Since the beginning of 2014, I’ve dedicated each month to a specific type of tea. This means I drink that genre of tea in some form at least once a day. This could mean gong-fu, grandpa, or even a cold-brew. I’ll still consume other teas, but the primary focus is understanding and building a palate for a specific type/genre/region of tea through repetition. This the most personal blogging type style of post for TeaDB, and the goal is to stretch my palate as well as give recommendations to those interested.
Primary vendors ordered from:
Camellia Sinensis has perhaps the most diverse selection of any tea vendor and probably the largest aged oolong lineup. Last year, I put in a big order of of their aged oolongs. I included 8 teas in my order including their entire Taiwanese aged oolong selection.
Pretty roasted, with only slight remnants of the sweetness of good aged oolongs. Much better than the Alishan 1997, primarily because it is not as roasted. Not all that interesting, but drinkable enough.
Much too roasted. I found it impossible to tell its age.
Alishan 1999 (Charcoal)
Not bad, but still much too roasted for my taste. The roast is more complex and interesting and allows some of the tea’s original character to show through. As I’ve become more experienced in aged oolongs, this has changed my opinion of the tea since we originally reviewed it. On the plus-side this one can brew forever.
Da Hong Pao 1997
Not very good and also on the expensive end. Manages to be both roasty (not good at this age) and too sour.
An interesting enough tea. This has some nice characteristics (a rich sweetness), and for a re-roasted oolong the roast doesn’t necessarily overpower it. Its complex but still bears an unpleasant sourness.
I’m not sure if this is actually 1989, but it has a nice clean, aged taste. Easily one of the more pleasant aged oolongs. A nice plummy, rich sweetness. Easily one of the most pleasant aged oolongs of the month.
Marshaln has speculated on this tea’s origins. I’m not qualified or experienced enough to backup his assessment, but I will say that this tea was confusing and not necessarily in a good way. It was also too bitter for my girlfriend (something that an aged oolong should not be!).
Wu He 1981
A nice example of an aged taste. This tastes far more aged than either of the Hualiens, perhaps due to wetter storage. It tastes like a garden, with a very pleasant, vegetal sweetness. This was also slightly cheaper than the rest, would recommend for those interested in the taste of aged tea (in which aged oolongs/other aged teas converges onto aged pu’erh).
An interesting and complex tea. Its a pretty bad value buy but interesting enough. As I brewed it out, it had the distinct smell of a Chinese herbal shop. Some unpleasant sourness, but not as bad as some of the other teas.
- Quality? Good and bad. Gave a good representation of what aged oolongs offer as well as some of their flaws. I’d stay away from their 90s stuff.
- Price? $10-15/oz. Averageish.
- Would order again? Yes, but would screen teas more heavily for re-roast.
Taiwan Tea Crafts
With a really low free shipping rate, I placed a small order to Taiwan Tea Crafts for a few of their aged oolongs. Quality is highly varied and the site’s descriptions are interesting to read in tandem with tasting (or after).
Not too aged. This is probably the punchiest tea of the whole bunch and quite a good tea. A nice body and still some bitterness (in a good way). Well-balanced tea. Would probably buy if it were cheaper.
Family Reserve 1993
One of the more disappointing teas. A worst, less interesting version of the Miaoli. This one has some sourness and also smells far too roasty. It’s too bad as some of the fruity sweetness is quite nice.
Sun Moon Lake 1982
An aged black. Kinda cheating, but it fits some of the criteria of an aged oolong. This isn’t amazing and has alot of stems, but for the price its a good value buy. It carries a somewhat similar mustiness and taste to the 1981 Wu He and 1970s Baozhong. However it has a different mouthfeel than both those teas and isn’t as sweet and vegetal. I enjoyed this one alot. A very pleasant surprise.
- Quality? Varied. Generally good, although the 1993 Family Reserve was disappointing.
- Price? $10-15/oz. Averageish. Sun Moon Lake was far cheaper and a great buy.
- Would order again? Yes, their buying format makes it beneficial to sample first and then buy in bulk later.
Preface: Origin Tea is one of my favorite vendors and someone I regularly correspond with. I’d ordered Origin Tea’s Yancha (which is somewhat aged). Knowing I was interested in aged oolongs he tossed in an aged oolong teabag and a mystery aged oolong (guessing Meishan 1986/87). I also didn’t include the 2003 Shui Xian Hui Yuan in here (which I loved), because it resembles Yancha more than an aged oolong.
My favorite of the bunch. Nice big leaves, great flavor. A plum, raisin, sweetness. Not much to say other than this is a very pleasant example of an aged oolong. This one has big, whole leaves and fits a similar profile to the Hualien 1989, although I prefer this. I’d highly recommend this if it were for sale!
Shui Xian High-Fired 1990s
A good value buy. This is a very pleasant drinkable aged Yancha. Still tastes like Yancha. I like this more than the 1997 Da Hong Pao, despite it being less than half the cost. I also had the less-aged Shui Xian Hui Yuan King which is excellent. This doesn’t have the same complexity and depth of that tea but is much cheaper and still very good.
30 Year Old Aged Oolong Teabags
Fun and also surprisingly very good. Great body and can brew for a while!
Hou de Asian
Purchased their aged oolong set of 70s Tieguanyin and Baozhong.
A weird tea. Its pleasant enough, but I got hardly any of the aged taste. My guess is it has either been re-roasted recently or is not that old. When I brewed this harder (lots of leaf in a pot) it came out a bit sour, although it also had a bit more of the nicer aged taste (fruity pluminess).
A very nice tea. Has a similar aged taste to the 1981 Wu He and 1982 Sun Moon Lake but is probably better in body and longevity than both of those teas.
Jing Tea Shop
Had their 1995 Rou Gui from a Yancha order.
1995 Rou Gui
Tastes more like an aged oolong than Yancha at this point. Despite having somewhat broken leaves, this has hardly any bitterness. Not sure if this is worth the money, but I did enjoy it.
Recommended Teas (with regards to price):
- 1989 Hualien (Camellia Sinensis)
- 1981 Wu He (Camellia Sinensis)
- 1982 Sun Moon Lake (Taiwan Tea Crafts)
- 1970s Baozhong (Hou de Asian)
- 30+ Year old Teabags (Origin Tea)
What I learned?
Many of the younger aged oolongs were overly roasted. I still don’t have a great grasp of what some of the better aged oolongs would’ve tasted like in the 10-20 year range. Re-roasts seem like big no-nos, and the Miaoli was seemingly the only tea to be re-roasted and not overly so (although it had other issues). The other common unpleasant characteristic is sourness. Also, for many of these vendors $ is not necessarily indicative of quality.
As they age the oolongs develop a really pleasant plummy sweetness (1986/87 Meishan, 1989 Hualien). The other trajectory seems to be a mustier, vegetal, but still sweet taste (1982 Sun Moon Lake,1981 Wu He, 1970s Baozhong). It is still unclear to me if these are separate trajectories (perhaps based on the source material) or if the plummy sweetness eventually becomes the older, vegetal taste.
|Alishan 1999 [Charcoal]||CS||$26.00||1.76||$14.77||Mediocre|
|Da Hong Pao 1997||CS||$13.41||0.88||$15.24||Not good|
|Wu He 1981||CS||$9.58||0.88||$10.89||Good|
|Tou Fen 1963||CS||$9.10||0.35||$26.00||Mediocre|
|Meishan 1986/87?||OT||N/A||0.5||N/A||Very Good|
|30 yr Aged Oolong Teabags||OT||$9.81||1||$9.81||Good|
|SX High-Fire 90s||OT||$9.16||1.33||$6.89||Good-|
|Sun Moon Lake Black 1982||TTC||$4.25||0.88||$4.83||Nice|
|Family Reserve 1993||TTC||$8.00||0.88||$9.09||Disappointing|
|Rou Gui 1995||JTS||$13.00||0.88||$14.77||Good+|
Next up for April: Japanese Green Teas.