Thursday, June 30, 2016

Trident Booksellers Long Feng Xia, compared to two other oolongs


I recently tried the last tea sent by Trident Booksellers (surely a decent place to try a cup of tea in Boulder, Colorado) as an extension of discussing teas with their knowledgeable tea procurer, Peter.

This Long Feng Xia lightly oxidized Taiwanese oolong was great, a very nice example of the type, and really of Taiwanese oolongs in general.  I'm too new to tea to place it in relation to other Long Feng Xia oolongs, since I'm only three years into making an obsession of tea, so to help place it I'll mention a couple of other teas that I've recently tried, Thai and Chinese oolongs.  The styles aren't so similar, with the point being to identify the variances through comparison.

Long Feng Xia review




The tea is lightly oxidized, as it was described (winter 2015 top-grade light oolong). The first taste relates to a normal lighter oolong profile, with a couple of exceptional characteristics.  The basic tastes are mineral and floral with a bit of vegetal scope, complex with different elements that integrate well together.  There is a notable fullness to the feel of the tea and a nice sweetness.  That mineral element is a bit hard to place, maybe in between granite and slate.  There's just a bit of butter, different than the expression of butter in a Jin Xuan, which can be stronger.

The floral element is more subtle and integrated than those sometimes come across.  I'm not so great with floral scent memory but the range might be lotus, sweet and rich, a little subdued but a nice complement to the other flavors.  It's hard to fully appreciate but there are no negative flavor aspects, no apparent flaws in the tea, and it all really balances and works.

A green vegetal flavor element gives the flavor range a fullness that reminds me of a Japanese green tea, just at a much lower level, the umami aspect.  It's not a principle component of the tea flavor or experience profile, but that bit of extra range stands out when tasting it initially.  After just a few sips it seems familiar and not so noticeable.  That component joins with the mineral tones in this tea, and doesn't extend to accompany seaweed or other vegetal aspects as might be associated with it in Japanese green teas.

Is that general point clear?  Umami is a savory taste, picked up by the tongue, overlapping quite a bit with MSG (it's an effect from glutamates; MSG is mono-sodium glutamate, one of those).  I wrote a lot more on that in reviewing a Japanese Gyokuro green tea (from Trident, as it worked out) in an earlier post.  Other vegetal flavors can seem to pair up with it, since seaweed and Japanese teas can express a common range related to umami and also other separate vegetal taste elements, more like spinach, but really most like seaweed (which of course is circular, saying that seaweed tastes like seaweed).

Brewed a little stronger the vegetal elements really stand out, and the flavor shifts a little towards sweet corn, towards a typical Tie Kuan Yin range.  Of course there is no astringency in the sense of other tea types, just a bit to give it a full feel and a hint of dryness.  After some infusions the taste gets richer yet and softer, with the fullness remaining, and after many more some of the aspects fade while the mineral element stays strong.


Compared to two other lightly oxidized oolongs



I've been trying to get in the habit of writing simpler, more basic reviews, and that would have been one place to leave off.  But it sounded a little to me like I was describing a standard high-mountain lightly oxidized Taiwanese oolong, without the full effect of how such a tea really comes across.  I've been drinking a couple of other lighter oolongs that will help place everything that goes right in setting up that standard experience, which really only typical in better examples, so maybe atypical.  These other teas just happen to be from Thailand and China, so not exactly comparing apples to apples, but the point is more about traits that come up, that compare or contrast.


I picked up a Thai Jin Xuan in passing very recently, the kind of thing I usually try not to do, since without proper version screening that tends to lead to an ordinary tea experience.  But I was at a local Chinese elementary school where we might send my daughter for pre-school, and they had a small Chinese cultural center or sorts, and I couldn't resist.  My wife reminded me that I tried the tea before (my son did a Chinese-theme summer camp there awhile back) and said it was so-so, and indeed it is.


It's typical for Thai Jin Xuan to have a bright, sweet, floral nature, with a distinctive buttery flavor aspect.  Better examples have nice clean flavors, and some degree of fullness, and worse examples just taste off.  This is in the middle, with an unusual wood-tone aspect dominating the flavor profile.  There isn't so much butter to it but under that there is a nice honey sweetness, which shows up better in smelling the empty cup than it does in tasting the tea.


Jin Xuan, but the label is in Thai and Chinese

It has a floral element, a bit soft and subdued, maybe along the lines of a light lavender, a bit less "bright" a floral component than many lightly oxidized oolongs exhibit.  It's not bad but it doesn't really fully come together; it doesn't click.  To use this as comparison for the Long Feng Xia, it's hard to fully appreciate that clean presentation of complex, positive taste aspects that does balance well, but easy to notice the lack of all that.


I've recently been drinking Tie Kuan Yin that Tea Village provided, one of the nicest vendors in Thailand, along with teas I ordered.  Tie Kuan Yin could get some negative exposure for showing up as a commonly available oolong, for turning up in grocery stores, but it comes in a range of different quality levels.  It's a plant type grown in Taiwan, China, and Thailand, maybe the most commonly seen prepared in a lighter style (although here Jin Xuan is more common).   This version is from the Anxi area in China, the origin best known for this tea type. The best examples have an amazing floral sweetness that words couldn't really do justice to, in bright tones like orchid.  Mid-range versions can also be very nice, as this one was.


nice and bright green

This version stood out for being very clean and bright, and relatively sweet.  The primary taste was closer to sweet corn, mixed with a vegetal element like fresh sugar snap peas or fresh green beans.  That doesn't sound as nice as it comes across, like nice fresh versions, nothing like frozen vegetables.  That clean, bright effect is really what the Jin Xuan was missing, relating to the effect and general quality level that such teas should have.  The other Taiwanese oolong was really on the next level, different in character, but also adding complexity, structure, full feel, and more subtle taste components to it, in addition to a lot of mineral range.


I guess to some extent this maps back onto a warning about sourcing, something along the lines of "you get what you pay for." Or maybe it's just that you can only trust sources to the extent that they actually try to find and sell you better teas.  Some random stall in a traditional market here is a gamble (not where I bought this Jin Xuan, but that has come up, with mixed results), with more consistency in shops you already know.  Finding rare, better teas doesn't really work well by chance, unless you happen to be in the place those are made, and even then maybe not.  Tea quality doesn't necessarily map directly back to cost but tea producers and vendors tend to sell teas for going market rates.  That Tie Kuan Yin was nice, for what it was, but I'd have rather paid twice as much for the Jin Xuan to get a better tea.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Twinings, on location in Bangkok


Twinings had a booth downstairs in our office building this week (in Empire Tower in Sathorn, Bangkok), so I stopped by to see what they are selling.  I'd assume that anyone reading this knows what teas they sell, for the most part, but I'll go into that anyway, before mentioning how the booth experience went.



The company is known for making standard loose teas and tea bag teas, per the Wikipedia article in particular associated with Earl Grey.  I ran across reference to them selling an interesting sounding specialty tea recently, Grey Dragon oolong from Dewata estate in Indonesia (sort of the page I've been on for awhile, Indonesian teas).  It's a little odd that they claim that tea is produced exclusively for them when you can find other vendors selling it online, but all the same it shows there is more to them than Earl Grey and teas like Darjeeling only described as "Darjeeling."

They also have a nice looking cafes in Central World (a Bangkok mall).  Oddly according to an article one was the first such boutique shop ran by them (a cafe, more or less), opened in 2012 and still the only such version in 2014.  Those cafes aren't really for me since I have no interest in "high tea," drinking ordinary versions of teas along with little sandwiches or macaroons; I'm just into tea.

Anyway, they're better known for tea bag teas and loose teas that one might describe as "mid-range," which would really mean different things to different people.  But at least it is nice that loose teas are sold in grocery stores, with other options for decent, low cost Thai oolong in different places.  My own adopted project is more about promoting tea awareness than rejecting ordinary grade teas as unacceptable, although lots of people take "tea enthusiasm" that way, establishing their own status and knowledge by distancing themselves from anything remotely conventional.

I'm just not on board with ordinary teas enough to actually buy their tea, usually.  I've tried their Earl Grey and Lady Grey, and they aren't bad, but the English Breakfast tea one would do well to pass on.

On-site display at my office building


I work in a large modern office building in Sathorn, a building that extends to around 50 floors high, potentially holding a few thousand office staff, so different types vending and displays do come up.  There is one tea-themed shop in the building, related to a vendor I've reviewed before, Peony, it's just not really for me.  To place the context for that, they focus on tea blends (the type of tea I just said might be ok, a bit inconsistent), and they don't even sell loose tea at this branch.

The Twinings booth looked fine, with a focus on selling pyramid-style tea bags of loose teas, mostly blends.  I sort of get where that approach is coming from, trying to find a middle ground between selling dust in paper packets and real loose tea.  I'd like to see the hurdle of people putting dried leaves in hot water cleared a little more frequently than it seems to be now.


display tea bags to see and smell; cool, just not so functional



None of those blends on display sounded really exceptional but I tried a rose-petal blended black tea.  It was ok, a nice combination, if a bit nondescript.  Not enough taste came across to get a feel for what kind of black tea it was but the taste range was fine.  I probably drank that after three to three and a half minutes of brew time, the right amount of time for other sets of brewing parameters, but one more minute would have helped bring it to normal strength given the tea was crowded into the space of a tea bag.  Of course decent normal black tea can express a broad range of complexity without flower petals added, usually more related to malt, fruit, cocoa, or spice, but rose works as an addition when taking a different approach.


I did buy a "Lady Grey" variation of a loose-tea Earl Grey (bergamot orange flavored black tea, but with some flowers mixed in), since they had that on sale.  It was in part to drink and also to share with co-workers.  It's not bad, as long as one is fine with that type of tea to begin with.  It's not the best naturally flavored tea I've tried, and if they were selling conventional Earl Grey there I'd have probably went with that instead, but it strikes a decent balance and doesn't taste artificial.  It cost 220 baht for 100 grams of tea (more typically sold for around 350 here), equivalent to about $7.  For perspective, that's a little over what a Starbucks drink would cost here, or maybe two of the smallest plain coffees they sell, or the same as a half-dozen powdered-tea drinks.


loose tea!  it's a start

What would I do differently, related to a tea display booth?  It's already obvious, isn't it?  They had no loose tea for people to try, and almost nothing relating to those tea bags in single-type tea (only a sencha wasn't a blend).  I could see why promoting teas that seems to me the natural gateway to loose teas, lightly oxidized oolongs, may not work so well since mid-range oolong versions are the main type of tea produced in Thailand, or at least the by far most common type to find available for purchase.  But I don't think this was a case of Twinings marketing staff over-thinking other market options, but rather them not really thinking like a tea enthusiast, or a potential tea drinker.


The state of tea in Bangkok


One might wonder, what's the point of even mentioning this in a tea blog?  If the state of tea in Thailand is bubble tea and Twinings, with the other cafes and Chinatown shop exceptions I've already mentioned in lots of posts (and that one shop in Thanya Park, Tea Dee Zhang), why keep repeating that?  How can we move on?

I talked with the owner of a new cafe in Ekamai about that, Seven Suns about that in this post, and his idea was to encourage gradual tea awareness through sales of blends, and to offer unique blends that draw on Traditional Chinese Medicine practices to be healthier than plain teas.  They do sell decent loose tea there too, China Life products, definitely the next level up from Twinings, closer to the range of what I usually drink.  I've been onto even more interesting teas than that lately, versions that aren't at all easy to find, which I've also mentioned in lots of posts.

Maybe this is just how it goes; a couple of new cafes will open every year and tea will never really "take off" here, but the number of people aware of decent tea will keep growing.  Thai Facebook tea groups can have thousands of members but for the most part better loose tea is a non-issue, even in businesses with "tea" in their name.  Even in the few local cafes selling decent tea the staff don't always seem to get the basics, like knowing that you can steep loose tea for more than one infusion.

powdered tea from Myanmar; a first for me


Related to popular options, what people are drinking instead, I tried a powdered instant tea from Myanmar someone left in the break room recently.  It wasn't so bad, it's just nothing like brewed tea, with way too much sugar artificial creamer.  It had a nice smoky element, somewhere between campfire and ashtray, which worked better than it sounds.  But whoever owns that won't have to worry about me drinking it.


Local online-weekly articles keep saying "we love tea in Bangkok now"--and they did get around to mentioning Seven Suns in that one--but half the time they're talking about "high tea," more about sandwiches and cakes.  One doesn't get the impression that they know their Tie Kuan Yin from a Da Hong Pao, or Sencha from Longjing, and those aren't obscure Chinese tea names (and of course one is a Japanese tea).  It's like not knowing what India pale ale is, related to the traditional practice and modern interest in better beer, and people here don't know about that either, in general.


Trip Advisor reviews have only good things to say about that Twinings boutique, but it's still only #42 of coffee and tea shops in Bangkok.  But you couldn't even buy brewed loose tea at most of the places on that list, since most are just coffee shops.  Tea has a long way to go here.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Xin Ren Dan Cong from Cindy Chen compared to Wu Mei Indonesian oolong


I compared the Wu Mei oolong from Toba Wangi, in Indonesia, to a Dan Cong flavor profile in this blog post, and followed up with a more recent tasting comparison with an actual Dan Cong (of course a type of Chinese oolong).   This tea is from Cindy Chen, my favorite Wuyishan Yancha oolong maker, but since she has family in Chaozhou, and also helps make that other tea, I bought some from her a few months back.  I'm not as far into exploring Dan Congs as some other tea types but from what I have tasted the teas deserve their place as one of the classic oolong types, and I really did like this one.

Before getting into those teas I might mention that you can now buy the Toba Wangi teas from What-Cha, per my judgment a great value for the pricing I just saw, so that tea might not be around long.  I just wrote some notes on the Gold Needle black version so I'll get around to writing about it soon enough as well.

that's it in the basket!  or leaves in that region, at least (and Cindy)


In discussion Cindy described that oolong as follows:

[The tea plant type] is named juduozai(锯朵仔), the aroma of that is xin ren xiang (xinren means nut, xiang means aroma), dancong the original meaning is single bushes.


More on naming conventions follows in a later section here.  In other references this type is referred to as "almond," and Cindy also agreed that is her understanding of the translation.  The tea didn't have so much almond aspect, it seemed to me, but I'll get back to that too.  Cindy has been posting interesting pictures of tea processing on her Facebook page lately, and posting some videos of the same on YouTube (probably more from Wuyishan, but most basic steps would look similar).

Juduozai / Xin Ren Xiang Dan Cong, from Cindy


I tried her Dan Cong alone, then later tried both teas together in comparison (hers and the Indonesian oolong). They seemed quite similar related to some aspects and flavor profile, especially related to one distinctive floral flavor element.  The astringency is much different, with mild astringency common to Dan Cong types not showing up in the Wu Mei.

That element would be familiar to many, but to give a description it's nothing like the bite that comes across similar to bitterness in a lot of black teas (although it's really a feel and not a taste, so not actually  bitterness).  It's more like the slight crisp feel that comes with fruit that isn't completely ripe, nothing intense, and not tied to a body / structure of a tea as much as can come across in black teas, more a background element.  Some could see it as very positive, nicely offsetting the aromatic and sweet character, and when the balance is right it can be complimentary.

Both are very aromatic and sweet, and flavor aspects in general in the range of floral, but also with a bit of fruit character.  Dan Cong are known for coming in distinct flavor styles, so for these an implication might be that they should taste like just one thing (in this case, almond, to some extent).  In contrast other teas can be seen as better for expressing a range of flavor,  or at least one runs across such impressions in review or marketing descriptions of teas that read as lists (although vendors typically tend to err on the side of not saying much).  Both teas share one common and predominant taste, which may or may not relate to honey orchid, although that seems likely, at least a close similarity.

The Dan Cong was obviously a very nice tea, bright and sweet, aromatic, with a nice feel and general effect.  The flavors came across as quite clean, mostly that sweet floral element and also fruit, like a ripe sweet plum.  Maybe it tasted a little like almonds.  My impression of that Indonesian tea wasn't so different, but I was surprised in the number of differences when comparing the two.

Wu Mei oolong from Toba Wangi


The Wu Mei had a different roast effect that was hardly noticeable when tasted at different times, but on direct comparison something was quite different (just not easy to pin down how, since the oxidation and level of roast didn't seem so different).   I hadn't noticed it before but traces of character of green tea came across in the Wu Mei, a faint hint of vegetal character and slight earthiness, maybe towards the range of wood, and the flavors weren't quite as clean.  It absolutely doesn't come across as muddled when you drink it alone, maybe more the opposite, it's rather that minor differences stand out in side by side tasting.


I was really comparing two different versions of the Wu Mei, when I tasted both teas together brewed Gongfu style (with a high proportion of tea to water, very short infusions, etc.), and prepared using a hybrid Western / Gongfu style the week before.  Made that other way I had used longer brewing times, but still limited, maybe in the two minute range, and generally prepared stronger than in the direct comparison Gongfu-prepared version.


I did brew both a little stronger on one infusion during that comparison to see how that changed the aspects.  The Dan Cong was taken over by that astringency, so although rich and positive flavors were still there it didn't work as well.  In contrast the feel and effect of the Wu Mei is soft and full, sort of juicy, but with no bite, so when brewed stronger even more sweetness came out, not countered by additional astringency.



So oddly the two teas both worked out best at different brewed strengths.  Brewed lightly, which would be standard for a lot of people, especially related to the Dan Cong style, the refinement and intensity of the Dan Cong really stood out, but what some could interpret as negative aspects came across in the Wu Mei.  Brewed stronger the astringency started to impact the general effect of the Dan Cong,  and  positive aspects of the Wu Mei really started to crowd out anything remotely negative, with sweetness and floral notes coming to the fore.  Without any astringency to offset them the Wu Mei picked up even more flavor intensity and sweetness.


Both are awesome teas, just different.  The Dan Cong seemed a little more refined, in comparison, but for someone that liked their tea brewed stronger the Wu Mei could work better.  I didn't notice lots of flavor transition in either to focus on as a positive aspect, or something to be concerned about missing out on, but comparison tasting adds that much more to keep track of, and I'll probably get around to noticing more about that later.

I tried Cindy's version again, this time specifically trying to identify how much it did or didn't taste like almonds, since I wasn't really "getting" that aspect.  I decided to use a hybrid brewing style of more water to tea and substantially longer than the 10 to 15 seconds typical for Gongfu brewing range, which ended up changing the flavor profile a lot.  Part of the idea behind that was to see how it compared with the Wu Mei prepared this other way.  

Of course a trace flavor element seemed to resemble nuts, which could have been possible with lots of teas if someone is looking for that.  It was more notable that the different brewing style shifted the mild astringency bite to more of a tartness, from a light feel aspect to coming across more as a flavor element.  Strange.  It still seemed predominantly floral to me, just better brewed the other way, using what I understand as the standard Dan Cong approach, short infusions with off-boiling-point temperature water (although I have ran across variations related to the water temperature part).

I certainly wouldn't recommend cold brewing the Dan Cong (it seems insulting to the tea to even bring that up), but it does work really well to use that approach to get an extra infusion or two after normal brewing.  Both of these teas are difficult to completely "brew out," since they both just keep going, and cold brewing leaves that have already been steeped a number of times results in a full flavored and sweet version with almost no astringency.  Both teas are great cold; the bright, sweet freshness really stands out.  It would seem odd to me to only brew them that way, straight to cold brewing, but it should really work.

Research section:



a commercial version I reviewed last year

I've written about Dan Cong style teas before (including a post with some background here), with lots of secondary references about the type.  I'll mention a couple to save some clicking around; this one by Hojo tea really stands out, and this Tea Obsession post by Imen on Dan Cong naming is as good as such references seem to get.  Anyone really obsessed with this tea type should give special attention to that last blog, since I've heard that author referred to as the queen of Dan Cong.  She still sells tea, with her shop linked to that blog (Tea Habitat), she's just out of the blog writing habit.


I'll mention a few more references since they tie to points I've already brought up here.


Related to the almond taste, this reference by "the Chinese Tea Company" describes their version as:

notes of toasted nuts and ripe tropical fruits like mango and peach are revealed over many infusions and without bringing too much sweetness.



Too much sweetness?  How would that work?  Interesting they describe the tea as much more fruity than floral.  The tea picture looks a lot more like a Wuyi Yancha, very dark tea, not twisted as tightly as Dan Cong often seem to be.  One JK Tea Shop version looks like one would expect of Dan Cong, described as:

full, rich, deep natural almond aroma & taste, with light honey mixed with strong almond taste in the mouth; complex mouth feeling after sipping the tea liquid and deep throat feeling. 


So no word on fruit or floral for that version, just nuts and honey, like a granola bar; sounds ok.  I'm not saying those teas don't taste or smell a lot like almonds, but it occurs to me that anyone selling an "almond aroma" Dan Cong would be inclined to emphasize that it tastes like almonds.


A Canton Tea Xin Ren Dan Cong description by Geoffrey Norman, one of my favorite tea bloggers, author of Steep Stories, describes one particular version as follows:

This was what I thought of when the word “Dan Cong” came to mind. The flavor was tart, nutty, sweet, and with just a smidge of butter on the fringe.



That article talks about background and a few different teas so it's worth a read if the type is of interest.  I'm not sure some point related to identifying consistency across the specific Xin Ren Xiang type comes across in these descriptions, but they all sound nice, and different, at least per the descriptions.


Lately I've been watching some China Life YouTube videos (a vendor, with videos also referring to Don Mei teas), and two really interesting versions related to Dan Congs.  This post, Understanding Dancong, provides an introduction to the type, explaining what the literal "single bush" meaning Cindy mentioned is all about, with lots of video of the plants growing, being harvested, and of processing.  If you only watch one video introduction to this oolong type you could do a lot worse.

This video by Don on Tasting Four Dancongs was interesting for using a blind tasting format to review four different individual Dang Cong types.  It's not set up to compare and contrast those types since the premise of the clip is a blind-tasting review, with them trying to pick out which is which, but it makes for an interesting video, and includes lots of commentary.



I'm short on there being a central point or narrative theme to all this, aside from those being interesting references about the general type.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Chaidim Thai vendor update, about a Thai Oriental Beauty and Qingxin


I just met Nedim Behar, the owner of the Chaidim tea company, last Saturday at the Bangkok tea expo (World of Coffee and Tea, which I just posted about) but I'm already writing an update.  It turns out that he does on-location sales, and one location was on the commute home, so I stopped by to talk more about tea, and maybe to pick up that Dong Ding I mentioned but didn't get to.


Chaidim overview


I already mentioned it, but they sell "regular" teas, Thai oolongs, as well as tisanes / herb teas and some blends.  I had tried a Thai Dong Ding-style tea I really liked, a medium roasted oolong made in the style of some Taiwanese teas.  Dong Ding is both the name of a mountain in the Nantou area and used as a general reference for a tea type (although not everyone is probably into that last part, borrowing a narrowly defined regional name as a type-name convention).


It turns out I was trying a better Dong Ding tea, not their ordinary commercial version.  I had tried that second, more mass-produced version in a tea-bag preparation, and it was pretty good, in a closely related style, just not as good as I'd remembered.  We tried two more really interesting teas during this second visit, again not the kind they sell in the prepared boxes, or in any substantial volume, since they don't make a lot of these.  So this post isn't going to work well for that kind of marketing write-up, but it's not about that.


Nedim also makes teas, or takes part in the process, which is why they are making these small-batch, interesting styles of teas.  We also tried a Thai Oriental Beauty, a nice tea.  Of course I've written about at least two other versions, possibly three, with the curled-leaf style types sold by Teaside and Tea Village being essentially the same general style as the one we tried.  I'll get back to what that tea and a second type was like.


His business model is an interesting one, selling boxed, packaged teas through other outlets, and also presenting teas on location, as at that tea Expo, or on-site this week at the Central Food Hall in Chitlom, in the grocery store in that mall.  It's like having a store that moves around; sounds effective, but sounds like lots of work.

Reviewing two teas


They don't ordinarily sell these two teas I'll mention, so odd to be writing about them, but figuring out what better Thai teas are out there is one of my interests.


The Oriental Beauty wasn't so different than those other versions I've tried:  sweet, with an interesting character, heading towards a bit of spice or maybe even citrus.  The smell of the brewed leaf was a lot like chocolate, not just cocoa, but actual prepared chocolate (which I guess would add scent components related to cocoa butter to that of cocoa powder, since sugar doesn't really have a smell).  There must have been a little cocoa in the flavor profile to but it was subtle, folded into the rest. 


It's tempting to compare it to those other two Thai Oriental Beauty teas, although of course there is a limitation in comparing across months of time (the last review was in March).  In part that's what these blog posts are for, to supplement my own memory, and to keep pictures and links organized, so I'll compare against both memory and summary, it just won't work as well as side-by-side tends to.


Those two others seemed consistent enough to refer to them as the same tea, which they might have been.  They both might have been a little sweeter, with a bit more fruit showing up, peach in addition to a mild citrus, maybe a little more cinnamon / cocoa.  I guess since I've not really described them much differently I'm saying they might have been a little more intense, not so unusual for nicer Oriental Beauty versions, to really "pop."  They were all pretty close in style, not so different in effect, and all in a nice range to be in, typical for Oriental Beauty.  This latest tea was obviously not the same since it looked different, like an Oriental Beauty, just with leaves a bit less curled, in between what I've seen of OB and some Bai Mu Dan styles.


Nedim had two other teas there, more limited production higher end tea versions, again typical Thai versions of original Taiwanese oolongs, both based on that county's developed hybrid plant types and replicating the related styles.  He had a Chin Shin (more commonly called Qingxin, maybe, the Chinese version of transliteration versus the one Taiwan still uses) and a # 17 Bai Lu.  Tea from this plant type is more typically and incorrectly sold as Ruan Zhi in Thailand (not really the standard name for that type, per some additional review, not that it's easy to come to one right answer).  If someone is interested I wrote more about those plant types here and  here, with much better references about Taiwanese cultivars referenced than one ever sees.  Chin Shin / Qingxin is used to make Dong Ding, but according to this reference also Alishan and a number of other types:


one cultivar reference version, but none are really the final word



We tried the Qingxin (I'm pretty sure, although I guess it's possible I've mixed that up, just seems unlikely).  So basically this was the same as the two different versions of Thai Dong Ding I'd just tried of theirs, just prepared differently.  It was a bit lighter, but still not the very light roast one usually sees of Thai oolongs, it had more layers of complexity going for it from some additional roasting.

The odd (and cool) flavor aspect was a trace of coffee coming across, related to that bit more roasting.  It wasn't oxidized and roasted until it extended into the range of cinnamon and cocoa as a Dong Ding style can be, heading towards a black tea in character in some ways, but stopping in a very different place, with the roasting effect changing the character.  A friend once mentioned an Indonesian vendor making a tea designed to taste a lot like coffee, also an oolong but even more heavily roasted to bring out that unusual effect, and they confirmed it really is out there, but until I try that tea I'll not go into details, and I don't think there is any online mention to see.

Beyond that one aspect it shared a lot in common with better lightly oxidized oolongs, a full feel, a rich, full character, some mineral aspects kicking in, nothing too vegetal, maybe hinting a little towards floral but nothing like a better Tie Kuan Yin.  I liked it, even though it was still close to a lighter oolong style I'm really burned out on.  Whereas I'd love to drink more of that better Dong Ding this style was more something I could appreciate and leave it at that.  It's probably better and closer to Dong Ding than what one usually buys as a Thai version of that in Thailand, just different.

It's funny how all these aspects don't really add up to a new story, but together they sort of do:  a new vendor sales model in Thailand, essentially a moving shop, a new Oriental Beauty and Thai oolong in a slightly different style.  I would've collected some more aspects and written about it later (I have some floral and blend tea-bag versions to try) but I wanted to mention they are at Central Chidlom, for people here interested in taking a look.  Their teas must be in lots of other places, and although it's sort of just decent commercial tea it works much better to try teas before buying them, talk about what they are, and then only buy what you like.  That's just a description of what a tea shop should be doing, but in this vendor's case they move around.