I'm reviewing a Moychay Bao Ing Huan Zhi Guangdong area oolong, a tea I didn't know too much about going in. It's usually as well not to read the vendor description when doing a tea review, although sometimes I will, and I didn't for this one.
I don't typically mention the vendor description first in review write-ups either, but this it:
«The Aroma of Huang Zhi Flower» is made of autumn tea shoots (harvest 2017, moderated fermentation, medium heat).
In appearance: large flagella of twisted, dark green and brown leaves. The aroma is restrained, spicy with a note of baked chestnuts. The infusion is transparent with yellow pear shade.
The bouquet of brewed tea is bright, spicy-floral with herbaceous, woody, coniferous and berry notes. The aroma calm, spicy-floral. The taste is juicy, sweetish, a bit tart, with cool spicy nuances, transforming into lingering finish.
Interpretations of aspects tend to vary among different reviewers but the tea will be a bit like that; they seem to never be that far off.
The initial infusion is interesting; complex, a little tart, with some indication that richer flavors and brighter tones will emerge. There's a bit of green wood to the taste; this astringency character seems to not be familiar, although an oolong I just tried wasn't too far off in that regard. It seems like fruit range might pick up but that's faint at this round. A little old furniture taste joins in; it's quite a mix.
It all makes more sense together the second round, but I think it will fall together even more. It's odd to taste tartness outside the fruit heavy Dan Cong oolong range or related black teas I would most often associate that with. It's not bad tea but if it doesn't improve I probably will never publish this; it doesn't match my preference enough or represent something interesting enough to communicate, at least so far.
The character shifts towards floral tone in this second infusion, which is why it's working better. Mineral that's relatively metallic joins in. The old furniture aspect dropping back to a lower level improves it, all but gone now, maybe with a little that adds some balance. That hinted-at fruit mostly came through as the floral range, so far, but there is a touch of peach. It sounds good, doesn't it? It's really just ok; the balance needs to even out, the way those aspects blend together.
Fruit picking up in the third infusion helps; it improves further. It's still a little odd the way that pairs with tartness, green wood, metallic mineral, and floral tone. I think the overall balance is really fine and a main problem I have with the tea relates to that style being so unfamiliar. Or it might be that the lingering taste of old furniture and more pronounced green wood don't balance tartness nearly as well as intense fruit and higher sweetness level in Dan Cong, to me. This is right in between some Tie Kuan Yin (or a closely related oolong type I've just tried) and Dan Cong.
I do like better Tie Kuan Yin but some moderate quality versions can seem a bit off to me, if the vegetal character stands out more than the sweetness and floral aspects. They're usually not like that, but sometimes. I love Dan Cong, even medium quality Dan Cong, but of course any tea type can end up being flawed in different ways in some versions. Harsh astringency is the main issue for lower quality versions of those. This isn't like those quality-level limited teas I'm describing; it doesn't seem to be great tea but it's decent for a middle range. It would click with me more if it were a bit warmer, smoother, more complex, and fruitier. But that's about personal preference for style and aspects, a different thing than flaws or quality level.
It's odd there seems to be relatively little roast level to this, but I'm not sure it would help. It seems like a low oxidation level gave it that character, of course along with the leaf potential (with both listed as medium per the vendor description--this other read was my take in tasting it). But I can't say that more oxidation would have worked better. Roasting an oolong to a medium level if the oxidation level is low isn't unheard of but that tends to come across as odd to me, when I do experience it. I just bring all this up as discussion points about different styles, not as critique of this version.
[Fourth infusion]: The tea finally hit it's stride for the aspects balance making a lot of sense. Fruit is nudging through, peach as much as any, evenly matched with floral tones. The tartness has dropped way off, and green wood flavor moderated. A faint trace of old furniture, now as close to a hint of nail polish, really does work with the rest. The balance works; it integrates.
The vendor description, added here in the notes editing, mentioned the fruit coming across as berry instead--normal for interpretations to vary on what aspects are--with a lot of the rest matching up. It is woody and tart, with some vegetal character; all that we agree on. I didn't really notice any trace of roasted chestnut, and it seemed unusual to me that a standard mineral base in this case came across as much like metal as rock. That's not as bad as it sounds; at the risk of repeating myself all the aspects were fine, they just didn't mesh well early on in infusion rounds.
That's odd to experience a tea not balancing at first but then later coming together. It's much more common for an aspect that isn't positive to drop out, but these same ones in much different proportion weren't very pleasant and now are.
It shifted less in this next round (5) but might have improved further, marginally. It's not very tart at this point. The fruit is nice, a little harder to separate as distinct fruits for being layered into all the rest. Peach probably trails a bit into plum, but at this level as much a warm, sweet version of plum instead of a more tart or sour aspect. Combined with the trace of tartness that is still present (less, but still some) interpretation as some tart or sour berry instead might work, something like cranberry.
It would be easy for someone to focus on those liqueur / nail polish / lighter green wood / mineral range aspects and lose track of those other parts, the floral and fruit range. Oddly all that balances well in these later infusions. I'm used to saying that sweetness makes a combination work but that's moderate in this. It has some sweetness but it's not overly sweet as oolongs go.
Feel isn't particularly full but not thin. The mineral, liqueur, and trace of green wood trail over to an aftertaste that's not overly positive or negative, but it does provide an impression of greater complexity.
I'm drinking this along with a cold brewed last round of a Huang Tan oolong from Jip Eu. I tried that tea a day before this one, but I may post the reviews out of order, since I tried that as a blind tasting (guessing what it is) and two posts like that in a row seem like a bit much, with the last one here about blind tasting Yiwu sheng.
It's funny how these two oolongs overlap in character but are quite different. That tea was even closer to Tie Kuan Yin, but with more floral tone, old furniture flavor, and roast input. It's much brighter and sweeter for being cold brewed (today's version, sort of left-overs), even as what's left after a half-dozen rounds of standard brewing. This other Bao Ing Huan Zhi oolong might work even better brewed cold, although I might drink a couple rounds hot to get leaves to open and move through the stronger tartness and woodiness.
It seems that the tea will fade a bit from here, picking up more of a typical wood tone, as oolongs tend to after a half dozen rounds.
It's a nice tea, especially for checking the price it's listed at ($8 per 100 grams). To some extent that price doesn't matter; you either like a tea on it's own merit or you don't, but in a different sense it defines the ballpark for quality level the vendor is selling a tea as. If you double or triple that cost even if the character and style is similar you'd expect more from the tea.
I have no problems with the quality, or even the actual aspects present, but this isn't really a close match for styles of tea I like most. I like warm, "round," sweet oolongs in the lighter range, eg. for Tie Kuan Yin versions. At the higher end of the quality scale those pick up a lot of intensity, sweetness, very clean and intense flavors, and the taste range shifts from vegetal--often sweet corn, although that varies--to bright sweet floral instead.
I really like Dan Cong better; the other tea type this shares a bit of common ground with. But this isn't nearly as floral, and the fruit is in a completely different range. Dan Cong tend to be astringent in a way that runs a bit towards bitterness, just not exactly that, at least at the lower quality level. Medium range versions tend to get away from that, and better versions take on a complexity, subtlety, and floral or fruit range intensity that's amazing. Above average versions of Dan Cong tend to cost quite a bit too; some vendors sell all they carry priced around $1 a gram. Better Dan Cong can absolutely be worth that, but you can find quite good versions that make the right trade-offs and show off really exceptional character that cost half that, especially if you can buy it slightly more directly, with less intermediate resale steps bumping up the cost. Moychay may serve as an example of that (although I have yet to try their better Dan Cong): they're not buying teas from a wholesale vendor who bought it from someone else, and so on.
Finding out what you like involves a good bit of experimentation; without trying a lot of different teas it's not easy to map the particular aspect preferences you are aware of across how you'll relate to other teas you've not tried yet.
It's hard to say that someone who likes a certain more familiar tea type would love this tea. It's a lot like the Huang Tan I just tried (that other oolong), but that type wasn't familiar to me. It's not as close to Dan Cong in character as the aspects list description might sound; those are pretty much never woody and vegetal. I guess it works to say that if a bit of tartness works well in other tea versions that could indicate a reasonable match, or if Tie Kuan Yin that aren't necessarily sweet and floral are appealing, versions that are a bit more vegetal or even woody instead, then this might seem nice. At that cost (value) it represents a good opportunity to try something in a different aspect range. Even if it's not a great match for most-preferred versions it could still make for an interesting experience.
A different subject; about a tea tasting
I'll hold a second open tea tasting this coming weekend, this time at the Dusit Zoo (in Bangkok), from 10 to 12 AM, at the food court area there.
It would make sense to base tasting events on a clear, structured theme, maybe something like focusing on one type (maybe as broad as oolong, or even as narrow as one version, eg. Tie Kuan Yin), transitioning through examples in a pattern that makes sense. I think we'll stick with the theme of trying different things, a broad range. This particular tea isn't a great example of a "beginner's tea," or typical of a main style, but maybe we'll give it a try anyway. I'd like to try a more interesting version of a compressed white, since we tried a decent aged shou mei last time but I have better. Any sheng is pushing it for people new to tea, no matter if young or aged, approachable in style or very good, but we'll probably get to one of those anyway. One of my favorite approachable sheng versions I've ever tried is also from Moychay, this Nan Nuo version; I just wouldn't want to part with too much of it.
This is where personal preference and what works as a "starter tea" can get a little strange. I can say I liked that sheng pu'er better for being fruitier, approachable, but still intense, than I did this oolong. Oolongs are much more likely to be fruity, sweet, and easy to drink; young shengs tend to be on the bitter, astringent, and unapproachable side. I don't think it's that the sheng version is that much better than this oolong; it just clicks with me a lot better. If I do get around to having some other people try both I could see if that pattern holds for them too.
I'll mention a link to an event notice, and a Google Maps link, and close this with a few pictures of a more recent visit to that zoo. Anyone planning to visit that tasting shouldn't run late that day (which is a part of Thai culture; familiar to me since I moved here from Hawaii), because the zoo might get crowded due to it closing soon. That food court will be crowded at noon, it's just a matter of whether we can get a nice tasting session in before the noise level makes that awkward or not.
probably along the back wall facing the birds enclosure
it was crowded in that space a bit past noon last weekend, for Mother's Day
it's easy to miss the world's largest rodent; I can explain where that is
I didn't take much for animal photos that visit, more of these two
you don't see this too often