Ah, oolongs – my favorite type of tea. There’s no bad time of year for a good ti kwan yin.
Summer? Cold brew. Winter? Western-style brew in a giant mug. Any time? Gong fu.
The dry leaf of this particular ti kwan yin is forest green with brown stems. It is semiball-rolled. I could not find brewing guidelines on the company’s website so I improvised from experience. I got five decent steeps out of this leaf, all delivering a pale gold brew. I prepared the first steep at 205f for 40 seconds. The wet leaf looks and smells good. The leaves have substantially unfurled. They are medium sized, torn at the edges and sometimes in the middle, and attached to the stems. They give off a scent of light roast and honey. The flavor of this first steep is initially a light honey sweetness, followed by a soft nutty note.
Subsequent steeps bring out some bitterness in the leaf. At 205f for 60 seconds, the second steep may have been too long, too hot, or both. I have trouble identifying the flavor but the closest I can describe it is a stone fruit such as apricot. For the third steep, I keep it at 205f for 60 seconds rather than increasing the steep time. The flavor is a kale-like bitterness with a hint of sweetness.
As it cools, the bitterness fades (though never fully disappears) and a honeydew note comes to the fore. The fourth steep – 200f, 60 seconds – is less bitter and generally lighter, but overall similar to steep three with a slightly bitter honeydew flavor. The fifth steep – 200f, 2 minutes – isn’t bitter but is losing flavor. It still has a light and sweet melon note but this is the last steep.
For thoroughness, I decided to also make this Western-style. I used plenty of leaf and tried a lower temperature to see if that would reduce the bitterness. I brewed it at 185f for 4 minutes. That eliminated the bitterness but it also resulted in a less flavorful brew. There was a nutty note and a honeydew note, but they were weak and watery compared to the flavor of the gong fu preparation and other oolongs I’ve prepared Western-style. I would stick to preparing this tea gong fu style.
Here’s the scoop!
Leaf Type: Oolong
Where to Buy: Tea N Joy
This wonderful oolong tea comes from the Wuyi Mountains of Fujian Province. Gongfu style preparation is recommended for this high grade Ti Kwan Yin. The tea’s name came from a legend that told of monkeys being used by monks to retrieve this tea from the high mountains. In general, monkey picked tea are from wild tea plants that grow in inaccessible places, such as on high cliff faces. When brewed, this golden liquor gives a floral flavor with a hint of chestnut and a delightful aftertaste.