No other tea has been featured as many times as oolong in this challenge thus far including oolongs from Fujian, Guangdong, Taiwan and Thailand. I have not personally tried many varieties of Taiwanese oolong tea, but I prefer Wuyi and Phoenix varieties from mainland China at the moment.
This oolong is from Taiwan, and it has a relatively high level of oxidation (60-75%) which is visible on the colour of the leaves which reflect shades of dark red and brown. If I blind-tasted it, I would not call it oolong. It tasted very much like black tea with no sweetness.
Formosa is a Portuguese word meaning beautiful. This was the name given to Taiwan by the Portuguese who arrived in the 15th century meaning ‘Beautiful Island’. And Formosa oolong signifies that the tea comes from Taiwan. According to the Harney & Sons Guide to Tea, a Scottish entrepreneur called John Dodd identified dark oolong tea and started to sell it as ‘Formosa Oolong’ which became very popular in Europe and the US which remained a hit until the Japanese occupation of Taiwan, but its reputation gradually faded due to various political and economic reasons.
Considering the wide-spread consumption of black teas (e.g. Lapsang Souchong) in the mid 19thcentury, I can see how this tea could become a favourite. It offers more complex and fruity notes than black tea could offer these days. Just to clarify, I am not talking about fine black teas like Jin Jun Mei or Da Jin Ya which did not exist by then.
These days, formosa oolong can be harvested and processed mechanically which helps reducing its costs. I could not get fruity notes from this tea, but I got a lot of tobacco and malty notes coming from its roasting process. Looking forward to trying a higher grade formosa where I can feel the sensations of those Victorians in the 19th Century.
Harvest time: 2019
Leave colour: Shades of dark red and brown
Liquor colour: Copper
Tea aroma: Smoky with tobacco
Tea taste: Slightly astringent, malty with notes of tobacco
Steeping/brewing: You can use around 100°C water temperature and brew for up to one minute in gongfu style or up to three minutes in Western-style. You can brew the leaves many times (until the taste is lost). To each infusion add additional time. Experiment for a result that suits your taste.
Shelf life: Up to 2 years (some keep it in the fridge to improve the shelf life but for this you need to ensure that the tea is tightly sealed)