Wednesday, June 27, 2007

My first tea review - Monkey Picked Oolong

Monkey Picked Oolong

铁观音 ; tiěguānyīn

This tea, from the Fujian province of China, traces its name back to when Buddhist monks trained monkeys to harvest the youngest leaves from the tops of wild tea trees. This tea is also known as "Iron Goddess of Mercy," alluding to Buddhism’s bodhisattva of mercy and compassion. The source of this tea is Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco, and is priced at $95/lb ($5.94/oz).

The dry leaves have two distinct tones of green, a light green and a dark swamp green, demonstrating the partial fermentation of the tea oils. Hues of orange and blue are subtly apparent. Observing how the small pellets unfurl as they are brewed, they must have been carefully hand-rolled—first lengthwise from both edges to the middle of the leaf, and then these strips were rolled into pellets.

1st brew, 20s
2nd brew, 30s
3rd brew, 40s
4th brew, 50s

By the third brew the leaves are fully open. After pouring out the tea liquor, the leaves are glossy and have an even color tone. The leaves appear young, being 2” long at most. They have serrated edges with occasional edge-tears, probably from traditional basket tumbling—or “yaoqing” in Chinese (摇青; yáoqīng).

The third brew is the best of the four infusions. The fourth brew is still potent, but the flavor begins to wane.

Each brew produces a bright, orange-green liquor with a still film on the surface depicting the islets of a river delta, steaming as if the morning river fog is being lifted away by the sun.

To be tasted with the nose while sipping, this tea is full of floral notes reminiscent of high mountain pastures in early springtime, combined with a bright aroma of fresh coastal conifers. It has enough body to satisfy without any earthiness or taste of Chinese herbs.

The mouthfeel is buttery and slightly viscous, and rolls off the edges of my tongue like the water of a thermal spring over the rounded edge of a smooth stone. There is no oily film after swallowing, but rather a hint of dry astringent aftertaste that tonifies the roots of my teeth and tingles my brain.

The effects of this tea are softening to the body and arousing to the mind. My throat chakra softened, blossoming open. I felt wide waves flow up the back of my head. My attention was drawn to my breathing—slow, steady, and soft-bellied. My mind became alert with the same freshness of the tea’s flavor, and my eyes brightened. A calm sense of well-being made the corners of my mouth turn up, and I experienced a euphoric levity.

This is a good early afternoon tea to be enjoyed in the summer sun and fresh air, and is easily my favorite oolong so far. I am always looking to try new teas, so get in touch if you would like to make a trade! :)

Has anyone else tried this tea or something with a similar name? What do you think of it?

1 comment:

Dr. Science said...

Definitely my favorite tea. Although I get mine from Teavana. I also don't remember a "buttery" or "viscous" taste to it though. Very mild.