The Shan Lin Shi - Long Feng Xia plantation where my Shan Lin Shi Oolongs come from is located at around 1650 meters of altitude. This is already quite high for a Gao Shan Oolong. The vast majority of these Oolongs (over 95%, I estimate) are processed with a light oxidation and almost no roasting (just a quick drying at 70-80 degrees Celcius). This process gives Formosan High Mountain Oolongs their distinctive light and sweet flowery aroma.
Heavy roasting is more common for Dong Ding Oolongs and lower elevation Oolongs in general. Few tea makers will roast Gao Shan Oolong. Skills and customer taste prevent this. Skills: it's more difficult to roast lightly oxidized Gao Shan Oolong than more strongly oxidized Dong Ding Oolong. If the roasting is not well done, then the tea will loose its original high value. And most (young, urban) Taiwanese tea drinkers are looking for lightness in their Gao Shan Oolong. They tend to associate roasting with cheaper low altitude Oolong.
More experienced tea drinkers who appretiate traditional Wu Yi Yan Cha know that the finest Oolongs in Wu Yi are roasted (Da Hong Pao, Tie Luo Han, Shui Xian...) The higher the quality of the original tea leaves, the more potential it has to become a great roasted tea.
At the Dong Ding tea competition, for instance, almost 5000 teas participated this year. The characteristic of the Dong Ding taste is the roasting, so all participating Oolongs have to be roasted (a prerequisite for this particular competition). And guess who won this Spring? An Oolong from Lishan (around 2000 meters high). And most of the runner ups were from high altitude.
That's why I was very happy to find this roasted Shan Lin Shi (long Feng Xia) luanze Oolong from Spring 2004.
The dry leaves are brown, a sign that the roasting was rather strong. The leaves open more slowly, but they have kept their elasticity.
The brew is very transparent and shiny with a strong golden color.
The aromas are much sweeter and fruitier. They are very concentrated. I even smell ripe olive oil. The wet leaves have a smell of charcoal, but it doesn't really appear in the cup. The scents are fine and very well balanced. In the later brews, the flowery tones will even appear shortly again!
Taste: The main advantage of roasting is the sweeter taste. It's also easier on the stomach than 'green' Oolong. This Oolong slips very nicely down the throat and then has a very long sweet after taste. It's really amazing how the roasting brings our all this sweetness.
The high mountain qi is also present in a very peaceful way. Despite the strong roasting, this High Mountain Oolong keeps its finesse and even some freshness: when I inhale through the mouth, I still feel a little freshness like after chewing mint. It reminds me a lot of my visit to the Shan Lin Shi plantation. The aromas and taste of the tea come from the warm sun, the pure mountain air and the scent of pine trees and bamboo forest.
Advice: this kind of high quality roasted Oolong is very concentrated. A few leaves brewed for several minutes will yield already a very intense cup of tea. For my testing, for instance, I used a standard 3 grams for 10 cl brewed for 5 minutes and the result was very good already. So, when playing around with it, I suggest you first try to use few grams and long infusion times.
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