In recent months, I have gotten to a point with Taiwanese oolongs where I tend to prefer the lower elevation and older mountain teas. Give me a Jin Xuan, baozhong, jade, four season, or especially, a Dong Ding over a Da Yu Ling, Ali Shan, Li Shan, or Shan Lin Xi just about any day. It’s not that I don’t appreciate these wonderful high mountain teas, it’s that there are so many people writing about them who are much more knowledgeable and much better at reviewing them than I am, so I don’t see the point. Also, high mountain oolongs have become so popular that I fear people are beginning to forget about some of the other oolongs Taiwan offers. I know that Dong Ding is generally considered to be the first of the high mountain teas. At one point, it was even one of the most revered of the Taiwanese oolongs, but as tea production moved into increasingly more remote areas, it began to fall out of favor. That’s almost criminal. Dong Ding oolongs have so much to offer. This one, in particular, was absolutely amazing.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a quick rinse, I steeped 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 195 F water for 10 seconds. This infusion was followed by additional infusions at 12 seconds, 15 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, and 3 minutes.
Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves emitted fascinating aromas of vanilla bean, coffee, wood, baked bread, and butter. After the rinse, aromas of brown butter, graham cracker, cinnamon, plantain, and oddly enough, petunia emerged. The first infusion produced an almost identical, though more powerful and integrated aroma. In the mouth, I picked up well-defined notes of cream, brown butter, cinnamon, baked bread, vanilla bean, graham cracker, plantain, and wood before a wonderfully textured finish which allowed impressions of coffee, marigold, and petunia to shine. Subsequent infusions took on a fruitier and slightly more floral character. Impressions of lily, mango, pear, and apple emerged at various points, though the tea became increasingly dominated by powerful cream, butter, vanilla bean, graham cracker, and plantain presences. Additionally, a subtle hint of caramel emerged to enhance the tea’s inherent savoriness, while a mild mineral presence began to round out the finish. Later infusions allowed the tea’s woodier, creamier, more buttery characteristics to once again come to the fore. The mineral presence was far stronger. Notes of graham cracker, vanilla bean, and coffee were still more or less present, while less clearly defined fruity and floral characters lingered in the distant background.
This tea was really something special. I got so much out of it, yet I do not feel that my description is adequate. Rather than presenting clearly defined aromas and flavors, this tea presented me with unique tones that were highly reminiscent of what I described above, yet never exact. It was challenging, deep, complex, layered, textured, and quite enigmatic overall. Endlessly intriguing would perhaps be the best and most concise way for me to describe it. As much as I enjoyed Beautiful Taiwan Tea Company’s Old Style Dong Ding Oolong, I liked this one even more. Seriously, this would be a desert island tea for me.
Flavors: Apple, Bread, Butter, Caramel, Cinnamon, Coffee, Cream, Floral, Fruity, Graham, Mango, Mineral, Pear, Vanilla, Wood