October 26, 2016

Floating Leaves Tea - Hehuan Shan High Mountain Oolong

My intention was to drink my way up altitude with the Floating Leaves Tea high mountain oolong sampler but I drank Li Shan before Hehuan Shan. This is definitely a molehill scale problem so I have not let it prevent me from enjoying these teas. Read my review of the Ali Shan. Last week I wrote about the peak tea, the Da Yu Ling. Today's review is about the Hehuan Shan. Stay tuned for my impressions of the Shan Lin Xi and Li Shan.

I felt like this tea was all over the tea flavor wheel but I've only had one session with it. One of the first things I wrote in my notebook on smelling the dry leaves was, "Do all dry leaves of Taiwanese high mountain oolongs smell of cream and warm Horlicks?" The latter is a malted drink from my childhood. The Hehuan Shan also smells of warm tea dust or what I imagine the inside of a tea processing rooms to smell like. The 7 grams I portioned were emerald and forest green in color with more rolled leaf than stems visible. I infused the leaves in 120 mL of 195F water in a clay kyusu. My infusion times were recommended by Floating Leaves: 25s, 20s, 17s, 20s, 35s. I steeped the leaves twice at 35s followed by 1m and two 2m infusions.

The liquor began pale green and mild in flavor. I could not identify specific flavors in the second infusion. The liquor was yellow and tasted vegetal and floral. It was thick with a drying effect. The third infusion was similarly colored but was buttery, floral but not sweet, and almost brothy. The infused leaves were sweet smelling. I kept wondering if one of the mystery notes was fennel or anise.The fourth infusion was really full flavored with floral, again not sweet or heady, bitter like raw dark leafy greens or pine needles or an IPA-style beer, and brothy qualities. The fifth infusion had a thinner body and mouthfeel. The sixth infusion was mellower and much less bitter. There was a typical green oolong floral note but the flavors and aromas had mostly faded. When pushed to a one minute infusion, a slight bitterness reemerged alongside floral notes and a creamy texture which did not translate to a creamy taste. At two minutes, the flavors were the same. The final two minute steep  yielded a fresh tasting liquor with minimal flavor. This is a lot for a green oolong, right?

I am so curious if you have had a Hehuan Shan before or a tea that led you on a non-linear taste journey. Please share in the comments.

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