Country of Origin: Taiwan
Leaf Appearance: somewhat dark, tightly rolled
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: deep gold
In Taiwan, oolong teas are commonly named after where they are grown rather than for the cultivar or other characteristics. Teas grown at over 1000 meters are considered high mountain oolong, otherwise known as gaoshan. High elevation teas are generally considered to be better quality but they will also carry a heftier price tag than their low grown counterparts. Ideally, a tea vendor should be able to supply this information and more about their offerings.
Songyi Tea is a new find for me that does exactly that. I’ve got a bevy of samples to review, starting off with this medium roast Lishan oolong. A quick glance at their website reveals that it was made from the Qingxing cultivar, otherwise known as “green heart”, at an elevation of 2,300 meters. This is the good stuff! I love that they show specifically where the tea is from, right down to the village. The oxidation level is around 40% which is right where I like it, not too green but not so high that you won’t taste the character of the tea.
The roast was at the forefront for the first few infusions. It had an almost dry toastiness to it that reminded me of unsalted sunflower seeds along with a slightly mineral quality. Hints of nectarine crept in as my session progressed. Some floral notes, orchid in particular, are to be expected of an oolong but this tea was definitely not a flower bomb. They stayed in the background, only complimenting the other flavors and never overpowering them. This tea would be a great choice for those who aren’t into super flowery teas.
The only issue I had was with the recommended steeping directions. Too little leaf and too much water make for a weak cup of tea. Even for a western style brew, 1g per 50ml is not nearly enough for a tightly rolled oolong. I bumped up the leaf volume to my usual 6g in a 150ml gaiwan and the results were much better. This is partly personal preference since I’m a gongfu head but I’d hate to see people miss out on an awesome tea because they followed the recommendations.