Tea Writings

A blog about tea from the desk of Cecilia Tan

Roast Sweet

June 17, 2009 By: ctan Category: Tea Musings, Tea Reviews

Ahhh, this is Da Stuff.

I’ve been drinking a lot of enjoyable teas lately. Despite the fact that it’s mid-June and the longest day of the year is nigh, it’s been downright chilly in New England. With the temps in the low 60s every day and in the 50s (or even 40s again like it was last night) at night, it’s perfect tea-drinking weather. A warm pot sits on my desk throughout the day and evening hours while I work.

Having just ordered a slew of sample teas from various places, I’ve been brewing lots of things that are quite tasty, but I’ve been refraining from writing about them until I’ve tried them each four or five times. I used to review music back in another life, and I learned that I didn’t really know what I thought of an album until I’d heard it through five times. I figure tea might be the same.

Except today I brewed a pot of “Oolong Choice.” This came from Holy Mountain and I picked it on a whim, trying to find something that tastes like the tea they used to have a Chinese restaurant near here (with the punny name of Wok and Roll). I’ve also been trying to find something to fill the hole in my collection that fits in the flavor profile where the Sow Mee White tea used to be.

This is Da Stuff!

The Holy Mountain site describes it thus: “Often referred to as the ‘Champagne of Teas,’ oolong is the personal choice of professional tea tasters. Our Oolong Choice is hand picked once a year, when the flavor is at its finest. Mostly grown in the Omei area of Hsinchu county, the leaves are naturally curly with silver tips and the tender sprouts are picked during the peak of summer. This tea is distinguished by its delicate peach pit flavor. ” Omei is in Taiwan.

There’s a sweetness that is added to food by caramelization, and that same sweetness develops in tea during oxidation. This tea is sweet in a way that is wholly free of flowers or fruit, an inherent deliciousness that keeps me sipping constantly in a way that flavored teas don’t always.

What’s most amazing to me is that the Sow Mee I had bought from English Tea Store last year and this Oolong Choice taste nearly indistinguishable from each other. I went to look up the page for the Sow Mee (at www DOT englishteastore DOT com/1mt-sw.html) and it had this to say: “Sowmee is one of the lower grades of white tea, but despite this it has the properties attributed to white teas. The leaves for Sowmee are plucked during late April, May and June. The lack of processing and hand selection is evident in the leaf appearance of Sowmee as it is somewhat mixed and tending flaky and flat. This Sowmee has a more pronounced taste profile – almost oolong tea-like. Many white tea drinkers prefer this cup in that there is a ‘substance’ to the taste compared to the delicate nuances of other white teas.”

Fascinating. In other words, I can get the same flavor from the “low grade” white as I get from the high grade oolong? The Sowmee is $9.50 for a half pound at English Tea Store, while the Oolong Choice is about twice that at Holy Mountain. I suppose it is like finding a really terrific but inexpensive rioja, while the pinot noir is twice the price.

Knowing me, though, my next order will include a half pound of both. Perhaps further testing is necessary.

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