Saturday, July 11, 2009

Tea Tasting Saturday #28 - Bai Hao (Fanciest Formosa Oolong)

The biggest question I have regarding this tea won't be answered for two more weeks: Why is Fanciest Formosa Oolong listed in the book ahead of Formosa Oolong? Isn't that like suggesting you sample the new Starbucks Caramel Macchiato Ice Cream and then store-brand vanilla? Perhaps not. At any rate, I *love* this tea -- and I didn't think I was going to care for oolongs!

Category: Oolong Tea

Purveyor: Harney and Sons

Dry leaf appearance: I could tell by the light weight of the package this was going to be a fluffy tea, and it was. The leaves ranged in color from dark green to light brown.

Wet leaf appearance: Tiny but fully-formed tea leaves, often having a reddish-bronze tint to the leaf.

Steeping temperature and time: 1 teaspoon of tea, 205 degrees, 3 minutes.

Scent: I must confess I sniffed this one for a good three minutes and never quite "got it." I liked it, that much I knew, but I couldn't distinguish it. I even asked my husband, who agreed it was a very familiar scent but he couldn't name it. I thought it was something floral, but more of a musky floral, not a rose/gardenia/jasmine scent at all. Lily, maybe?

Color: Deep gold.

Flavor: This one had a delicious taste with a rich, full feel in the mouth. I am starting to sense the approach of black teas, but who wants to rush things when a tea is this tasty and behaves so well? I always give points for the "no astringency" thing, but perhaps that has to do with the fact I almost always prefer the shorter of steeping times.

Additional notes: Michael Harney does not need to tell everything he knows! Seriously, I could have gone a lifetime without hearing that BUGS are responsible for this tea's unique flavor! "In nature, the bites of tea leafhoppers trigger the plants' defenses, provoking their flavors. Bai Hao is one of only a very few teas whose flavors are provoked by the bugs themselves. ... Their munching breaks down the plants' cells in the same way rolling does, releasing various bug-repelling, flavor-filled compounds." (Blessedly, the tea is freed of bugs during its manufacture, so the little critters are no longer on hand to bug us.)

Next week's tea: Da Hong Pao


  1. Angela! The photography with this Fanciest Formosa is quite unique! Just look at how you captured the light refraction through that little miniature lidded pitcher!

    How on earth did you get that backlighting to do that? You really planned this well! Or was it REALLY just serendipity?

    After reading your additional notes, like the movie "Medicine Man" you may be wanting some sort of spectograph to further study these curative properties of the teas! You may not like the "bugs" but in the movie, they were that unknown that provided a cure to cancer!

    By the way...that little pitcher (unlidded) looks just like the Kool-Aid pitcher, and add a spout and the lid, POOF! magic, you have the Kool-Tea pitcher in your previous blog entry.

    You are having so much fun, somebody ought to be filming one of your tea testing and tasting experiences! Ooooo long!

  2. Angela, I agree with Gwendol: those photos are beautiful! (Perfect for a book, wouldn't you say?) There you go, with all your talents...1st the book, then the tea shop...I will be right there, reading your book and enjoying the tea. Have a great weekend, Joanie

  3. This was an interesting review of Bai Hao Oolong. Sounds good, but I too would rather not consider the tea bugs.

    I first got turned on to oolong tea after enjoying the Dragon Eye Oolong at PF Changs. Given the choice between oolong and green, I'd take oolong.

  4. Nice review. And I agree with you about the bugs. That doesn't sound appetizing.

    My copy of the book you are using arrived this week. I haven't had a chance to look at it yet but am looking forward to reading it and tasting some of the teas (once I order them).

  5. The teas in his book are arranged in order of taste, from lighter and perhaps less body (white teas) to darker and more full-bodied (black teas) and the teas whithin each category follow the same rule. So within the oolong family, they will range from lighter to more full bodied. This tea is probably lighter than the more full-bodied 'regular' Formosa oolong. Thanks for all the cool reviews!

  6. Angela, your pictures and description of this tea REALLY make me want to try it. I like Oolongs very much and this one sounds so good (albiet the bugs sound awful, so lets just not think about them!)


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