Taiwanese Sun-Moon Lake Black


Fully oxidized tea leaves for a robust cup.

Postby Janine » May 1st, '09, 20:46

Great stuff, TokyoB. Thank you again for all the info. I am really interested and it's so great of you to share this and go to all the trouble for research.

So, to sum up again, you like Upton's?
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Postby Victoria » May 4th, '09, 21:55

Ack, you know what?? I ordered both! So a little comparison tasting will be coming soon.

I found that Upton sells sample sizes and I got completly carried away on the CS site, also ordering some FF Darjeeling.
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Postby Janine » May 5th, '09, 13:53

Sounds great to me, Victoria, a true tea afficionado of my own heart.

Can't wait to hear your impressions - and of course I"m jealous now :lol:
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Postby Victoria » May 5th, '09, 14:04

Don't worry, I'll share.
:)

I think I am more excited about the Darjeelings.
:)
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Postby woozl » May 5th, '09, 17:07

Please report on the FF Darj.
I hear Risheehat is good this year.
I should be tasting some soon :P

I blew a gift cer. at Upton. It was fun (and educational).
That is the attraction, who else has sooo many teas, and will sell ya 2$ worth
of any one of em.

If you search on the site you can find the new teas, as they are known for some staler products.
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Postby Victoria » May 5th, '09, 17:31

From CS I only ordered the Gopaldhara FF and a Nilgiri.
And the Title post of course.
Oh and a baozhong.
:shock:
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Postby TokyoB » May 6th, '09, 20:08

Janine wrote:Great stuff, TokyoB. Thank you again for all the info. I am really interested and it's so great of you to share this and go to all the trouble for research.

So, to sum up again, you like Upton's?


Janine,
I do like the Uptons. I will say though that it does have an underlying oolong/bai hao taste to it. You have to like that to enjoy it. It isn't like a typical black tea. Sounds like you might get a sample. Let me know what you think.
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Uptoon Taiwan Blacks

Postby aaronlawson » May 7th, '09, 06:47

I just got in two Taiwan blacks from Upton -their version of Ruby tea from Sun-Moon Lake and another ("Premium Formosa Black") less expensive tea that is said to be a cross between an Assam and native Taiwanese stock:

http://www.uptontea.com/shopcart/catalog.asp?begin=0&categoryID=231

Both are pretty expensive. I tried the "Premium" this morning as an English style breaffast tea with milk and sugar and it clearly isn't that kind of tea.

I'll try both these teas a few times and let you know what I think. The Upton Ruby Tea is about twice a expensive as the "Red Jade" I bought in Taiwan, but may actually be the same tea (I'm not including the $1200 is cost to fly to Taiwan to get it!).

The history behind these teas is really amazing! It makes me realize how little I know about tea and how much more I want to learn.

-Aaron
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Postby TokyoB » May 7th, '09, 08:32

Aaron,
Let us know what you think. I think one reason the Upton Ruby tea may be more expensive is that it is hand processed. Although the Upton and CS versions taste very similar, the leaves from Upton were more tightly wound and not broken at all. The CS tea looked ok but not nearly as perfect as the Upton tea. So although the tea leaf and basic processing method may be the same as you had in Taiwan there may be several producers of this tea with different processing methods.

I saw the Premium Formosa Black and was wondering how it compares. Let us know please. Thanks!
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Postby Victoria » May 7th, '09, 09:30

My Upton's is here today too. I'll report in later.
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Postby aaronlawson » May 8th, '09, 18:00

Here's my review of the Sun Moon Lake #18 from Upton and the Premium Formosa Black from Upton.

Sun Moon Lake #18

Set up: 4 grams tea leaves steeped in 250 ml water in 250 ml yixing pot; water was allowed to boil and then cool for 2 minutes.

Dry leaf appearance and characteristics: very long slender leaves, very uniform in appearence and graceful, with a very dark, matte grey color. Very few broken leaves. Aroma of leaves is very strong and distinctly spicy, a beautiful pure smell of fresh wintergreen with dark woody undertones. Perhaps the most unique black tea smell I have encountered.

First infusion (30 seconds) :

aroma: subdued and mild, almost imperceptible when first decanted from yixing pot; as it cooled aroma became more pronounced, woody with distinct checkerberry (wintergreen) aroma. For anyone who has chewed wintergreen leaves, this is exactly the smell. Black birch bark and other snowberry leaves also contain this woody/spicy/wintergreen aroma. I know this because I happen to have grown up in the mountains of western Massachusetts where these plants are common. Be aware that this does not smell like imitation wintergeen.
taste: very little bitterness, acidity or tannin; still, it is rich and full in texture with astringency noticeable only tongue is rubbed against roof of mouth, waxy, wintergreen is distinctly present when swallowed
color: light amber, clear; the color of cognac but more ashen and flatter.
leaf appearance: leaves have not unfolded and remain would in their long, narrow shape.

Second infusion (30 seconds):

aroma: milder, surprisingly, than first; much less spice, becoming sweeter and more honey-like as tea cooled. The components that produce the 'spiciness' must be very volatile and are driven off in the first infusion, should try cooler temperature water in the future.
taste: more tannin and acidity, slightly more astringent, but still incredibly smooth on any scale
color: slightly darker than first, browner
leaf appearance: about 50% of the leaves have opened

Third infusion (30 seconds):

Very similar to 2nd, slightly darker color and a bit more astringent, leaves are almost all open.

Conclusions: I need to compare this tea directly with the Sun Moon Lake #18 Ruby Tea I brought from Taiwan. The leaf style is very similar. The aroma of the dry leaves is MUCH more intense with the Upton tea. However I got the impression that the Ruby Tea from Taiwan had much more intense aroma and taste. This tea was VERY expensive but a unique experience.

Premium Formosa Black

Set up: 4 grams tea leaves steeped in 250 ml water in 250 ml yixing pot; water was allowed to boil and then cool for 2 minutes.

Dry leaf appearance and characteristics: closer to a Ceylon or Assam OP leaf style, with some broken leaves, but mostly whole. Leaves have a soft fruity aroma with no hint of smoke or the usual aromas I associate with Congou or Yunnan black teas from mainland China. The leaf seems more like a tea a would expect to find in Nilgiri or Sri Lanka, but with a different kind of fruitiness.

First Infusion (30 seconds):
aroma: aroma is initial very faint, as tea cools it is becoming more pronounced. There is a definite toasty oolong note to the aroma, that I associate with higher-oxidation oolongs. It reminds me of an oolong that I brought back from Taiwan called Zuei Guei Fei (the tea salesman translated this as "beautiful drunken *BOO*", with a complete straight face) aka "Rock Tea" from Wuyi mountain. This is the toasty side of the aroma, and it is much more subdued than it is in true oolongs. There is also a fruity side that is not oolong-like at all, but similar to black teas I've tried from Nilgiri. In fact, I am reminded of the smell of curry leaves used in southern Indian cuisine.

taste: nice bit of acidity, very low astringency and tannin. Mouth feel is full but clean and not waxy, unlike the #18 from Upton.

color: fairly dark, can't see the bottom of the cup well, but clear. Looks much stronger than it tastes. Beautiful dark red.

leaf appearance: leaves have mostly unfolded, looks like a mixture of pekoe and broken leaves

Second Infusion (30 seconds):
aroma: still as above, fruity and toasty; more pronounced sweet spice smells (curry leaves and cardomon) and more pronounced "Rock Tea" oolong toastiness. I now see why one reviewer said it had "cocoa", because if I were to brew it western style I imagine that malty-chocolately smells would emerge. Very different from the #18 cultivar, but more in common with that than with keemun. No smokiness at all.

taste: more astringent now, fuller mouth feel. No bitterness at all. Very smooth and refined. Tastes like an expensive Ceylon, even though it's a moderate Taiwan.

color: hasn't changed much, dark reddish brown.

leaf appearance: as above.

Conclusions: quite different from the #18, has oolong characteristics coupled with scents and tastes I associate with Indian tea. Obviously a very high quality and refined black with lot's of complexity. I do not put it in the same class as either of the #18s -they are a real experience.
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Postby geeber1 » May 8th, '09, 19:06

Great reviews, thanks!
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Postby Janine » May 8th, '09, 20:59

aaron, thank you so much for those complete reviews!

Now I'm even more intrigued by these teas than before.
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Postby teashionista » May 8th, '09, 21:34

This tea sounds wonderful. Just recently I thought I was well stocked on tea, and now I realize there is a gaping hole in my stash :shock: Need to get some Sun Moon Lake...
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Postby Victoria » May 9th, '09, 12:20

I'm sorry I don't think I can even post a coherent thought on the Sun Moon lake from Upton. It was so horrid, I couldn't get down more than a few gulps. Definitely not for me. I didn't sense any wintergreen. Not to offend those who like it, it's not for me. As with all teas though, I'm glad I tried it, I love trying and learning about tea.
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