Milk Oolong


Owes its flavors to oxidation levels between green & black tea.

Milk Oolong

Postby towerofdabble » May 29th, '08, 20:34

I've seen this discussed in a few places, including here, but I haven't gotten a solid answer on what this stuff is.

I just received some from TeaSource. I brewed up a couple cups in the Gaiwan I also received from them (very nice, and I think a good buy at $13.99 for a very nicely-made large Gaiwan) and I'm not really wild about the tea. Both the leaves and the resultant liquor have a slightly odd "sweet milk" smell that doesn't seem like it could have come from the tea itself. I call it "sweet milk" but seeing those words without smelling the smell might not be very descriptive. It's a bit like sweetened condensed milk, vanilla ice cream minus the vanilla, or rice pudding or Bird's custard or something like that. Actually, it smells to me like something familiar, but I can't put my finger on quite what it is, other than the vague idea of "candy shop" or maybe some Japanese milk-flavored candies I've had.

So what is this stuff, and where does this scent come from? According to Tea Source, "Milk is actually used during the processing of this tea." A few other sites say that milk oolong is made by steaming the leaves over milk. Other sites say that the flavor develops from a change in temperature close to harvest time or something like that. I'm tending to believe the "steamed over milk" or more generic "milk is somehow involved" explanation -- but how exactly can milk be used to create a normal-looking Jade-colored rolled oolong with such an unusual, strong flavor.

Anyone know the real story or stories?

Bottom line for me is I'm glad I tried it and look forward to trying it some more, but I don't think milk oolong will become a mainstay in my tea cabinet.

---

Tea posts on my blog: http://towerofdabble.wordpress.com/category/tea
Last edited by towerofdabble on May 31st, '08, 22:41, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby tenuki » May 29th, '08, 21:32

no milk is involved. I understand it happens due to a rapid change in temperature near harvest time. (decent description here)
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Postby Salsero » May 29th, '08, 21:36

Well, I don't think that milk somehow processed with tea would taste or smell like fresh milk any more. More likely it would smell like sour or rotten milk, and this tea tastes like fresh milk.

I found the taste sensation most unusual the one time I had it. However interesting it is, I have no desire to taste milk (real or virtual) in my oolong, so I gave mine to someone else after a couple brews.
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Postby Victoria » May 30th, '08, 00:01

It is as tenuki said, due to a change in the temperatures.

This was once a favorite of mine and the only tea that I really enjoyed then just as suddenly no longer liked. Just one day, the creaminess of it made me queasy.

I recently got a sample from another vendor and I have it sitting here debating if I want to give it a try or not. Actually now that I look, it's from TeaSource.
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Postby hop_goblin » May 30th, '08, 09:06

Jinxian oolong has an inherent creaminess.
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Postby LavenderPekoe » May 30th, '08, 09:37

Victoria wrote:I recently got a sample from another vendor and I have it sitting here debating if I want to give it a try or not. Actually now that I look, it's from TeaSource.


I think you should send it to me instead. :twisted:
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Postby Victoria » May 30th, '08, 09:44

ok

:D
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Postby towerofdabble » May 30th, '08, 11:20

The link tenuki provided seems to be mostly copied from here. This page also includes this fanciful explanation:

the result of a sudden shift in temperature during harvest that is an extremely rare occurrence. One of the many legends of milk oolong explains that the first time this shift occurred was centuries ago when the moon fell in love with a comet passing through the night sky. The comet, passed by, burned out and vanished. The moon, in her sorrow caused a great wind to blow through the hills and valleys bringing about a quick drop in temperature. The next morning, local tea pluckers went out to collect their fresh leaves. To their surprise, when the tea was processed it had developed an amazing milky character, which was attributed to the motherly character of the old moon.


Tenuki's link says:

This tea is grown in the Wuyi Mountains of China and has a really unique taste of sweet milk. ...milk oolong can be difficult to find and may cost more than other oolong teas; however because of the high quality of this tea, the leaves can be brewed three times. This makes milk oolong an economical buy.


Well, it doesn't look at all like a Wuyi tea to me (looks like a Formosa jade) and I don't know of any decent oolong that can't be infused at least 3 times, so I took that explanation with a grain of salt.

The stuff I have has an atypical strong sweet candy-like fragrance that I think had to have originated somewhere other than from within the tea leaves themselves.
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Postby Salsero » May 30th, '08, 11:51

towerofdabble wrote:The stuff I have has an atypical strong sweet candy-like fragrance that I think had to have originated somewhere other than from within the tea leaves themselves.
Well, I'm sure the Chinese food industry isn't above spraying a little flavoring on plain tea to fetch a higher price. There may also be some sort of tradtional versions available from more reputable vendors versus simply flavored imitation, just like with Jasmine tea.

I trust TeaSpring quite a bit. In fact, it was their Nai Xiang Oolong that I got because Shen on the RFDT forum went nuts about it for a while. A person could contact Daniel there for more information, I suppose. On the other hand, TeaSpring lists it as a Taiwan tea, and I have a habit of not trusting tea that crosses the Straits of Taiwan before being sold -- in either direction. TeaSpring says of their Nai Xiang
    Nai Xiang Oolong is a scented tea from Taiwan. The name
    Nia Xiang means "Milk Fragrant", and as its name suggests,
    this tea is characterized by a distinct milk-like fragrance and
    taste. Nai Xiang Oolong is widely available and very popular
    in Taiwan due to its lovely unique taste and reasonable price.

Lew Perrin's BabelCarp says of Nai Xiang:
    nai xiang = oolong produced by ethnic Chinese in Thailand and in
    Taiwan, literally Milk Fragrance (奶香), usually
    - always? - made with the Jin Xuan cultivar

As with all tea, I suspect there is 10% of the real stuff out their, and 90% trashy imitation trying to capitalize on the reputation.
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Postby towerofdabble » May 30th, '08, 13:52

I have a habit of not trusting tea that crosses the Straits of Taiwan before being sold -- in either direction.


Thanks -- I have wondered about this too. I have gotten nice teas from Gordon at Tea Dragon House on ebay -- but I have wondered how these nice Taiwanese Dayuling, Alishan, Dong Ding, and Shanlinxi got from Taiwan to Shanghai. I haven't had any reason not to trust Gordon, and the teas are nice, but it does seem odd... Is it even allowable to import tea from ROC into PROC? I wouldn't have thought so, but things have changed so much in PROC over the past few decades.
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Postby Salsero » May 30th, '08, 16:30

towerofdabble wrote:I Is it even allowable to import tea from ROC into PROC? I wouldn't have thought so, but things have changed so much in PROC over the past few decades.
I don't really know how this all works, but I remember reading somewhere that Taiwanese farmer/investors own large amounts of tea fields in Fujian in the PRC, and I think the general consensus is that the Taiwanese economy is completely dependent on the the PRC. Chinese businessmen seem able to do whatever makes money.

My own concern is just that the mainland vendors don't have access to the best sources for Taiwanese premium leaf and vice a versa. It's like buying Burgundy in Kansas vs Beaune.
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Postby ABx » May 30th, '08, 22:21

Here's an older thread on the subject:
viewtopic.php?t=1921&highlight=milk+oolong

Jin Xuan high-mountain oolongs tend to have lots of amino acids that create that thickness and umami taste. The more it has, the more it can usually be smelled in that buttery aroma. In most of the gaoshan (high mountain) you taste it more than smell it, but I've had some that it was noticeable if you looked for it. I have a dancong that you can smell it in the dry leaf.
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Postby Salsero » May 30th, '08, 22:32

The brothy taste that I think of as umami and that I find in sencha sometimes doesn't seem anything like the milky taste/aroma in milk tea. Do you think they are the same, just in different contexts? And it never occurred to me to look for it in gao shan. ABx, as usual, you are rocking my world!
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Postby ABx » May 31st, '08, 04:45

Salsero wrote:The brothy taste that I think of as umami and that I find in sencha sometimes doesn't seem anything like the milky taste/aroma in milk tea. Do you think they are the same, just in different contexts? And it never occurred to me to look for it in gao shan. ABx, as usual, you are rocking my world!
I think it's always just a matter of balance between the constituents in the tea. Here's a nice article I found on the breakdown of the composition of tea, with some notes on the contribution that different types of chemicals make to the different characteristics:
http://www.fmltea.com/Teainfo/tea-chemistry%20.htm

When I first got into tea, I would get really intense cravings for the amino acids. The milk oolong definitely satiated them best of the teas, but anything particularly thick and umami would do. I've since started taking supplements, which do an even better job.
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Postby towerofdabble » May 31st, '08, 09:17

OK, I asked Daniel at TeaSpring about their Nai Xiang "milk oolong" and here is his reply:

Yes, the flavor (flavoring) is added after the tea is processed. It is not natural.


His tea looks very much like what I have, and I think confirms my suspicion that this taste/aroma is not naturally occurring.
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