Friday, November 27, 2015

Jin Xuan Taiwanese oolong from May Zest tea, and more about cultivars

One thing I haven't had much luck with is writing a simple review; just saying how a tea struck me and moving on.  I tend to get stuck on research tangents, a tea reminding me of something to look into, like the last post related to cultivar types from Taiwan.  But I'll try to do that for this post; keep it simple.

Seems odd to be reviewing a Jin Xuan oolong (this one provided by May Zest tea; my thanks to them for that) given that I just went on in the last post about how I'm burned out on lightly oxidized oolongs, due to trying too many of them this year, sorting out Thai tea sources.

This was a nice tea though, for what it is, and at least it should be easy to compare it to lots of other examples.  I might add first that this tea type (plant type, and processing type) is relatively consistent, with less range than for some between an ordinary example of the tea and a really good one, and it's more rare to run across a "bad version," although I definitely have before.

looks like a lightly oxidized rolled oolong

Review section:

Nice, creamy, soft, and a bit floral.  "Creamy" is the distinctive characteristic for this tea type, and it's prevalent in this one.  People actually say "milky," and the effect is sort of like that, a feel or even taste like milk.  One hears of artificially flavored versions that bring that out even more through additives but I'm fairly certain such things are rare here (meaning where I live now; South East Asia), maybe because it's already present in the tea, not necessary.  Or maybe just because they run behind in how to doctor up teas.  The taste is very clean and natural, consistent across infusions, with the normal range of variation through them; it seems quite unlikely it was adjusted in any way.

The tea has an unusually prevalent sweet-corn flavor element, along with the typical floral components (which I'm not good at separating out, as I'm mentioned, not up on memorizing those to describe them separately).  In later infusions a stronger mineral undertone comes out and that bright sweetness diminishes a little, and the tea drifts from sweet and floral towards a light wood aspect, but the tea is still consistent, and pleasant.

For people really into Jin Xuan it's a good example of the type.  Better than Thai versions?  Maybe, a little, in general, but sort of the same at the same time.  Terroir and processing changes teas but Jin Xuan is pretty consistent as tea types go, or at least decent versions tend to be.

That sweet corn element reminded me of a comment by a tea-friend that better Tie Kuan Yin she'd tried was really floral and sweet, and more mid-range versions tasted more like sweet corn.  I was wondering if maybe that's because they were really Jin Xuan, but of course I'm not trying to imply they were, just mentioning that as a possibility.  Seems more likely than this really being Tie Kuan Yin somehow, but different examples of the same types do vary.

So this is really where tea reviews tend to go; I've described a tea, no rambling on about some background research.  It seems a little sparse.  Why even bother to have read this, since a lot of other teas taste a good bit like this (although again it is a pretty decent version).

Maybe this type isn't so common if you don't live in a country that grows and produces it.  If this were someone's favorite tea it could be very interesting, and if someone loves oolongs and somehow never tried a Jin Xuan from Taiwan--odd as that would seem--they really probably ought to.  This vendor sells other tea types so it would be possible to try something from them that is a bit less conventional, at least typical from my perspective since they mostly grow Jin Xuan in Thailand, and perhaps nice to try this one as well.

Here is the vendor's take on it; nothing I'd disagree with:

Jin Xuan Tea was put forward to market by Taiwan Tea Experiment Station in 1981. The file no.of successfully bred seed is 12 (experimental code no. 2027). Its flavor has a kind of milk fragrance. Through baking, its flavor turns into fragrance of cane sugar or candy. These are all natural fragrances without artificial spice. The leaf size of Ginshan Tea is wider and bigger than that of Oolong Tea, and its edge has the form of zigzag.

The main leaf vein almost forms straight angle against branch leaf veins. The upper height limit for growing Ginshan Tea is 1600 meter above the sea. As its resistance to cold is weaker than that of Oolong Tea, this height is the altitude limit.  As for quality, the output from over 1200 meter is excellent in both flavor and tasting. 

leaves, as they described

Cultivar research section:

Right, this is the part I wasn't going to include.  Two different people gave a lot of great input related to that last post, Thomas Smith, who I'd mentioned, and the Tea Side company owner.  One part of that is a better reference chart of cultivars and tea types from Taiwan, which I'll add here.

The terms get a bit slippery, seemingly used in different ways in different places, but the basic plant types seems to be one thing, derived through prior ordinary plant cross-breeding practices, then later hybrids seem to be referred to as cultivars.  This reference just calls types "germplasms," which works for me.

Perfect!  Jin Xuan is #12 on that list; no controversy over that.  But what about other plant types that aren't those hybrids?  Here you go:

So there it is!  There are a few details to tie together yet, and it doesn't resolve all the cases of multiple names, but this is a lot more to go on than I've seen before.  I wrote a post once about traditional Thai flavored tea, and semi-wild versions of tea plants.  There has been plenty of debate over that in different places, but since tea has been cultivated for about six millenia the "wild" plants are simply not well tended now, not exactly wild in the sense of not previously tended by people, per a conventional take.  The overlap with research in that blog post isn't clear but there are lots of types those might relate to listed here.  It could relate to those listed as "Shan" tea types, but that would just be a guess.

On to those loose ends then; more about the rest that appears in this table.  This is a reminder about the name of that agency changing, from the last post:

Before 2003 it was called TTES (Taiwan Tea Research Station). 
Since 2003 it's TRES (Tea Research and Extension Station).

On those species / varieties mentioned, the abbreviations in that column:

S:     C. sinensis  var. sinensis, 
A:    C. sinensis var. assamica
SA:  C. sinensis var. sinensis × var. assamica hybrid
AS:  C. sinensis var. assamica × var. assamica hybrid 

F:     C. formosensis
FY:  C. formosensis var. yungkangensis

Wow, right.  That last part is about a different species of the camellia genus--if I'm using those terms right--so not really a tea plant, but related to it.

Oddly enough I just read the same general idea in a Steep Stories blog post on the exact same day, yesterday.  In that case it was about  Lao Shu Dian Hong, a species Camellia taliensis plant used to make something similar to black tea.  So I guess that would be another version of a related-plant oxidized-leaf "tisane."

One column had initials for countries too:  TW - Taiwan, IN - India, CN - China, TH - Thailand, MM - Myanmar.

And then some recommended types:  G green tea, P Paochong tea, O oolong tea, B black tea.

Fascinating stuff, at least to me.  I'll have to get back to what the "Paochong" reference relates to later.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting thoes tables! One more thing that may confuse: Cultivars are sometimes transcribed different depending on source. E.g. "Ying-Jy-Horng-Shin" is also known as "Ying Zhi Hong Xin" (hard stem red heart).