Sunday, December 13, 2015

Verdant Tea's November Tea Club - Wuyi Oolongs

Going to try something a bit different here. I received my first box from Verdant's tea club recently, and rather than review each tea separately, I'll post a slightly abridged review for each tea here. At least then this blog will have some sense of organization. I mean, I like to think it does anyway.

This month's theme are all Wuyi oolongs from Li Xiangxi's farm in Tongmu, Wuyishan in the northern slice of Fujian. They are all new to Verdant's site and were just posted a day or two before I received my box. All were brewed gongfu style with 5-6g of leaf in roughly 120ml of water.

Bai Ji Guan
Brewing parameters - 185F, 5s first, +3s after
This is the greenest of the five oolongs, and one of the most unique Wuyi oolongs I've had thus far. All Wuyi oolongs are fairly heavily oxidized, but this one falls on the low end of that spectrum. The leaves are a mottled bright green, yellow and deep burgundy and smell strongly of florality and minerality.

A quick 5 second steep in 120ml of water, and these leaves produce a light pale green soup that emits a wonderful floral/mineral/vegetal aroma, most reminiscent of cherry blossom and honey with the classic Wuyi minerality. Cherry blossom and lotus come through prominently in the taste, followed by sesame seeds, mineral, and just a tinge of honey.

Bai Rui Xiang
Brewing parameters - 208F, 5s first, +3s after

Wuyi oolong #2 is a much darker variety than the Bai Ji Guan. The Bai Rui Xiang leaves range from dark green to flat black, and smell of vanilla, incense spices and minerality.

As soon as the water hits the leaves, a wonderful tangy aroma arises. It's still distinctly Wuyi, but it delivers an citrusy, spicy lily, and almost jasmine aroma. If the tea liquor is anything like the aroma, I'm sold.

And the tea does not disappoint. The broth is wonderfully complex and brings notes of vanilla, mineral, cream, and lily florality, all with a slightly roasty overtone. It mellows out gradually with each steep, and the vanilla and cream elements take over the forefront of the sip.

Huang Mei Gui
Brewing parameters - 208F, 5s first, +3s after

The darkest oolong so far. The aroma of the dry leaves is significantly less pungent than the previous two, but release a mellow infusion of rose, minerality, and roastiness. The leaves are a dark flat brown and mostly uniform in color.

The leaves create a light amber brew that is highly floral, but still much heavier than the last two. Rose, nectarine, barley, mineral, and roastiness all combine into one to make a mellow, yet flavorful brew. I was able to detect a hint of raw cacao coming out in the later infusions as well. While this is still a great tea that I thoroughly enjoyed, I think it's probably the least unique of the group. It's fairly similar to what you'd expect from a mellow Qi Lan.

Mei Zhan
Brewing parameters - 208F, 5s first, +3s after

I've been looking forward to this one for a while now. Not really sure why, it just piqued my interest for some reason. The dry leaves are almost as dark as the Huang Mei Gui, but are slightly larger and less uniform in size. They also have a similar aroma, but more pungent, mixing sweet orchid, mineral and roastiness.

Wow, this one is aromatic. The smell of thick, sweet orchid and rose blends with roasted almonds to fill the room. The taste is just as wonderful, with the roasted almonds taking the lead, followed by a smooth creaminess and just a touch of florality and grain at the finish. The soup was surprisingly less floral than the aroma, and the minerality isn't as strong as the previous teas.

Fo Shou
Brewing parameters - 208F, 5s first, +3s after
The fifth and final tea from this box, and also somewhat of an outlier from the other four. The thick and chunky leaves don't have much special in the way of aroma, but they are easily twice the size of any of these other teas.

The taste contains a woody element that I hesitate to call cherry, but it's something in that neighborhood. Rosewood maybe? I'm not familiar with that taste, but it reminds me of rose, but without the cloying florality. It is accompanied by vanilla, cinnamon and only a bit of roastiness, while the minerality is the weakest in this tea. I can also detect a slight fruity aftertaste as well.

These are all excellent teas, and if you missed out on the club this month, you can still pick up each of these from Verdant's website (click the name of each tea above for a direct link). I think my favorite of the bunch was the Bai Ji Guan, simply because of the green uniqueness of it.

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