It is a beautiful day today in Kansas City, and a beautiful day deserves a beautiful tea! Nannuoshan's Ali Shan is a perfect fit, a Gao Shan (High Mountain) Oolong made from the Qing Xin cultivar. There is a trend coming out of Taiwan (or so the rumblings of the tea world would have me believe) that the preferred Oolongs are the ones that vibrantly green and with very little roast, and this is what I was expecting when I as sent a sample to write about. I was in for a very pleasant surprise! This Oolong has a medium level of roast, meaning you can get those wonderful floral notes usually associated with a green Ali Shan while also getting the wonderfully sweet toasty notes you only get with a roasted Oolong.
The aroma of the dry leaves greeted me the moment I opened the pouch, notes of hyacinth and honeysuckle blend with baked peaches, freshly baked yeasty farm bread, roasted chestnuts, and a touch of lilies and snap peas as the finish of a very long inhale. I kept my nose in those leaves probably far longer than was necessary, but they smelled really good! It was evocative of a spring breeze bringing in flowers through an open window right as you are pulling a freshly baked loaf of bread from the oven.
After the first steep in my gaiwan, the aroma of the now quite soggy leaves is pretty intense. Strong notes of spicy Asiatic lilies and yeasty sweet bread blend with lilacs and sugarcane with an accompaniment of snap peas and a hint of peaches at the finish. The golden liquid is very sweet, honey drizzled yeasty bread blend with sweet peas, gentle peaches, and distant lilies. I really like how it smells both sweet and floral without being at all cloying or heady.
The tea starts sweet and thick, with a mouthfeel that is very smooth while coating the mouth with velvety softness, no dryness or unpleasant sensations while sipping this Oolong. It starts with a peach skin and snap pea note, this is fairly quickly overtaken starchy sweet freshly baked yeasty bread and a touch of lilacs. Towards the end notes of rich honey and chestnuts blend with a touch of crushed vegetation become the dominant notes. The aftertaste is a very long, lingering, sweet notes of freshly baked yeasty bread. The second steep ramps up the flavor, the honey and bread notes become stronger and the flowery notes overshadow any green quality previously present, this session is turning out to be a fantastic one.
It is at this time I have to say I am very glad that I was sent enough for two sessions, because sometimes life gets in the way of tea and the first session was interrupted. The doorbell rang and I had to sign for a package, and true I could have managed all of that while the third steep was unfurling, but I got distracted with my package and remembered my tea a full ten minutes later. I am only mentioning this distraction because again, this tea is full of surprises. I was expecting my over-steeped cup to be bitter or at the very least way too intense, but no! It was wonderfully sweet and thick, like flowery puff pastry drizzled with honey. So if you are easily distracted and wander off from your tea, have no fear because when you come back to it the taste will be outstanding.
The next session went as planned, no interruptions and many steeps, just as one expects. I was able to get a solid twelve steeps out of this tea before I called it quits, and I am pretty sure this tea had more to give. The later steeps tasted of baklava without quite so many nuts (and admittedly not as sweet, but still quite sweet) truly the notes of puff pastry are quite fantastic and linger well into the aftertaste. I want to get more of this tea for my collection, I feel it is one that needs more experimenting with, as I am pretty sure this tea would be amazing if consumed bowl style or tossed in a travel steeper to drink while out running errands. I love teas that are best drank in the gongfucha method but also adore teas that are versatile!
Written by Amanda