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Roast

MrsPremise’s Oolong-A-Thon. . . . .

As I delved into my tea cabinet recently, I realized I had been stockpiling oolong teas.  Where did they all come from?!  

Since the season is finally starting to turn, and oolong teas always make me think of spring, it seemed like a good time to try them all.  

So I had an Oolong-A-Thon and brewed ten samples from my stores.  The numbers below aren’t a “best-of” ranking, but they roughly move from most delicate in flavor to the most potent in flavor.  . . . .

 

  1. Alishan High Mountain from Cameron Taiwan Premium Loose Leaf – The dry leaf smells sweet and nutty, and this sweet-oat flavor is echoed in the first steep with additional notes of green melon.  The second steep is nuttier still more oat than fruit, though a bit of the green flavor lingers on the aftertaste.  (See a review from my fellow Sororitea Sister). 
  2. Alishan High Mountain Eco First Pluck from Terrior Tea Merchant – The dry leaf smells like sweet grass and sour fruit.  The first steep is not sour at all, but very green and buttery, with more interesting notes like citrus or bok choy coming out on later steepings. 
  3. Ding Dong Oolong from Eco-Cha – Prior to brewing, this tea smells dry and earthy, like hay or dried grass.  Brewed, the first steep is roasty and savory, with just a hint of starchy sweetness in the aftertaste.  The second steep has nutty, brown rice flavors, but still remains light and drinkable.  (See a review from my fellow Sororitea Sister).
  4. Ding Ding Oolong from Cloud Nine (Spring 2015) – The first steep features fruit notes like plum, grape, and currant.  There are almost red wine or acai berry flavors.  This potent fruit flavor drops off in the second steep, with more green notes and fewer berries, more like green grapes and white wine, though the brew never got too bitter or dark even with longer steep times.  
  5. Ping Lin Pouchong from Cameron Taiwan Premium Loose Leaf  – These long dark tea leaves smelled like caramel or burnt sugar when dry, but their first steep was surprisingly green and floral.  The brew turned out to be slightly buttery, with almost-seaweed notes.  The second steep wasn’t distinctly different, with similar savory tones and a smooth, buttery aftertaste.
  6. Jin Xuan Milk Oolong from Teavivre – The first steep of this tea ended up tasting like sour grapes and bright florals, with a hint of roasted nuts and a supremely smooth mouthfeel.  The second steep increased the almost-honey flavor and feeling of the tea, and brought forward some either, grassier notes to the brew, and maintained the milky smooth texture.  
  7. Tie Kwan Yin Oolong from Tea Ave – The first steep was surprisingly roasty, with notes like warm toast or freshly baked bread.  There were no green or floral flavors, but the starchiness was well-balanced with an herbaceous earthiness.  The second steep brought out a stronger roast, and slightly bitter, dry hay notes, though the flavors were still balanced and very drinkable.  
  8. Shui Xian Oolong from Origins Tea – The tightly rolled dark leaves, smelled like hay and earth slightly bitter, though the first steep had a pop of tart currant, quickly buried under strong, roasted almond flavors.  This tea had a dry mouthfeel, very nutty and savory, with even a hint of smoke, like an oolong for lapsang-lovers.  The second steep brought out even more sweet, starchy, marzipan flavors.  
  9. Alishan Charcoal Fire Heavy Roast from T-Oolong Tea (Spring 2012) – Despite the name the first steep of this tea did have some bright notes like a greener alishan oolong but with a distinct, roasted, malty depth.  There are some charcoal notes: mineral and toasted.  Both steeps brew up dark in color, the second steep maintains the toasted rice and malt flavors as the first steep, but develops a smoother mouthfeel.  (See a review from my fellow Sororitea Sister). 
  10. Gingseng Oolong from Enjoying Tea – I tried this tea last, because it was the only flavored oolong in this grouping.  Anything with added flavor was bound to be more potent than just the leaves alone.  This tea smells sweet in the dry leaf, and brews sweet and sour with a very strong passionfruit flavor: green and slightly tropical.  The second steep is earthier, less sweet and more like wet foliage, still some lingering passionfruit notes, especially on the aftertaste.  

And there you have it– the results of my Oolong-A-Thon!  

Like black or green teas, there are many variations and flavors to be had from trying a variety of oolong teas.  From my point of view, there wasn’t a bad tea in the bunch, and each had its own flavors to suit the changing weather or my variable tea cravings.  

There is certainly an oolong out there that will fit your tastes as well.  Happy oolong brewing!

Toasted Apple Green from Bluebird Tea Co.

toasted_appleTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Green

Where to Buy: Bluebird Tea Co.

Tea Description:

This blend of roasted green tea, popped rice and toasty apples is a bit of a tea Marmite. Some are addicted to its grassy, savoury taste but it’s not for those with a sweet tooth. Don’t worry though, Genmaicha fans will absolutely love Bluebird’s unique twist on the classic Japanese ‘popcorn’ tea.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Calling this blend ‘tea marmite’ is, I think, a pretty big stretch and probably not the best selling tactic if Bluebird Tea Co. wants to get North Americans buying their blends. I’ve had marmite and I certainly was not a fan, nor are most North Americans; that’s one food from across the ocean that I can’t see catching on here. However, this tea? It’s got the potential to, if done correctly.

Genmaicha is one of those teas that I consider a cupboard staple; it makes a very soothing, calming cup of toasted brown rice goodness and it also a great blend for sharing a pot with among friends – and for people truly new to tea who haven’t even come across Genmaicha it’s a good conversation piece as well; explaining the origin of adding brown rice to tea to stretch it out among the lower class in ‘old Japan’ in a fascinating thing to here and gives insight to some just how important tea is in some cultures. I, for one, remember that fact/’origin story’ being one of the most interesting to me when I was first getting really into tea outside of the flavored stuff offered at local chains such as DAVIDsTEA.

Of course, “Genmaicha with a twist” is a fantastic thing too; one a think more companies should run with. Some of my particular flavourites are Nina Paris’ Japon, Verdant’s Minnesota Blend, and Ette Tea’s Mango Sticky Rice. Apple seemed like an obvious, but untapped route – until now.

The initial wave of flavours was a very roasty brown rice and almost barley flavor; this is by far the best part of Genmaicha to me. If the level of roasty/toasty notes isn’t strong enough I’m going to be disappointed and if it’s too concentrated or has a “burnt” taste, like burnt toast, then I’m probably not going to be able to make it through the cup. However, this strikes a really nice balance between the two and has a lovely robust roasty flavour without overwhelming some of the other things going on.

Underneath that first, and most important flavour, was a mild vegetal note – there was some grassiness but mostly it was very marine with a bit of a seaweed flavour. This part of genmaicha is less important to me personally; as long as I can taste the green tea and it isn’t bitter I’m usually a happy consumer and both of those criterion were definitely checked off in this case. Now we get into the most important part of this particular blend: the apple! I’ll admit I didn’t taste it at first; but once the liquor had cooled I started to notice this very bright, slightly tart apple note at the finish of the sip that was lingering into the aftertaste. It’s definitely a greener apple; think Granny Smith or Sundance apples. However, the tartness and slight sweetness provides a really nice contrast between the flavour and whilst fairly simple I think this would be really enjoyable as a flavoured Genmaicha year round, but particularly in the fall.

Definitely worth trying, if you get the chance!

Australia Houjicha Green from What-Cha

GreenHoujichaTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Green

Where to Buy: What-Cha

Tea Description:

Two Rivers Green Tea started producing tea in 2001 with the aid and encouragement of Japanese tea experts who were seeking to encourage Japanese style tea production for the domestic Japanese market. The Two Rivers farm was selected as it has the same latitude of southern Japanese tea farms, idea temperatures, rainfall and great quality topsoil.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Recently I placed a What-Cha order for myself, and one of the things I was looking for was a Houjicha to stock up since it’s one of my favourite kinds of green tea and while I currently have a Genmaicha stocked that I really like there’s a hole in my cupboard where a good Houjicha should be. This one comes from Australia, and personally I’ve never tried an Australian grown tea before though I was aware that they were produced. Australia is one of those regions that isn’t typically thought of as a tea growing region among people who aren’t more learned tea drinkers the same way people don’t realize tea is grown in places like Kenya or Hawaii and I’m very excited to get my first taste of an Australian tea, especially considering how affordable this blend was. It was an easy thing to gamble on.

I do think this was worth the gamble. While it’s not as straightforwardly roasty as I tend to prefer from a good Houjicha there are some very, very nice subtle nuanced flavour notes that more than makes up the different. For starters, there’s an interesting nutty notes that seems to make itself known in each part of the sip in a different way. With that first initial taste it’s light lightly toasted nuts, and then in the body it weaves in and out between the other flavours. In the aftertaste, you’re tasting the shadow of the nut flavour which once was.

There’s also some really nice sweeter notes like caramel and cocoa which gently stretch out across the surface of your tongue, creating this really nice, smooth body flavour. The finish is lightly smokey, and leaves you wanting to go back in for another sip so you can experience the flavour dynamics all over again. Overall it’s a very warming and welcoming cuppa.

I definitely think I’ll clear my purchase of this easily, and will probably go back for more after that. More than that, this only gets me even more excited to try more of what Australia has to offer!

Dark Roast Gunpowder from M&K’s Tea Co.

DARKROASTGUNPOWDERTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Green

Where to Buy: M&K’s Tea Co.

Tea Description:

An M&K’s exclusive! Simply made, we take the famous gunpowder tea of China and roast it in our own quarters, creating a truly unique green tea that is very nutty and reminiscent of a lighter cup of coffee if brewed correctly. This is a great tea if you want something stronger or if you enjoy roasted oolong teas, smokey teas, dark teas (pu-erh tea), or even roasted yerba mate!

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

I had never had anything like this Dark Roast Gunpowder so I thought I’d give it a shot.  I really like the teas that I have had previously from M&K’s Tea Co.  They are one of my favorite companies to order from.  They have even added honey to their site that are flavored.  They sound fantastic.  One or two bottles might find their way into my next order.

On to the tea. . . I am glad I took a chance on this one.  Nutty, rich, smooth, malty with a side note of honey and smoke?  This is a very  unique tasting tea! I’m digging this one.  This reminds me of a dark roasted coffee without that bitter after taste you sometimes get.  I can see this one replacing my daily cup of joe I do enjoy each morning.  The roasted nutty flavor with a hint of sweetness really works.  The more I drink it, the more I am reminded of a sweet and salty snack where  you get the best of both worlds so to speak.  Dark roasted sweet goodness.

Highly recommend this one if you enjoy coffee or roasted teas.

Houjicha Gold (Roasted Bancha) from Den’s Tea

Houjicha-GoldTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Green

Where to Buy:  Den’s Tea

Tea Description:

Houjicha-Gold delivers a delightful and calming cup. Highly aromatic but gentle to your stomach with a low amount of caffeine.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

It’s been wet and cooler over the last couple of days and something like this Houjicha Gold (also known as Roasted Bancha) from Den’s Tea is perfect for a day like this.  It’s warm and cozy!

It has a delightful toasty, caramel-y flavor that I’m really enjoying.  The sip starts out sweet and stays sweet all the way through to the finish and it’s a sweetness that lingers into the aftertaste.  After that first sweet note, I start to pick up on some slightly savory notes.  Flavors that remind me of freshly roasted corn and and a warm, nutty flavor that immediately brings warm hazelnuts to mind.  My grandmother used to make cookies with hazelnuts in them and that’s what I’m thinking of as I sip this tea.

There are some vegetal notes to this but I find that with a roasted green tea like this, most of those strong vegetative flavors have been ‘toasted’ out – most of the grassy/vegetable flavors taste more nutty and toasted now.  So now, rather than tasting a freshly steamed spinach flavor, for example, I taste more of a freshly toasted hazelnut flavor with notes of roasted corn.

So if you’re someone who is fairly new to green teas and have yet to get your palate to become acquired to the flavor of green tea, I think that a Houjicha like this is a good place to start.  It’s such a warm and inviting flavor that you don’t really realize that you’re drinking green tea!

And if you’re new to Japanese Green teas, may I suggest Den’s Tea’s Green Tea Sampler for Novices?  This sampler offers a nice selection of different teas from Den’s so that you can learn about Japanese teas as well as train your palate to understand the different flavors of Japanese teas.  I purchased one of these collections several years ago and it was a really rewarding experience – and you get a whole lot of tea for $3!