Sunday, November 4, 2012
Nature’s Tea Leaf, Buddha Hand Oolong
Organic Iron Buddha Hand Oolong Tea are strips of tea leaves with a dark green and black bloom. The leaves are naturally withered under the strong sun, oxidized, and then tightly wrapped and rolled. The Buddha Hand Oolong, so named for the resemblance to the leaves of the fruit tree "Buddha's Hand" or "fingered citron", has a delicate aroma and an audacious flavor that is refreshing when served hot or cold.
This sample was provided by Nature’s Tea Leaf. The dry leaf is interesting. It is rolled, but not in balls, rather more as elongated pods that resemble the cocoons I find on our cedar trees. The dry scent is grain. Once I put it in the press I thought I detected cocoa. Neither of these scents do I think of when thinking oolong. I used a half of my scoop, looked at it in the press and thought, this is not enough so I nearly doubled it. The water was heated to almost boiling. I steeped per instructions at 3 minutes.
The brew is a pale yellow as best I can tell in my dark office. The wet leaf scent is best described as green. It is not vegetable or floral, just green, with the faintest of roasted notes. The leaf has not unfurled completely so I am not sure what we have yet.
The sip when hot is a little light on the first cup. It first seems non-descript, then suddenly bam, bam, bam. It goes from tasting watery to mineral, then immediately changes to floral, followed by mellow roasted. The aftertaste lingers long and floral of green oolong with a cooling breath sensation. Pretty awesome for one sip. Yet it is so light, that gulping this, you would miss all but the roasted note and aftertaste. As the cup cools I am noticing more of a woodsy taste early in the sip. The roastiness reminds me of light genmaicha, the floral aftertaste is somewhere between tiguanyin and high mountain oolong but more subtle than either.
Steeping a second mug resulted in a press full of huge leaf - ok I didn't need as much as I thought. It is still not completely unfurled but there is a lot of it. Oddly, it stills smells just green. The brew is golden. The roasted taste has mostly gone in to hiding. It is replaced by a creaminess. The aftertaste continues to grow stronger. It is now largely tiguanyin, but the cooler the cup, the more it takes on a citrus type flavor.
I decided to try something different on the third mug. I used a cold brewing technique I have only started experimenting with recently. I poured cool water (not heated) over my leaf and set the press aside for an hour and a half. The result was the most flavorful cup yet from this tea. Seriously good. The sip was what I call geranium as that is what it reminds me of as I taste. It had the same great aftertaste as when I used hot water.
I know this has many more cups in it, as it is only improving. Unfortunately three cups is all I have time for this day.
What I really like about this one is the complexity. It morphs and mutates during the sip and through the temperature changing as well as with different steeps. The downside is I am not sure how well the first cup translates to the average western tea drinker’s tastes. I have noticed a tendency to embrace big flavors. This may start too subtle for a lot of tea drinkers and be overlooked by those more familiar with the bite of the Assam monster. The aftertaste of Buddha Hand is quite strong and delightful even in the first cup and only intensifies in later steeps. Hopefully that will be enough to grab the attention of any one trying this wonderful tea for the first time. This one deserves to be steeped multiple times.