As I mentioned in my previous review of a few of black teas, Origins Tea is a new company out of Canada that is offering up high quality Taiwanese teas. They carry quite a few oolongs, and I'm here to talk a bit about a few of my favorites. While I'm more of a black tea drinker than an oolong drinker, the aromatics of oolongs really pull me in, and the following three teas have really stuck with me as brilliant examples of highly aromatic and delicious teas (though all of Origins' oolong offerings have a similar high quality).
As a disclaimer, I did work with James from Origins to pick his selection of teas prior to the opening of his website. I was not paid for that help, just simply supplied tea and I offered my opinions in the form of tasting notes. Rest assured I loved all of the teas that Origins' ended up offering. Anyway, just want you guys to know what's up, and that if you notice similar language in these reviews and notes on Origins' website, you'll know why!
With a dark rolled ball appearance, these dry little tea nuggets emit a strong nutty and slightly sharp mineral fragrance, making the roasted nature of this tea obvious. Splashing the tea with a bit of water for a rinse sends up a plume of nutty roasted peanut shell followed by subtle hints of a floral and fruited complexity, which becomes less subtle as the tea sits and soaks up the residual moisture. The roasted quality together with the floral/fruit hints makes this less overtly perfume-like than many Taiwanese oolongs, though the floral quality is not in short supply. Its a very pleasant aroma, and really draws you in.
An initial infusion temporarilly washes away the nutty roast character into the brew, revealing a distinct and prominent plum note on the wet leaves that is complimented by a more subtle floral complexity. The brew itself smells slightly nutty with subtle fruit notes. The flavor is sweet with excellent smoothness and a nice acidity. It packs a complex retronasal experience similar to the wet leaf aroma, with candy-sweet terpene notes. As the tea rests, the peanut aroma returns with a pleasant sharpness.
A second infusion reveals some slightly spiced fragrances that compliment the plum and floral aromas. Nice honey notes too. This has some similarity to the classical style Oriental Beauty. Nice tingly acidity in the brew with super strong retronasal aroma. The tea leaves are still opening up, and the flavor is still developing, showing that this tea has a lot of lasting power.
A third infusion packs a ton of honey aroma backed by dried plum essence and maybe a tiny hint of sweet cinnamon. Each infusion up to this point adds a layer of complexity to the fragrance, and while further steepings see a gradual decline in flavor and aroma, this tea does have a lot to give and can last 6-10 rounds, depending on how hard you push it.
This is a pretty great tea, with strong fruit, honey, floral, and bright terpenes that sparkle in your nose. The name implies an "oriental beauty"-like processing, but the added complexity from the roast makes this a pretty special tea. OB fans would love this.
These tightly rolled dark green leaves, with short attached stems, scream a gorgeous fragrance out of the packaging upon opening. The aroma is intensely floral (gardenia) and a bit buttery; very attractive and enticing. Rinsing the leaves pushes this to an even more buttery place aromatically, I'm quite picky about green oolongs, and this strikes me in just the right way. That "buttery" quality is what I look for to balance the floral qualities in this type of tea, and this has plenty to offer.
Infusions of this tea yield a yellow-green brew. The leaf aroma has the floral and buttery qualities but also brings forth a pleasant vegetal quality with hints of black pepper. The liquor smells minerally with subtle hints of the leaf aroma (floral, buttery, vegetal). The mouthfeel is rounded and slippery and the flavor is sweet and buttery. As the steeps progress, and the leaves open more and more, the initial flavor and aroma transitions a bit towards an attractive nutty character. This is a great green (low oxidation) oolong with all the marks of high quality, retaining its aroma from beginning to end.
Tie Guan Yin
This tea is all about the roast. Neon green Tie Guan Yins are all over the place, so a well roasted TGY is a breath of fresh air. Right out of the packet this tea greets you with roast character that is different from the distinct charcoal baked and roasted aroma of a Wu Yi yancha. There is a layer of mineral character that makes it similar to a yancha, but the toffee or caramel-like character sets it apart. The mineral character, though, blends in to the "flower shop" aroma of the TGY cultivar, making it at once sultry and masculine. While distinct, fans of yancha are right at home with this tea.
A rinse of the rolled leaves brings out more of the floral aroma along with a fruity character. These notes sit on top of a caramely smell that reminds me of coffee with cream. A first steep of this tea opens the rolled leaves only slightly and brings about an additional savory aroma off the leaves. The liquor is a clear golden-brown color and smells quite rich with caramel and coffee smother a very subtle floral note. With a thick mouthfeel, this tea offers a super smooth brew that brings together all that the leaf aroma promised. Further steeps slowly shift the aromatics from a caramel-roast dominant to a floral dominant character. The opening of the leaves also makes the brewed tea a deeper brown hue.
This tea evolves in a way that I find very similar to strongly scented and well balanced Wu Yi yancha. You can push the leaves for many, many steeps and it will keep giving, changing in aroma and flavor the whole way until you're left with sweet and slightly and pleasantly drying sweet brew in your final multi-minute steeps.
This is a great roasted Tie Guan Yin with a balanced roasted tone and good complexity. Very satisfying. As mentioned, yancha fans should give this a shot if you're in the mood for a Taiwanese take on this style of tea.