Tanzania ~ Usambara Region Green & Oolong Teas | Upton Tea Imports

Today I’ll be reviewing both a green and oolong tea from the Usambara Region of Tanzania.

Advertisements

image8

Hello tea-drinkers! Luckily my finals are over so hopefully I will be able to post more often in these next few months. I have some very interesting stuff planned so stay tuned!

A few weeks ago I got very into researching African tea. I had previously seen African teas on What-Cha (in fact I reviewed one here) yet many of them sold out before I could try I them. After a lot of digging I found a website which has several interesting African teas which I plan to review later this year.

During my research, I came across these two teas sold by Upton Tea Imports. They are both from the same region of Usambara in Tanzania. Upton didn’t give much information about these teas, with most of the description info describing the taste, so I had to do a little research myself on this region.

The Usambara Mountains are located in Northeastern Tanzania, southeast of Kilimanjaro but obviously west of the Indian Ocean. They are characterized by sprawling tropical forests, many of which have a variety of endemic species.

I am very excited to taste these, as they will be my second taste of African teas and they are from a rather lesser-known region, compared to the main tea giants of Africa: Kenya and Malawi.

Upton Tea offers both an oolong and a green tea from this region, so I purchased both for reviewing purposes. For both teas I used a glass gaiwan and followed the brewing parameters given on the packages (190F for the oolong and 170F for the green). So, without further ado, on to the tasting!

The first of the two that I tasted was the oolong.

image1

The dry leaves smelled very different than what I was expecting. They smell nutty, of raw almonds with a hint of floral fruitiness that I would compare to honeysuckle or melon. There are some sweet, molasses/brown sugar notes as well and altogether this tea smells a lot like a first or second flush Himalayan black tea.

image4

The steeped leaves smell intensely malty, definitely more akin to a black tea than an oolong. However, there are some roasted, fruity notes that are analogous to some highly oxidized yanchas. There’s a little bit of a marine, sea salt scent as well which gives it some pronounced mineral qualities.

image2

The tea itself smells quite light – the melon and honeysuckle notes of the dry leaves return with the malty notes of the steeped leaves to create and experience very, very similar to a second-flush Himalayan black tea (in particular a Darjeeling).

A first steep of this tea is quite flavorful – it’s full-bodied without being cloying. It’s got lots of melon fruitiness common to both white teas and early flushes of black teas, and there is a very present malty flavor which leans this particular tea towards a second-flush. There is a very light, honeyed sweetness which reminds me a lot of the Kenyan Rhino White Tea I reviewed a while ago (I linked it previously in this post). What’s unusual about this is that I don’t get any flavors that I commonly think of when I think of oolong, whether it be a lighter oolong or a darker one.

Since this tea is remarkably similar to earlier flushes of black tea from the Himalayas (Darjeeling, Sikkim, Kangra, Nepal, etc), I did a little research. Apparently earlier flushes of black teas from specifically Darjeeling undergo less oxidation during processing, and I think that happened with this tea. I imagine this was classified as an oolong simply by the oxidation level, and not by its processing.

Next I tasted the green tea.

image5

The dry leaves are quite dark and wiry, which makes them look a little more similar to green teas I’ve had from South Asia (ex. the Bhutanese green tea I had). The smell, however, is almost like a combination between Japanese gyokuro and Chinese taiping houkui. There is a savory, marine scent of gyokuro with the nuttiness and subtle toasted scent of taiping houkui. I was very surprised, because I would’ve never expected that scent from a tea this dark in color.

image7

The steeped leaves definitely smell more like a Japanese green than the dry leaves do, which is interesting because judging by the shape and look these were processed very differently from a Japanese green. There are very pronounced, intense marine notes along with a toasted nuttiness which is almost reminiscent of smelling cooked shellfish. There is a definite savory note as well which reminds me a lot of a gyokuro in particular.

image6

The tea is smells very light in comparison to the dry and wet leaves. There is a more pronounced grassiness here with just a little bit of the marine scent I experienced with the wet leaves.

The texture of the tea is quite noticeable – it’s rather light and crisp and goes down just like water. The flavor, however, is a little more elusive. The tea had a beautiful, light green-yellow color yet it tasted very underwhelming. There are very subtle notes of roasted nuts, with a little bit of vegetal grassiness and a hint of toasted seaweed. There wasn’t really any astringency which I liked and since this is a green tea I decided not to resteep it.

I was surprised at how light this green tea was – the scents of both the dry and wet leaves were incredibly strong so I was expecting something with a lot of flavor. This tea ended up a lot lighter, with the flavor profile and general intensity of flavor being a little lackluster for me. The little bit of flavor that was there, however, is more reminiscent of a higher-quality green so at least it doesn’t taste cheap.

Overall, I am quite impressed with these two teas. They were both very different from what I was expecting but I see them being very similar to teas from other regions. My only problem with these two teas is that the green tea was quite bland (and I followed their parameters!) and it lacked a more pronounced depth of flavor that I’m used to having with the green teas I normally drink (taiping houkui, liu an gua pian). I also wish I knew a little more about where these came from, rather than just a general region.

These are quite interesting and if you’re looking to try some teas from more unusual regions than I would definitely recommend these. However I suggest thinking of the oolong as a black tea and maybe going a little higher on the temperature and/or steeping time than suggested for the green. Who knows, maybe you can get more flavor out of it than I can.

So although I didn’t love the green tea, I liked the oolong quite a lot and I do give major props to Tanzanian tea growers for growing some good quality tea in comparison to most of what comes out of that region, which is a lot of CTC and teabag stuff.

Ratings:
Oolong: 8/10
Green: 6.5/10
From: Upton Tea Imports
Usambara Region, Tanzania

China ~ Charcoal Roasted Gan De Tieguanyin Oolong Tea | Yunnan Sourcing

Today I’ll be reviewing a charcoal-roasted tieguanyin oolong tea from Fujian Province in China.

image4

Hello! Today I have another tea review and this time it’s an oolong from Fujian Province.

This tea is a Tie Guan Yin (Ti Kuan Yin) oolong tea. Tieguanyin directly translates to “Iron Goddess of Mercy”, which is because this tea is named after Guanyin, the Chinese goddess of mercy.

Tieguanyin oolong is one of China’s “10 Famous Teas and it is traditionally produced in Anxi County of Fujian Province in the southeast, near Taiwan.

This particular tieguanyin was hand-roasted over pine wood charcoal in Gan De Village, a small tea-producing village in Anxi County. This tea was harvested in autumn of 2017.

Gan De Village produces a variety of other Chinese oolongs, including Huang Jin Gui and my personal favorite, Mao Xie (Hairy Crab).

I brewed this tea at 198 degrees F in a porcelain gaiwan, and I got 11 steeps out of it (which is very impressive for an oolong).

image3

The dry leaves smell dark and roasted, along with a sweet, floral, orchid scent akin to many oolongs. Slight woody, toasted nut scents come through along with a fruity note that reminds me of fresh passionfruit.

image5

The steeped leaves smell toasted and nutty with slight scents of lilacs and chopped wood.

The liquor smells roasted and woody, once again like freshly chopped wood. There are floral oolong flavors that are reminiscent of lilacs and orchids, and slight sweet and buttery notes.

The tea is very smooth and silken in texture. It’s sweet and floral, like freshly cut lilacs, and it retains a roasted, woody flavor that is common to toasted nuts. The second steep brings out more of its creamier, buttery notes that complement the floral sweetness beautifully. Each steep brings out more of the floral flavors.

Overall, I loved this tea. I love roasted oolongs and this will be an excellent addition to my collection. I definitely want to explore more oolongs, and maybe find some more unusual oolongs (maybe from Japan or Korea) because I would love to see how the flavors change depending on where they’re from and if different countries have different production methods.

Rating: 9/10
From: Yunnan Sourcing
Gan De Village, Anxi County, Quanzhou, Fujian Province, China

Taiwan ~ Baozhong Oolong Tea | What-Cha

Today I’ll be reviewing a Baozhong oolong tea from Taiwan.

image3

Hello! I’ve just received several tea orders so I’m super excited to try everything, and one of the teas I was most excited to try was this.

I would say that oolong tea is the tea category that I know the least about, as I was never really into oolong teas until recently. I have loved most oolongs that I’ve tried, though.

My favorite oolongs are Taiwanese light oolongs, which are the least oxidized out of oolong teas. I find lighter oolongs to be more floral which is why I love them so much.

This tea is a baozhong (pouchong) oolong from Nantou County, Taiwan which is the second-largest county in Taiwan and the only landlocked county.

Baozhong tea is quite interesting as it is often considered to be the middle ground between green tea and oolong tea. It’s one of the most popular teas in Taiwan and it’s often blended with rose.

image1

The dry leaves smell very strongly floral and almost melon-like. The floral scent is reminiscent of hyacinth or lilacs, and it’s a scent that I usually associate with lightly-oxidized oolongs such as this one.

image2

The steeped leaves smell a lot like the dry leaves, however steeping them brings out some more grassy and vegetal notes that are reminiscent of a lighter Chinese green like a tai ping hou kui.

The tea itself smells a lot like flowers with just a touch of the vegetal scent that was noticeable in the steeped leaves.

The first steep is very light and floral, and the color of the tea is absolutely stunning (I love light teas like that). It’s very smooth and almost creamy in its texture. The floral flavor is a lot like the smell – very reminiscent of lilacs. There is a small hint of astringency after the flavor comes through, but overall it’s very gentle. The second steep is even smoother, and it retains its flora flavor while also introducing a vegetal, green note that is analogous to the smell of the steeped leaves.

Overall, this is a wonderful tea and I think it will be a great addition to my tea collection (since I bought 100g). I will definitely be searching for more Taiwanese oolongs to review as I want to expand my horizons a little.

Rating: 8.5/10
From: What-Cha
Nantou County, Taiwan