An aged Oolong dating from 2003, possessing a deep and complex taste of walnut shell and ripe fruit, which evolves with each steep.
Let me preface this review with a disclaimer: this is my all-time favorite tea, so if I begin babbling incoherently halfway through this post, just bear with me and I'll try to pull it together by the end.
While my overall favorite class of oolongs tends to lean towards the heavier roasted and/or medium oxidized family, this one is such a unique standout that it has virtually no competition. This one falls into the odd category of a light-medium roasted, unoxidized oolong (well, oxidized enough to not be a green tea anyway). I first tried this tea nearly a year ago on a whim with an early What-Cha order, and knew immediately I had found a winner. I'm not one to stock up on a single tea (I rarely have more than 50g of anything that isn't a puerh cake), but I'm currently sitting on roughly half a pound of this one.
Dry leaves - Rolled in the traditional Taiwanese way, the leaves have a deep bronze sheen with forest green undertones. They look a lot more roasted than the actually are. I don't know if that's a product of 12 years of age or what, but it certainly looks like it'd be a much darker oolong than it is. The aroma is where this tea begins to take a step above the rest: a wonderful blend of dried herbs, overripe stonefruit, a hint of malt, and deep, rich florals all mingle together to create some of the most unique smelling tea leaves I've ever encountered.
Brewing parameters - 200F, 20s first, 5s second, +5s after. A longer steep at first to wake the leaves up, then short gongfu style steeps after that.
Tasting notes - Overripe stonefruit, black walnut, dried herbs, floral, honey, wheat, minerality
This incredible tea starts out with a rich, full flavor of way overripe fruit. I can't really pin down which fruits in particular, but it makes me think something from the drupe family. Apricot maybe? Or cherries. Maybe strawberries. Ok, those aren't a stonefruit, but whatever. The fruitiness is accompanied by the flavor of dried herbs, most akin to basil and oregano I think, followed closely by a honey sweetness and the distinct flavor of black walnuts. It will take you a few cups to really catch everything that is going on in this tea, because the flavor profile is so complex.
With each progressive steep, the profile changes. I mean, this is true of most teas, but the difference between steeps here is remarkable. As time goes on, the herbal flavor slowly mellows as the walnutty flavor intensifies. The fruitiness mostly stays the same, however, In later steeps, a sweet florality starts to take hold, alongside a mild taste of wheat. Not so much malty, more like a baked bread kind of flavor. Even a trace of minerality pops up in the later steeps, which is fairly unusual for a Taiwanese tea.
As amazing as this tea is, I think the most unique aspect of it is the incredibly long-lasting aftertaste. I've talked about teas here that have a nice aftertaste, but none of them can even touch what this tea brings to the table. The flavor is one of an intense peach blossom and honey, and will hang around in the back of the mouth for nearly an hour after you finish the cup. I really do mean an hour. It's pretty impressive, this tea's staying power.
There, did I make it through without going completely incoherent? If the above is mostly unreadable, here's the TL;DR: buy this tea right now.
You can buy this tea from What-Cha here, and from Mountain Tea here.