Written by our guest blogger Nienke Becker.
I’m Dutch and live in The Hague. I’m currently in a gap year after I finished my Bachelor of Science last summer. I’m quite new to the world of tea and have a lot to learn still, but I’ve already fallen deep into the rabbit hole. It’s hard to tell where exactly my tea journey began. Like most people, I’ve been drinking tea from teabags since a young. Around five years ago, I had a tea (actually tisane) that sparked my interest in learning more about tea and finding out what was actually in my teabag. My brother introduced me to the butterfly pea flower as a tisane. From this moment on, I decided that I wanted to drink loose leaf tea/tisanes instead of teabags. I started with quite poor-quality loose-leaf tea and of course, I still used Western-style brewing. It was just last summer that I was introduced to Gong Fu brewing when I visited New York City and went to T-shop.
But the person who dragged me into this rabbit hole is Will, who works at Jing Tea in London, also known as Gongculture. His stories on the teas we tried with him, made me understand all the work that goes into producing the tea that ends up in my cup. After meeting him I couldn’t wait to try more teas and learn so much more about tea!
One of the things I enjoy most when brewing tea is watching the leaves unfold. For this reason, I really enjoy drinking ball-rolled oolongs. Today, I drank a 2010 Alishan Oolong from Mountain Stream Teas. An aged oolong made of material from a garden that has been ‘wild left’ for 15 years. Ageing oolong teas are not as common as ageing pu-erh teas. A reason for this might be that pu-erh teas are usually processed in a way to enable future ageing, while aged oolong tea is processed in the same way as a fresh oolong tea. While many people prefer fresh oolongs over aged oolong teas, I think aged oolongs have potential, and I think the oolong I drank today is a great example!
This is one of the few teas that surprises me. What I found remarkable about this tea is that it starts with dark notes, like roasted bark and dark cacao, then turns into much lighter and floral notes at the back of the mouth and that it leaves you with flavours of juicy mangoes and peaches as an aftertaste. The aftertaste is so sweet and fruity that it’s hard to imagine that the first flavours that enter your mouth are so dark and roasty. The aftertaste of this tea immediately gave me a summer vibe. I enjoyed it so much that I felt bad for eating something after drinking this tea!
While this tea left me with an aftertaste of summer, don’t think of this tea as a light tea and I would not recommend drinking this tea on an empty stomach, because this tea can definitely get you tea drunk!
Origin: Alishan, Meishan District, Nantou County, Taiwan
Harvest time: Spring 2010
Leave colour: Dark green, leaning towards a browner colour like washed-up seaweed.
Liquor colour: Golden Amber, like a well-aged Scotch whisky.
Tea aroma: The lid has a clear dried apricot smell; the smell of the leaves gives away that the tea is roasted and aged.
Tea taste: The tea has a very soft and smooth mouthfeel. At first, the minerality and a little bit of the roasty flavours come through, which later turned sweeter and more floral. The aftertaste is extremely fruity and very sweet, like juicy mangoes and peaches without any sour notes. The mouth finish is quite dry, but I don’t mind a bit of a dry finish and especially not with such an incredible aftertaste!
Steeping/brewing: I would recommend using around 5g per 100ml in 100°C water, starting with 30 seconds of steeping, then adding ±15 seconds for the first few steeps (until the leaves open up) and then adding 10 extra seconds for the next infusions.
Shelf life: I wouldn’t give this tea an expiration date, since it’s already an aged tea, maybe a little more age could make this tea even better, especially if you’re into the more mellow notes, but I wouldn’t say this tea needs more age on it. I can’t imagine this tea getting any worse in the upcoming decade, but I don’t think it will last that long in my shelf!