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