always get excited to try a dark roasted and higher oxidized oolong such as this. With that being said, let the journey begin…

The dry tea leaves are dark brown to black in color. The average size is that of a black bean. There is no breakage or crumbs whatsoever. The leaves are rolled in semi-ball shape, with many leaves appearing to be attached to the stem. There are no bare stems. The aroma is roasty, char, and lightly sweet.

image

The standard preparation method was used for this sampling. Filtered tap water was heated to 200ºF (96ºC). Twelve grams of tea were placed in a 32 ounce (950ml) glass teapot. The tea leaves were infused in the water for two minutes, then strained into a separate decantor.

image

The first infusion produced a liquor that was bright orange in color, clear and transparent, with some particulates from baking. The aroma is roasty and char, with a light sweetness. The liquor is medium to full bodied with a smooth texture. The most outstanding taste is char, with overpowered but recognizable notes of caramel and cocoa. The aftertaste is roasty and smooth, with a pleasantly lasting taste. On the next sampling, I am going to try to “prime” the tea leaves prior to beginning the first full infusion to see if the balance of tastes can be improved, as I expect the second infusion to.

image

The second infusion produced a noticeably darker orange liquor color. The aroma remains roasty and char, but has lightened some, exposing more of a sweet character. The liquor remains on the heavier medium body and smooth. The strongest taste is still char, but it has lightened some to allow the sweet tastes of caramel and cocoa to be more evident. The balance of tastes is much better. The aftertaste has sweetened some, but remains strongly char. This second infusion was much better than the first. However, I expect the third infusion to be the best of the three, as I believe the tastes will continue to improve in balance.

image

The third infusion produced a liquor with a color that is darker than the first infusion but lighter than the second. The char aroma has lightened some, and sweet scents are standing out more. The body remains medium heavy. The taste has an improved balance of char and sweetness, with the caramel notes being more evident. Aftertaste has lightened some, but still has a pleasant, full taste. This third infusion has been the best of the three. In fact, although I do not intend on taking photos on additional infusions, I do intend on infusing these leaves at least two more times.

image

The wet leaves of the Dark Roast TieGuanYin are pitch black in color, and appear almost like onyx. The aroma is sweet and roasty. The leaves, after five infusions, are fairly delicate and are breaking from the stem before I am able to put enough pressure on them to spread the leaves. I believe these leaves may be able to provide a sixth infusion with an acceptable flavor. The stems appear to be holding two to three leaves. Almost all leaves are fully intact, with no crumbs or small fragments whatsoever.

Even after five infusions, the taste was very high quality. The caramel tastes improved with each infusion. The first infusion was quite strong on the char tastes, and I would recommend a light priming of the leaves prior to the first full infusion. In my mind, TieGuanYin is recognized as a lighter oolong tea, with more gentle characteristics of fruit, flowers, and vegetation. Although this dark roast was very tasteful and enjoyable, I feel as though I was not able to appreciate the better known characteristics of the TieGuanYin. That is more of a statement of personal reflection, not in any way a negative notation on the tea itself. I literally brewed the first pot at 9:30 AM, and finished the last sips at about 5:30 PM. This was a tea that went through five infusions, remained tasteful all day, and could have gone one more round, if not two. I have nothing but good experiences with this tea, and look forward to experiencing it again.

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