Royal Phoenix Oolong Tea from The Tao of Tea

RoyalPhoenixTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Oolong

Where to Buy:  The Tao of Tea

Tea Description:

The Phoenix Mountains (Fenghuang Shan) in Guangdong, China are home to famous varietals in oolong teas. In our last visit to this area, we studied at least seven different varietals. Notable and popular amongst them is the Mi Lan (Honey Orchid) varietal. Our name for it is Royal Phoenix. 

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

I spent my evening enjoying this Royal Phoenix Oolong Tea from The Tao of Tea.  It’s splendid, and what a wonderful tea with which to just sit back and relax.  Beautifully fragrant and so flavorful.

I enjoyed four fabulous cups of this tea (I combine two infusions in each cup, resulting in eight infusions total).  I think my third cup was my favorite, because it was in this cup that the flavors became very seamless and it was a harmonious experience in flavor.

royalphoenixcuppedMy first cup offered me a soft, honeyed flavor with notes of sweet fruit with just a hint of sour, reminding me very much of a fresh plum.  There were notes of wood and a sort of rustic, earthy note, as well as hints of fragrant flower.  The first cup was the softest of the four cups I enjoyed, but, it was still very flavorful.

The second cup was more honey-ish than the first, with the sweeter notes of the fruit starting to emerge over the tart notes.  The flavors were still very focused in this cup, and it wasn’t until the third cup where the flavors seemed to mellow a little bit and meld into one another and become very smooth and beautifully mellifluous.

The fourth cup, the flavors continue to soften and meld.  However, I noticed that the honey notes were subdued and that is what made the biggest difference for me between cups three and four and why cup three was my favorite, and why I decided to stop at four cups.  The honey notes are just so luscious!

A really enjoyable Oolong.

Mi Lan Dancong Black Tea from Verdant Tea

Mi-Lan-BlackTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Verdant Tea

Tea Description:

Mi Lan Dancong Oolong and Laoshan Black are two of our favorite teas in existence.  Little did we know that out there was a tea whose flavor profile perfectly combined the best elements of each.  At least, until we found this Mi Lan Dancong Black.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Wowza!  This Mi Lan Dancong Black Tea from Verdant Tea is seriously awesome!

It’s been a little while since I’ve had a tea from Verdant (at least a couple of weeks!) and when I don’t have one of their teas for a while like this has been, I sometimes lose sight of just how amazing their teas really are!  If you haven’t tried tea from Verdant Tea, you really are missing out.  Their teas are spectacular, some of the very best that I’ve ever tried (and I’ve tried a few teas!)

The brewed tea has a lovely fragrance that reminds me of a dark Oolong with its notes of sweet honey, and then there are elements to the aroma that also remind me of a black tea like a subtle note of wood and spice.  It’s really a pleasant experience to deeply inhale before taking a sip of this tea, it really enhances the overall sip by allowing the olfactory nerves to first experience the tea before the flavors wash over the palate.

As I sip, I notice a slight vegetative tone that is kind of unexpected.  I don’t usually experience vegetal notes with black teas … but here, I do.  The tasting notes on Verdant Tea’s website suggest notes of avocado, and being a California girl, I have to disagree somewhat (I know my avocados!) but, I do see where the comparison can be made.  This is more savory than the avocados I grew up with (my grandparents had an avocado tree in their backyard!) but, there is a certain creamy element to this that is vaguely avocado-esque.  There is also a slightly sour note … reminding me of an avocado that has been sliced and then doused with lemon juice to maintain its color.  So … yes, I do see the comparison.

I love all the contrasting flavors within this cup.  The aforementioned sour and savory tones unite with the thinned honey-esque notes that sweeten the cup.  And then there are the amazing floral tones that dance on the palate!  Such a beautiful tea, very satisfying afternoon cuppa!

Mi Lan Xiang Phoenix Mountain Dancong from Verdant Tea

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Oolong

Where to Buy:  Verdant Tea

Tea Description:

Mi Lan Xiang, literally “Honey Orchid Fragrance” is a real understatement for this tea.  The aroma is absolutely heady and enveloping, like walking into a temple burning sandalwood incense with lotus flowers strewn about, and a faint whiff of pine sap and honeydew melon.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

I don’t know why I am sitting here in utter amazement.  You’d think that by now, I’d come to expect an exceptional tea from Verdant, and really, I do expect just that, so I guess what I’m trying to say is that such an expectation would render me not so surprised when the tea is indeed exceptional.

But here I sit, astonished and really, quite bowled over at how good this tea is.

The aroma of the dry leaf should have tipped me off.  It smells incredible, and is quite like it’s described in the above “Tea Description.”  I smell notes of burning incense, flowers and melon.  I also smell something not mentioned in the aforementioned tea description:  freshly baked goods.  My mouth began watering as I stood there, in a daze by the smell of such a delectable fragrance.

I steeped this the way I would normally steep a quality Oolong tea – in my gaiwan, using short steeps following a quick rinse, combining the results of two infusions in one cup and savoring the mixture.

The first cup offered notes of spice and wood.  In my first couple of sips, I did not taste a “lotus” like flavor, but as I continued to sip, the lotus flavor developed.  I found this first cup to be more savory with hints of a honey-esque sweetness underneath, rather than the other way around.  Many times, with Oolong tea it tends to be quite sweet with notes of savory to contrast the sweetness, here it’s the other way around with more savory tones and the occasional sweet note to contrast the savory qualities.  The sip finishes dry with a mineral-y kind of taste, and the aftertaste starts out clean, with more of a melon-like sweetness developing in the aftertaste as I continue to sip.

The second cup is smoother, with more fruit tones.  Citrus-y, with a tangy astringency at the tail.  The description on the website suggests a grapefruit-like taste and I’d agree with that assessment.  I am experiencing less mineral at the finish this time, and the finish is less dry … in fact, I’d describe it as almost juicy.  The sweetness is less like honey this time, with the sweetness focused more on the fruit notes.  I am finding the woody tones developing, and the floral notes becoming softer in this cup.

With my third and final cup, I noticed the flavors becoming a bit softer and smoother, and yet … somehow richer.  The fruit notes are well-pronounced now, and the spice tones have become more significant.  The floral notes are not completely gone, but I find that I notice them primarily at the finish and in the aftertaste, and not so much during the sip, which seems to have become mostly about the fruit notes, a hint of wood and earth, and a lovely set of spices.

A lovely, complex cup.  Definitely a tea I’d recommend to all who enjoy a good cup of Oolong.  It is worth the effort to infuse it multiple times, as each cup produced becomes an adventure.

Mi Lan Dan Cong Tea from Canton Tea Co.

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Oolong

Where to Buy:  Canton Tea Co.

Product Description:

Dan Cong is the champagne of oolongs:  ripe with intense fruit and sweetness. This high grade example comes from a plantation on the lower slopes of Wu Dong Mountain, Chao Zhou. The leaves are thoroughly fermented and baked to produce a rich liquor with unique flowery and honeyed notes that can be enjoyed through multiple infusions.

Our Buyer’s notes:

“This tea is more heavily baked than the Song Zhong Dan Cong to allow the tea to produce its unique honey and lychee flavours.”

Taster’s Review:

Ooooooh-Long!  This tea definitely puts the Oooooh into Oolong.  It is truly wonderful.

The aroma of the brewed liquor is delightful.  It has this amazing sort of “outdoorsy” kind of scent, like the fragrance you might experience if you were walking through the woods on a quiet spring morning.  It is smells of earth and damp wood, as well as newly blossoming flowers and hints of fruit, and even a clean, crisp air-like scent.  This is a tea that you need to inhale deeply – taking in this extraordinary aroma – before taking a sip, to truly experience it in its entirety.

And then, of course, there is the flavor.  And … put simply, this has a flavor that keeps you sipping.  That is to say, my cup is now empty and I need to infuse the leaves again in order to compose the right words to describe this tea.  It is so good that I finished the cup before I could start writing about it.

Now as I sip my second cup (the result of my third and fourth infusions combined), I can tell you a little more about this tea.  The flavor is intense.  It has a honey-esque tone to it … not just the sweetness of honey, but also the unique floral taste of honey.  It is sweet with the subtlest tone of sharpness in the background, such an enchanting, piquant kind of taste.

And as the description from Canton Tea Co. suggests, there is a lychee kind of flavor to this too.  It is so very similar to the unique flavor of lychee, in fact, that I had to double check on this tea to make sure it wasn’t a lychee flavored or scented tea.  But no:  these interesting flavors are achieved naturally through the baking process of the tea leaves, and not through a flavoring process.

I was able to infuse this tea a total of six times with no loss of flavor, making this not only a delicious tea, but also a good value for your money too.  This is the kind of Oolong I would recommend to a tea enthusiast who finds some Oolong teas to be too delicate for their taste.  The flavor of this is so intense, they’re sure to change their mind about Oolong!