Unidentified dummy oolong. Maybe a dead Dong Ding.
Oolong tea » Traditional » Taiwan, ★★
Hmm. The nomenclature’s incomplete. My local tea merchant labelled it lazily as “Oolong Formosa”. But “Formosa” means “Taiwan”, which tells us only the genus of the tea but not its species. (The same merchant sells other teas from Taiwan such as Dong Ding and Oriental Beauty, which are labelled correctly.) So I set about discovering what this mystery “Oolong Formosa” really is.
It looks like any other oolong tea with a tight curl and a relatively unoxidised leaf (about 40%, I’d say). But when I brew it, it lacks the fragrance and freshness I’d expect after examining at the leaf—the brew gives me mouthfeel but no flavour. It certainly cleansed my palate, but didn’t really leave me with any taste.
I think this mystery tea is a lower-quality pluck of Dong Ding (a Taiwan Oolong). The leaf is indistinguishable, but the pluck contains more stems. “Oolong Formosa” carries more undesirable fizziness and grittiness, and while it does give the mineral-induced mouthfeel of a quality oolong, it just tastes fake.
“Oolong Formosa” is priced just a little lower than Dong Ding. Needless to say, I strongly recommend getting the real deal (Dong Ding) instead of this sleepy impostor just for the sake of a few dollars more. Dong Ding is worth every cent. Don’t skimp. ★★
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Very slightly tangy. Alert yet aloof.
Oolong tea » Traditional » Taiwan, ★★★★
Also known as: 冻顶乌龙茶
Dong Ding has the characteristic ‘buttery sensation’ (of course, without a buttery taste) that underlies all good oolong teas. This arises as the tightly-knotted leaves unfurl and change the mineral composition of the water.
This particular oolong is special for its subtle notes of tangy orange, peach and lychee. There’s a very slight acidity that tickles your mouth and leaves you feeling very refreshed (I’m tempted to replace ‘tangy orange’ with ‘lemonade’). The caffeine and catechin content is very high in this tea, so it makes you feel alert but not shaky. Dong Ding oolong tea makes you feel effortlessly energetic yet slightly automatic. It’s perfect for work.
I used to drink this tea when I taught 8 noisy English classes in China. Between classes, I’d go to the hot water machine and re-fill my mug of Dong Ding oolong tea. (Chinese tea stores can pack your chosen tea into convenient 7-gram packages).
Eventually, this tea loses its fragrance and gains astingency. Brewed gongfu style, the second and third brews are the most pleasant because the flavours need several minutes to unfurl out of the leaves. Unfortunately, for $380/kg (1300 RMB per 500g), I would expect fewer stems—or even none at all—and many more buds in the mix. On the bright side, the stems and rugged tertiary leaves in this pluck allow you to brew it all day, at the end of which, you’re drinking an inexhaustible broth of tea-stems with barely any colour. Dong Ding brews forever. It makes you work harder, and it makes you keep drinking. Take it to work. ★★★★
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