Tuesday, February 26, 2019

A study of 2 Oriental Beauties

Ming dynasty lady. Expedition to Asia exhibition at the NPM
Oriental Beauty Oolong is a tea invented in Taiwan, in the Hsin Chu area, during the Japanese occupation era (1895-1945). It has become one of the most famous Formosa Oolongs along Dong Ding Oolong, Gao Shan cha and Wenshan Baozhong. And if there's one rule in the tea business, it's that famous, expensive teas are copied and imitated in places where costs are lower. In 2006, I already tasted 3 OBs of different origins. Let's taste again the difference and see what we can learn from comparing an OB from Taiwan and one from overseas.
Taiwan vs China

Overseas OB, 2018
A Taiwanese tea farmer with international connections sold me several samples so that my readers and I can better understand what OB not from Taiwan tastes like. He told me that such cheaper, foreign OBs are often sold in Taiwan, especially in supermarkets or in tourist places where consumers are price sensitive.

The dry leaves look very similar to Taiwanese OB. I still remember that, in 2006, the sample I tasted had lots of white buds, but in this one the ratio of buds to leaves similar to the Taiwanese OB below. The difference we can see is that the color is slightly lighter.
Hsin Chu OB tradition, summer 2018
In terms of smell, the scents of my Taiwanese OB are darker, mature and deep. The brew's color is also much darker. But both have a good transparency.

The taste and scents end up being much more different than the picture of the dry leaves would presume. The overseas OB has fresh, bright scents, but a rather flat taste. My OB, on the end, has these dark, sweet aromas and a very rich taste and aftertaste.
Taiwan vs overseas OB
The open leaves show that the process of these 2 OBs is very different. The overseas OB is meant to be cheap and popular. That's why we can see that its oxidation is relatively light (for an OB) and it's not roasted. This is what produces the lighter color and the fresher fragrances. To be fair, I must say that I'm quite impressed by how close it comes to similarly processed OBs in the Hsin Chu area. There also, some farmers go with the current trend of lighter oxidation and a lack of roasting.
Overseas OB
The leaves of my OB tradition point to both a higher oxidation and a medium roast. These 2 processes (oxidation and roasting) require time and this (also) explains why the price is higher. In conclusion, I find this kind of OB more interesting, sweeter and longer lasting!
Hsin Chu OB Tradition
For me this Oriental Beauty has depth and one more dimension! Of course, this assessment is also personal and depends on your own tastes and experience.

So, in order to help broaden your experience, I will include a free sample (5 gr) of this overseas OB for any order that includes at least 30 USD of any of my Hsin Chu OBs (you can find various OBs in the jassid bitten and the aged Oolong categories). (I have 60 samples to give away on a first come first serve basis. 1 free sample by order only).
Tang dynasty beauty. National Palace Museum.

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