Thursday, December 18, 2014

Testing Oolong like an electronic piano

A musician friend gave me a very simple advice to select a good electronic piano (for my children) a few years ago: play the highest and the lowest note on the piano. These 2 notes are the most difficult to get right and natural since they are the most extreme ones. If they sound good, then the notes in between should also sound good.

This advice came back to my mind when I read Thomas' review of my Fushou Shan High Mountain Oolong:
"This is utterly transcendent tea, unsurpassed, unmistaken. Gao Shan is the best of oolong, as far as I can tell, and this Fu Shou Shan is the very best of Gao Shan. I've tried the entire run of High Mountain: Fu Shou Shan from different sources, Da Yu Ling, Lishan, etc, This is the impeccable summit, indeed. Have a cup of tea. You won't want anything else."
Fushou Shan Oolong belongs to the same exclusive, above 2000 meters elevation as Lishan and DaYuLing. They represent the most sought after, finest Oolongs from Taiwan. These highest plantations produce the highest and purest aromas (notes!). Of course, they are also subject to changing weather conditions and the skill of the maker. Some days are better than others and it's still important to select these Oolongs. And given the expectations generated by the high prices, this task is even more important here. But the main problem is that these teas are so famous, rare and expensive that many shops find it easier to sell teas from other mountains, packaged with these famous names, and at a lower, competitive price.

The latest tea scandal has brought to light that only 1 third of Oolong teas sold in Taiwan is locally grown. For Da Yu Ling and Fushou Shan, the fake rate is much, much higher. In an e-mail, Thomas, who wrote the review, told me that my Fushou Shan was "the most expensive (of the teas he compared), but worth every penny". High prices don't necessarily mean that a tea is genuine or better. But when a retail price is close to wholesale prices, then it's probably too good to be true. Especially if such a tea pales in comparison with the winner of the comparison. By comparing the top High mountain Oolongs from different origins, Thomas found out which source provides the highest and purest note. Thanks for your feedback!
Hung Shui Oolong of 2013
On the other side of the price spectrum, my cheapest tea right now is the winter 2013 Baozhong mix. It costs 15 USD for 150 grams. By tasting the cheapest tea of a vendor, you'll understand what's the minimum requirement a vendor has towards his product. How low is he ready to go to make a sale? How strict is the selection? To find out how my Baozhong mix tastes, I propose to read this customer review:
"Don't be fooled by the lesssened smell of the dry leaves, this one develops a powerful sweetness like white choclate. Also like white or milk choclate, it has a simpler taste than its purer brothers (I also tried the Jade baozhong) but it its flavours are more balanced. The Jade Baozhong (which is very enjoyable, too) has more of melons and subtropical forests, but this mix from last winter came slightly rounder out of my gaiwan. This is probably because it is a blend, but perhaps the storage of one year and half helped, too. I don't know, since I did not taste it last year. Anyway, this is a beautifully sweet thing, its price is very fair and I deeply enjoyed it.

Regards from Germany,
Stephan without e"
Thank you very much for posting your reviews on !

Note: The giveaway of the Shan Lin Xi High Mountain Oolong of spring 2013 is almost over. The 1200 meters version is gone now, but I am replacing it now with the 1400 meters batch.

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