Saturday, October 17, 2015

A second Thai Oriental Beauty type, Gui Fei, more on OB names

It just keeps going right, Oriental Beauty variations and story line.  I'll let the Tea Side vendor's background explain this as a starting point:

Semispherical high mountain oolong, bitten tea leaves, lightly roasted, medium fermented, hand picked. In dry leaves Gui Fei can be recognized by the white bloom on the buds in rolled balls. That is why it is also called as Bai Hao oolong (White bloom oolong)....

Gui Fei Oolong or also known as Oriental Beauty Oolong is produced exclusively from the leaves that undergo green wings cicadas bitting, usually in the period of June-July....  They're trying to keep plantations as natural as it possible, don't spray bushes and don't use chemical fertilizers trying not to frighten away the insects.

... Because of growing demand for Oriental Beauty Oolong some chinese farmers has begun to offer quite ordinary tea under the pretence of Gui Fei. You hardly be able to enjoy a nutmeg (muscat) fragrance of real Oriental Beauty brewing such tea. 

Should be notice that Gui Fei oolong is a near relation of a famous Taiwan Peng Feng Oolong tea. Sometimes they call it Champain oolong. Peng Feng in Taiwan is not rolled into balls, it has long twisted shape, and is heavy fermented. But white tea bud must present in any Oriental Beauty.

That sorts out the two sets of Oriental Beauty names, Gui Fei versus Peng Feng, one as rolled-leaf style and the other twisted.

This touches on one issue every tea drinker thinks through at some point: even if tea is marketed as organic, how do we really know chemical fertilizers and pesticides weren't used?  I've ran across a related concern in an article about a specific tea failing tests for chemicals upon import inspection (hard to turn that up though), that mentioned that testing for every possible contaminant in teas would be a real challenge.

I'm not saying that I think drinking tea might be dangerous--maybe there is real risk, maybe not--but given the amount of tea I drink the potential risk is increased, and the idea of going with only "trusted suppliers" may or may not make a lot of difference.  Others even question the value in organic certifications, similar to the questions surrounding fair trade claims; as a consumer it's hard to evaluate effectiveness related to actual practices.

Of course the general claim in Oriental Beauty-style teas is that they are encouraging the insects to eat some of the leaves, so that essentially covers the pesticides concern, to the degree one accepts the claims at least.

This tea did remind me of the last Oriental Beauty version I reviewed, and I guess next to get to how different, what the tea was like.  Per the vendor:   honey, forest berries, flowers... you can find almost everything.  It did have nice character and good complexity.

Review part:

This tea was relatively more oxidized as rolled-ball oolongs go, although judging from the character and color of the leaves perhaps slightly less oxidized than the last Oriental Beauty reviewed.  It brewed to a redder color so that one indicator of oxidation level was a bit mixed, possibly related to it being from a different plant type.  The distinctive flavor element was grape (along the lines of the muscat reference), so it did remind me a little of a Darjeeling profile, just situated in a very different style of tea, so nothing like that.  

The spice tones were a bit more diminished than in the other Oriental Beauty I'd just tried, the fruit a little stronger, still sweet, but less of the light floral tones.  I'd agree the grape element did span a range of berry flavors but maybe also towards fig, so a little heavier.  

The spice tone was again towards a cinnamon or cocoa, but different, I guess maybe a little like nutmeg.  But to me nutmeg is not really a simple flavor element on it's own, lots going on with nutmeg.  There was also a mineral component, so lots going on with this tea.

 nice and red for an oolong

The body of the tea was different, which gets harder to describe than the flavor lists.  The other tea had an unusual presentation of astringency, so it came across as a slightly dry feel, but this related more to feeling rich and full.  

 I kept thinking of how different aspects related to different teas, with tastes components familiar in others.  The richness reminded me of a favorite rolled ball oolong from Vietnam, and the body was really a bit unique.  Depending on how it stacked up against personal preferences it might be a favorite, at the least an interesting, complex, balanced, tea. 

1 comment:

  1. Glad to see this second article, and with OB being an easy favorite for my newbie palate will be looking forward to trying this. Like your point about less worry of pesticides with OB.