Origin: Taiwan's east coast
Harvest: June 26, 2011
An intriguing tea to say the least, courtesy of its complex origins: an oolong cultivar grown on the Pacific coast of Taiwan with its leaves bitten by insects (in the manner of Oriental Beauty), then fully oxidized and roasted. The result is a red tea which is tricky to place in terms of characteristics, but all the more enjoyable for it.
The warmed leaves in my gaiwan release an aroma more or less typical of a red tea, somewhere along the lines of ripe fruit. However, much like in the dry leaf, sweet roast undertones and, perplexingly, fresh, almost creamy notes are barely detectable to my nose. Unsure of just how to go about brewing a tea labelled "Red - Da Yeh Oolong", I opt for a hybrid of my standard methods, incorporating very hot water and a high pour without too much force to help the leaves open up while emphasizing their finer characteristics. The brew darkens quickly and in no time at all I'm inhaling deeply from my fragrance cup. The aroma is thick and sweet with a caramel note that endures in the bottom cup for as long as I'm willing to take another whiff. It's clear that the aroma has just begun to open, and expecting a similar impression from the tea itself, I take my first sip. Wow! The liquor gives an impression of fullness far beyond what I'd expect from a first brew during which the twisted leaves have barely started to uncurl.
|In qingbai (left) and white porcelain (right)|
I've made a habit of not bothering with fully oxidized teas because I generally find them to be one-noted and possessed of some unpleasant measure of astringency and a healthy dose of bitterness when brewed strongly (or when not brewed very lightly after the first couple of infusions). In my book, a good tea, regardless of genre, ought to be full of texture without having to be brewed to the point of the liquor being sullied by unwanted roughness. From long-jing to pu'erh, the best teas I've tasted have always been pleasantly tactile, but when it comes to red teas I haven't quite been able to strike the right balance, at least not beyond a couple of infusions. Until now.
Even as I write this post I continue to sip this delicious tea with only traces of a not unpleasant dryness. Its endurance and enduring balance have made this tea something quite special, and something I thought was worth sharing.