Milk oolongs are tricky things. When speaking of milk oolong in the traditional sense, one is usually referring to Jin Xuan, or Golden Lily, a tea cultivar that naturally provides a milky, buttery aroma and flavor. Unfortunately, Jin Xuan is not the only milk oolong on the market. You see, it seems that nowadays almost every tea merchant is offering one or more versions of milk oolong, indicating that this tea is very popular with the buying public, and the high demand for quality milk oolongs often greatly exceeds supply. In response, tea producers have developed ingenious ways of meeting the demand for milk oolong-steam oolong tea leaves in a milk water combination or spray oolong tea leaves in an artifical milk flavoring. This tea is not an all-natural milk oolong. It is a Chinese oolong that has been steamed in a combination of milk and water in order to approximate the aroma and flavor of authentic Jin Xuan.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. As usual, I rinsed the leaves and conducted a 10 second initial infusion. I then increased the steep time by 2 seconds for each subsequent infusion. In this session, I conducted a total of 13 infusions (10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 22, 24, 26, 28, 30, 32, 34 seconds). Again, I used 6 grams of loose tea leaves in my 4 ounce gaiwan, as I normally do for my review sessions. The water temperature was set at 195 F.
Prior to infusion, I began questioning my decision to buy this tea. I knew it was flavored from the get go, but when I opened the sealed pouch, a heavy aroma of cream assaulted my nose. There was something else there too, almost like strawberry flavoring, but I wasn’t quite sure. After the rinse, the aroma was tamed considerably. I detected much milder scents of cream, butter, straw, sweetgrass, gardenias, jasmine, honeysuckle, vanilla, and osmanthus. I could still detect a fruity, almost strawberry-like scent lurking underneath the layers of cream, butter, grass, and flowers. The first infusion yielded a similar, but somewhat milder aroma. In the mouth, I picked up heavy flavors of gardenia, honeysuckle, osmanthus, jasmine, vanilla, cake frosting, butter, cream, straw, sweetgrass, honeydew, peach, nectarine, apricot, and nectar. Yep, I also got a heaping helping of strawberry as well. The second and third infusions continued down this road, but were somewhat milder. With each subsequent infusion, the floral and most of the fruity aromas and flavors faded, leaving me with turbulent, and to me, increasingly synthetic vanilla, cream, butter, and strawberry aromas and flavors underscoring traces of nectar, straw, and sweetgrass.
Well, this was disappointing. I am generally a fan of Tealyra and have had good luck with their oolongs in the past (I’m a big fan of their Wenshan Baozhong Reserve, Tieguanyin Deep Roasted, and Jade Oolong), but I found this to be borderline nauseating. It only got worse for me the longer I spent with it. I have not had a ton of milk oolongs, but I have been a bit spoiled, as I started with some really good authentic Jin Xuans. As a result, I’m at a point where I can kind of tell when something is artificially flavored, even if the vendor chooses not to disclose this information. Now, to give credit where credit is due, Tealyra does indicate to potential buyers that this is a flavored oolong rather than a traditional Jin Xuan. I respect them for that. I fear, however, that there may be a little more going on with this tea than is indicated. To be blunt, I have a sneaking suspicion that this may be a little more than an oolong that has been steamed in a combination of milk and water. I just cannot shake that ridiculous strawberry presence. It could be a byproduct of the flavoring for all I know, but I remain more than a touch skeptical. Whatever the case may be, I do not think that this is a good oolong. There are good flavored oolongs out there, and some of them may even be artificially flavored for all I know, but I just do not think that this is one of them. Getting past that odd, over-the-top strawberry presence that I so greatly disliked, there wasn’t much depth here. The layering of aromas and flavors was rough and turbulent, and more than that, it never calmed. I’ll give this tea a little credit. My experience with it indicated that it has staying power in a longer session. Unfortunately, I just did not find that it smelled or tasted all that good.
Flavors: Apricot, Butter, Cream, Floral, Frosting, Gardenias, Grass, Honeydew, Honeysuckle, Jasmine, Nectar, Osmanthus, Peach, Straw, Strawberry, Vanilla