Hand-Picked Autumn 2011 Tieguanyin from Verdant Tea

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Oolong

Where to Buy:  Verdant Tea

Tea Description:

Typically, spring Tieguanyin is light, sweet and flowery, while autumn Tieguanyin is heavier, grassier and more buttery.  This goes well beyond the established flavor profiles of any oolong we have tried.  The first steepings yield a sweet leafy green taste, and peppery spicy notes.  Soon, the flavor of saffron sets in to bind everything together with its sweet, savory qualities.  Next, the saffron is enriched with a growing buttery taste that fills the whole palate, and demands our attention.  In later steepings, a juiciness develops until it is almost mouth-watering.  We can only describe it as the sensation of biting into a perfectly ripe peach.  Late steepings yield notes of kaffir lime, and interestingly, roasted marshmallow.  We loved our spring harvest Tieguanyin, but might venture to say that this crop, produced by the same family, is even more complex and rewarding.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

The above flavor profile from Verdant Tea’s website is remarkably spot-on as far as what I’m experiencing with this tea.

Brewing this the way I would usually brew an Oolong, I used my gaiwan and started with short steeps (following a quick 10 second rinse, I steeped for 1 minute for the first infusion, and added 15 seconds to each subsequent infusion.  I combined the brewed tea of the first two infusions in one cup, the second cup was the combined efforts of infusions three and four … and so on.)

The first cup offered a sweet, floral taste with vegetal notes mingling throughout.  I could taste the peppery notes as mentioned in the flavor profile above.  The mouthfeel is thick and velvety – it starts out with the early infusions as a soft sensation and develops into a melted butter taste and feel, and because there is so little astringency to this cup, these buttery tones continue to develop as I sip.  The aftertaste offers more of that delightful sweetness and a slight peppery twinge that settles on the back of the palate.

The saffron notes as described were not experienced until I was nearly finished with the first cup, and then it was very slight – imparting a savory bitterness that arrives and disappears just as quickly, and then a smooth, savory sweetness takes its place.  While it does have a distinct saffron-like flavor, it is so faint that it was difficult to discern it as saffron, and it wasn’t until the second cup that I could really identify with the saffron flavor.

With the second cup, I also noticed a mild fruit note emerge, almost like an apple.  With many Oolong teas, I usually taste a peach-like flavor, but this is much more like a crisp, snappy apple, reminiscent of the Braeburn variety.

What starts out as a flavorful, juicy sensation becomes almost dry toward the finish, as I notice more astringency with the subsequent infusions.  There is also less of a peppery note as the saffron-esque flavors begin to come forward. With my third and final cup, I notice that the apple-y flavors begin to fade and instead I taste more of a tangy citrus note.  The overall cup is much smoother now as the flavors become more unified.

A truly lovely Oolong, and quite different from a typical Tie Guan Yin.  This is one that should be on your must try list!

Li Li Xiang Tie Guan Yin from Tea Valley

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Oolong

Where to Buy:  Tea Valley

Company Description:

The literal translation of “Li Li Xiang” means sweetness in every bead (of tea leaf) and describes this tea perfectly. The tightly rolled green leaves give off a pure and balanced aroma. When infused, the tea leaves produce a mellow concoction that is incredibly floral and sweet. The aftertaste is much more flavorsome and astringent compared to our other Tie Guan Yin.

The quality of the tea is reflected in its ability to reproduce the delightful taste brew after brew. The Li Li Xiang Tie Guan Yin is certainly a crowd pleaser; a must-have in your collection.

Taster’s Review:

This tea is so close to perfect that I think I heard angels sing when I took my first sip!  Seriously, this is an incredibly lovely Oolong – so smooth and elegant!

The aroma is slightly floral and slightly vegetative.  It is an interesting balance of sweet and savory scents that I find very intriguing.

The liquor is sweet and buttery.  The buttery flavor is expressed in the mouthfeel as well; it has a very thick texture that is a bit like melted butter.  Not oily, but, thick the way melted butter would be and with the sweet, creamy note of melted butter.  It is truly silky and luxuriant as it glides over the palate.

The flavor has a pleasant floral taste – I am not getting much of a vegetative note like I expected I would after smelling this tea.  But that’s quite alright.  I find the floral note to be very mysterious and adds to the luxuriousness of this tea.

This tea does have a slightly drying astringency and even a faint hint of bitterness – but it’s a good bitterness that keeps the palate from becoming too saturated from the buttery sweetness of the tea.  The bitterness cuts through that sweetness just enough to keep the tea interesting and not cloying.  It’s truly delightful!

Even though the weather is on the warm side as I type this, I am still enjoying this tea hot (not too hot, mind you, but warm enough to keep from being considered an iced tea), and I really believe that for full enjoyment of an Oolong such as this, it should be enjoyed hot rather than iced.  It is delicious iced, but, so many teas are delicious iced – with a beautifully complex tea such as this, it should not be wasted on iced tea but enjoyed to its fullest as a hot tea – so that the many layers of flavor can be detected and savored.