Jul 22, 2010

Two Huang Jin Gui (Golden Osmanthus, 黃金桂) products

Huang Jin Gui is one of my favorite oolong cultivar. When it was first introduced to market in mid-1800s, it was also called Tou Tian Xiang (透天香), meaning its fragrance soaring to the sky. Its fragrance is similar to that of osmanthus flower, and the tea liquor is a golden color, hence it's named as Golden Osmanthus.

Huang Jin Gui is harvested around early April. This year, the early March cold current killed buds of a lot of Huang Jin Gui tea bush. Therefore I didn't get any spring Huang Jin Gui of this year. Fortunately, I still have some of this tea from last autumn and the past winter, one of them is traditional green style and the other is modern green style (less oxidized than traditional style). I am very much pleased by this winter Huang Jin Gui. Usually, it's not super hard to find inexpensive and good Huang Jin Gui, because a se zhong (non-Tie Guan Yin southern Fujian oolong) can easily beat the quality of a Tie Guan Yin with twice the price, due to the relatively high price for Tie Guan Yin. But meantime, it's not easy to find super good Huang Jin Gui or other se zhong oolong, because not many people would put a lot efforts on inexpensive products.

Autumn tea, traditional green style. When I first sipped this tea, I wasn't impressed with its fragrance. Sometimes, when drinking a southern Fujian oolong, we just can't help expecting some great fragrance. This tea doesn't have the explicit fragrance in the first a few infusions. I thought it was very comfortable to drink, but not super exciting. After a while, when I reached the third or fourth infusion, I suddenly experienced a sweet and smooth taste. It wasn't explicit aroma, but very tasty. Traditional style oolong sometimes release aroma and flavor more slowly than modern style oolong, and therefore the best tastes sometimes come from the third to fifth infusions. Besides, traditional style tea usually is very good at causing sweet aftertaste in the drinker's mouth. Then by the time of the third or fourth infusion, the taste is positively influenced by the sweet aftertaste built up in the drinker's mouth.

Dry leaves:

First infusion:

Fifth infusion:

Winter tea, modern green style. Many people say winter harvest is the best season for Huang Jin Gui, because that's when Huang Jin Gui has the best fragrance. Modern green style processing can elicit the fragrance and refreshing taste of a tea to a maximum degree. The fragrance of this tea is, like its nickname, "soaring to the sky".  Besides, I am impressed by how good looking the leaves are. In modern green style processing, the leaves are usually largely crushed. That's mainly because the red edge formed on the leaves of modern green style tea can negatively influence the taste, and therefore after the oxidation, the tea leaves will be packed in bags and punched hard on the ground to have their red edges shed. But this manufacturer has a unique way of processing. Somehow they managed to avoid significant red edge on the leaves and bypass the step of punching the leaves. This is the best Huang Jin Gui I've ever had.

Dry leaves:

First infusion:

Seventh infusion:

Jul 15, 2010

Concept Tea (3) - certified organic Taiwan GABA oolong

What's GABA? - GABA is gaba-aminobutyric acid. It's briefly called GABA. It's an amino acid that plays important role in nervous system and endocrine system. There are many medical research on health benefits of GABA as dietary supplement. I didn't look into them, because I always think human body is an extremely complicated system, and dietary supplements to human body are seldom as simple as gasoline to cars (well some dietary supplements, such as some vitamins, do have more straight-forward effects).

So health benefit is not the main purpose that I got this tea. It's a nice bonus if it's super healthy, but I think a tea should first be tasty.

Tea leaves with rich GABA contents were first discovered by Japanese tea biochemists. Then Japanese tea professionals started to intentionally cultivate and process tea leaves to promote their GABA contents. The tea leaves are slowly oxidized in an environment with very little oxygen. This is very different from the regular oxidation of tea (I have to say Japanese sometimes are extremely creative). This special process can result in a tea with more than 150mg of GABA content in every 100g tea, which is the standard for GABA tea.

According to some Japanese studies, GABA tea has many health benefits, reducing blood pressure, cardiovascular disease prevention, slimming, liver health... just to name a few. I didn't read much about these benefits but I felt the benefits covered medical conditions of everybody in my family :-p

There are organic and non-organic GABA teas. I got this MOA certified organic one. But the main reason I got this tea is, a few people mentioned to me that this tea tastes somewhat like Oriental Beauty and is more tasty than other GABA teas (some say the special processing causes GABA tea to have less aroma), which I like very much.

I brewed this tea in both gongfu style and with a small tea bowl. The tea does have some honey and fruit aroma similar to Oriental Beauty, but not as prominent as the aroma of OB. I think an obviously feature of this GABA tea is, it tastes very smooth and sugary - a strong sugar taste minus the sweet part. It may fit the tastes of people who love Oriental Beauty, Muzha Tie Guan Yin and/or black tea, although its flavor is not exactly the same as any of them. In later infusions of gongfu style, this tea yield some taste of herbal medicine. Overall, the front taste of this tea is rich, but aftertaste is weak or none. The tea does well in tea bowl or mug brewing. When using a mug, 10-15 dry tea grains can make a good mug of tea with about 3 infusions. Compared with most other oolongs, the tea releases flavor faster, therefore less tea can be used for each session. On the other hand, in mug brewing, the tea gets weak at about the fourth infusion, not as long lasting as many other oolongs.

I am not sure yet if I am fond of the concept of promoting specific healthy content in tea. But it's an interesting phenomenon to observe. Besides the GABA concept in this tea, something else about this tea that attracts me is, the producer tried all means (including adjusting ingredient of organic fertilizers and modifying the procedure within GABA standards) to make the tea tasty. I don't think it's as tasty as my favorite Oriental Beauty, but it does have some good taste. I don't want to drink a tea solely for its health benefits, and I am glad the producer thinks the same way!