Oolong quality – how to identify?


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Oolong quality – how to identify?

Postby Mooniac » Jun 24th, '11, 01:42

Hello,

During last couple years I tried about 20-25 different kinds of oolong tea, both bought by weight from e-bay (no-names), from local stores and from respected Chinese tea-stores (not online ones, the actual Chinese stores in China). Some of the were “meh” quality, some had such aroma and taste that I hardly could believe that nothing artificial was added to them.

For example, I have couple bags bought to me by a friend straight from the tea factory in Hainan. 60-80$ per 200g bag straight from the line, no middleman. The factory worker who was responcible for the tea sales told that it is the highest grade possible on their factory and it even doesn’t really go for export, because most of it is sold to restaurants inside China. The titles are “Lady Lan” tea (oolong in ginseng powder) and “Red East” tea (oolong fermented with local sweet berries). From the representer of their partner’s factory in the China mainland he also purchased the highest available grade of the “Flower oolong”, the oolong which is a total mistily to me, because it smells like some sweet flowers or strawberry or raspberry with sour cream. Both the seller and my Chinese friend I asked about the ‘authenticity” of the smell said that the smell is natural to this tea.

Today, at the local oriental store I bought 250g of Tung-Ting oolong (“ABC Tea House” brand) for… 3.29$. The smell is ok, remind me the ‘Aged Iron Goddess oolong” I bought once on e-bay, but the leaves are not of the uniform color (there are dark-grey pellets and brown-green pellets of oolong, I even found one… berry of some sort). The taste… em… *makes a sip* the cheapest no-name oolong I bought from e-bay sellers directly from China was better than this.

So, are there some ways to distinguish the quality of Oolong tea? I know that with black tea you need to go for the size of a leaf and “tips”, which are quite easy to identify, but what I should look at while peaking through oolong teas?
And one more thing… Are those oolong aromas real? I tried oolongs which smelled like wet jasmine branches (sounds a little unreal, but people who lived in places where jasmine grows will understand me – it is not quite the same smell as from the flowers, it is more of a “bark and leaves”, but still jasmine), like fallen leaves in a forest, like field flowers or like strawberries in sour cream. In our artificial world it is hard to believe that those aromas can be acquired naturally.
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Re: Oolong quality – how to identify?

Postby TIM » Jun 24th, '11, 13:28

Any tea which is infused or added herb is a lesser grade. If the tea could stand on its own, why would you at flower or herbs to cover its natural beauty? No great quality coffee will be made into hazelnuts or vanilla coffee, just dont make sense commercially.
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Re: Oolong quality – how to identify?

Postby Mooniac » Jun 25th, '11, 01:16

TIM wrote:Any tea which is infused or added herb is a lesser grade. If the tea could stand on its own, why would you at flower or herbs to cover its natural beauty? No great quality coffee will be made into hazelnuts or vanilla coffee, just dont make sense commercially.


Well, it is certainly true for commercial “natural oils added” brands and all those “pineapple oolongs”. I mean when the additional components are added into actual tea. Although, tea is only a material and before it is processed it can not be fully good or bad, because we are not making a drink of the fresh leafs, they needs to be properly processed to poses the qualities of a drink (not mentioning that the aroma of the processed tea can smell like something non-tea at all). And this process may include more components than just tea leaf to make the aroma and flavor unique. And that is where I hit the invisible wall with oolong tea, because it is the “doppelganger” of all teas.
The problem I faced, while drinking oolongs is that I don’t posses enough experience and information about oolong teas to be sure about the natural origin of the flavor/aroma of the particular kind. So, that’s why I am here :)
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Re: Oolong quality – how to identify?

Postby tingjunkie » Jun 26th, '11, 02:48

Buy any oolong from Tea Gallery, Mandarin's Tea Room, Jing, Floating Leaves, Tea Masters, etc, etc, etc. (just search this form for trusted vendors) and then try them. No mystery, no BS advertizing claims, just high quality oolong at fair prices.
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Re: Oolong quality – how to identify?

Postby entropyembrace » Jun 26th, '11, 14:17

tingjunkie wrote:Buy any oolong from Tea Gallery, Mandarin's Tea Room, Jing, Floating Leaves, Tea Masters, etc, etc, etc. (just search this form for trusted vendors) and then try them. No mystery, no BS advertizing claims, just high quality oolong at fair prices.


You´ll find a lot of flavours and aromas that will amaze you as someone new to tea in the teas from these vendors...but you should be able to tell the difference from spray on flavour....the natural flavours and aromas of oolong are more complex and subtle...you should know the difference when you try one :)
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Re: Oolong quality – how to identify?

Postby tortoise » Jun 27th, '11, 09:00

Mooniac wrote: And that is where I hit the invisible wall with oolong tea, because it is the “doppelganger” of all teas.
The problem I faced, while drinking oolongs is that I don’t posses enough experience and information about oolong teas to be sure about the natural origin of the flavor/aroma of the particular kind. So, that’s why I am here :)


How is oolong the doppelganger of all tea?

All the advice in this thread so far has been right on. Go to trusted vendors if you want to know good tea.
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Re: Oolong quality – how to identify?

Postby teaisme » Jun 27th, '11, 15:26

yeah its vast world, don't ever think that you are on the verge of understanding it all :wink:

To the OP question, so many things, you will find a lot of answers on teachat though reading about it and trying are very different. :!: Here are a few general things to look for though they may not mean much depending on the tea and on you...

so a balance of all these things and more...

no unnatural splotches on the leaf, leaf remains fragrant after you are done drinking multiple infusions, most good ones wet leaves are not hard (more elastic, soft, and thick), not roasted to a crisp, goes down naturally and feels like it is very easily absorbed into you, makes you feel calm/warm/centered etc etc, does not get overly bitter with proper steeping, and if there is bitterness it shifts pretty quick into other things, nice coating of mouth/throat/nasal with flavour and essence, aftertaste is long, not too thin (this is my personal preference since I enjoy teas that have thicker body more then the thinner ones), can go numerous infusions, nothing tastes off, not too dusty at top (dust not tea hairs) or dirty (black specs and other debris) at bottom of tea liquor, you find you do not get tired of it easily, and when it is gone you feel honored to have tried, and maybe a little sad that you are out :(
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Re: Oolong quality – how to identify?

Postby wyardley » Jun 27th, '11, 16:41

One thing I've heard is that artificial fragrances sprayed on will usually disappear after around 4 infusions or so. I haven't had any oolongs that I'm sure have this kind of fragrance applied, but it's worth considering.

Of course, better quality oolongs will usually last more brews even if the cheaper one isn't scented / flavored, but if a certain flavor drops abruptly that early in, it might be a sign that the tea could have had some flavor or aroma added.
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Re: Oolong quality – how to identify?

Postby Mooniac » Jun 28th, '11, 01:09

tortoise wrote:How is oolong the doppelganger of all tea?

Oolong covers a wide range of characteristics (by that I mean taste and aroma) between definitely-black and definitely-green/white teas. As a result, without the knowledge about sorts of oolong tea there is a good chance to mistake oolong for green, black, or even artificially flavored tea. Personally, before some research, I thought that oolong is “that curly green tea” and know lots of people who think the same.

2 Tingjunk
2 Entropye

Well, now, having some names of trusted vendors I can start to practice. I was wondering about the “all-purpose” characteristics of oolong quality, because most times I was buying it from the sellers who didn’t get any serious feedback from tea-experts.

churng wrote:you find you do not get tired of it easily, and when it is gone you feel honored to have tried, and maybe a little sad that you are out

That’s the best characteristics of quality I ever heard. :D

2 churng
2 wyardley

Thank you, I’ll remember those advices. Thankfully, I guess I didn’t try really bad oolongs (ok, except that recent stuff from ABC tea house) just those of a low quality.
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Re: Oolong quality – how to identify?

Postby tortoise » Jun 28th, '11, 09:47

Mooniac wrote:
tortoise wrote:How is oolong the doppelganger of all tea?

Oolong covers a wide range of characteristics (by that I mean taste and aroma) between definitely-black and definitely-green/white teas. As a result, without the knowledge about sorts of oolong tea there is a good chance to mistake oolong for green, black, or even artificially flavored tea. Personally, before some research, I thought that oolong is “that curly green tea” and know lots of people who think the same.



Sorry to get hung up on semantics. That's not quite what doppelganger means so I was confused without reading between the lines. You're right, oolong does cover a very broad spectrum.
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Re: Oolong quality – how to identify?

Postby Mooniac » Jun 28th, '11, 10:44

tortoise wrote: Sorry to get hung up on semantics. That's not quite what doppelganger means so I was confused without reading between the lines. You're right, oolong does cover a very broad spectrum.

*looking at the dictionary*
Oh... “Clone”, “duplicate”…
Sorry, I was thinking of D&D/fantasy doppelgangers who can take any appearance they want :)
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Re: Oolong quality – how to identify?

Postby Drax » Jun 28th, '11, 11:05

Mooniac wrote:
tortoise wrote: Sorry to get hung up on semantics. That's not quite what doppelganger means so I was confused without reading between the lines. You're right, oolong does cover a very broad spectrum.

*looking at the dictionary*
Oh... “Clone”, “duplicate”…
Sorry, I was thinking of D&D/fantasy doppelgangers who can take any appearance they want :)


Those are shapeshifters... :wink: doppelgangers are traditionally ones that can take any appearance, but do so as duplicates. Although technically, I'm not sure that the distinctions are that precise anymore, haha.
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