January 22, 2018

Three High Mountain Oolongs from Totem Tea

My last post in 2017 was a review of a Taiwanese black tea from Totem Tea. I am kicking off 2018 on the blog with a review of three high mountain oolongs from Totem Tea. In fact, all four teas arrived in the same package but it made sense to review the oolongs separate from the black tea.

The three oolongs in question are Floral Mountain Tie Guan Yin (Ali Shan), Old World Qing Xin (Dong Ding Shan), West Peak Li Shan (Hehuan Shan) (pictured above). The mountain of origin is noted in parantheses. Each oolong was packaged in a foil lined pouch. The gram size varied but hovered around 5 grams, but the steeping parameters were the same for each tea: 150 ml, 195F, 60s initial steep with increase of one minute for each additional infusion.

Floral Mountain Tie Guan Yin

The small, tight rolled dry leaves of this oolong were dark with copper flecks. The fragrance of the leave was super floral, almost as if I had taken a deep sniff of a bowl of tropical fruit sitting on countertop in a warm room. The infused leaves were dark, still rolled, and very floral in scent. The liquor of the first infusion was bright, clear, and pale peach in color. The steam was heady with floral, warm melon, and guava notes. The taste was lightly roasted with some fruit but much less sweet than the smell indicated. The second infusion was a darker cup with much more roast. I detected spices. The tea was warming with lingering flavors. There was a pleasant drying sensation. The cooled liquor had a biting roast similar to a charred vegetable or raw species. The third infusion still had a strong roast flavor. The tea was drier and less lush. The liquor was not as dark nor as full bodied. There was a tart tail note. The fourth infusion yielded roast and raw spice especially at the top of my throat. The lingering note was of fall baking, think deep-dish apple pie. The tea was fairly smooth even with a mid-mouth astringency and tart finish. I steeped the leaves twice more but the sixth cup was thin. The fifth cup which was really the last cup, still had a strong, smooth roast flavor. There was no astringency or tartness, but there was an almost slippery, creamy texture.

Old World Qing Xin

This oolong's rolled, dark green and medium-green leaves smelled like brown sugar. The infused leaves were candy sweet, floral, and vegetal. The first infusion had a creamy texture. The light golden yellow liquor was fruity and eventual. The second infusion was juicy, medium-bodied, and all fruit. I drank the third cup so quickly that I didn't record notes. Woody and baked notes emerged in the fourth infusion along with the musk of incense, persimmon bread, and baked pecans. The fifth and final infusion had a flatter profile but the baked pecan flavor was still present especially on the mid palate.

West Peak Li Shan

Before I get into the tasting notes, I wanted to point out that this oolong seems to have double mountain provenance. It was grown on the Hehuan Mountain peak which is part of Li Shan.

The very small, tightly rolled leaves of this oolong were blue-green and emerald green in color. The leaves smelled sweet and toasted and reminded me of malted barley. The infused leaves were a brilliant green and had fragrances of sweet steamed vegetables and grains. The stems were the most pronounced in this oolong. The first infusion was lush, sweet, and vegetal with a sweet grain base note. The golden-yellow liquor of the second infusion was thick, creamy, and vegetal. There was a bitterness like tasting the inside of a stone-fruit pit. The liquor was incredibly aromatic; it filled my mouth and nose with taste and smell of crushed flower petals. The tea coated my mouth and tongue. I drank the second infusion from a small, thin cup, too, and detected a floral note. The third infusion was electric yellow but much mellower. Much of the flavor showed up in the tail note which floral as if you were eating petals. The fourth cup was over steeped by a couple of hours! Although there was bitterness to the liquor, it was not unpleasant. The tea was soft and floral otherwise.

The Takeaway

The Floral Mountain Tieguanyin is my favorite! I really like dark (more oxidized) oolongs but tend to shy away from heavily roasted teas. This tieguanyin has a lot of roast but it lets other flavors shine through. I enjoyed the woody, baked and nutty goodness of the fourth infusion of the Old World Qing Xin. I wouldn't mind a tea that delivered those notes from start to finish. As for the West Peak Li Shan, the second cup was the most complex and flavorful. It bordered on being overly strong but you could temper that with less leaf, lower temperature, and/or shorter infusion times.

Totem Tea provided the following teas for review purposes: Floral Mountain Tie Guan YinOld World Qing Xin, and West Peak Li Shan.


  1. Captivating Tie Guan Yin tea review! The generosity of your words, the tastes you describe, the aromas you smell take us beyond just reading.

    1. Notes on Tea2/19/18, 7:55 PM

      Thank you, Sylvana!


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