I found time this morning (between feeding Pippin, doing laundry and eating breakfast) to try the King Hsuan sample. On the packet the tea is described thus:
King Hsuan, also named Formosa Tea No. Twelve, is one of the revolutionary new varieties of tea plants formulated in 1981. It has become famous for its uniquely smooth, sweet, fragrant flavor married with a traditional refreshing aroma. Semi-fermented and unscented, King Hsuan draws an extraordinarily refreshing flavor. It is a masterful integration of modern cultivation and nature.
The aroma of the tightly-rolled, light green leaves was sweet and fruity. I decided to use the whole sample (ten grams) in my small Beehouse teapot, about 300ml of water. There were no particular brewing guidelines that I could access on the site itself, so this was basically a guess. Following a brief rinse of the leaves, I steeped them in water just off the boil for approximately a minute (possibly a little more; I missed the timer).
This was possibly a mistake. The brewed tea was a lovely bright straw colour, with a wonderful spicy aroma, a touch of cinnamon to it - but the tea was really quite bitter, and tasted nothing like it smelt. It wasn't undrinkable, and after a little while a nice sweetness came through on the aftertaste, but it certainly was not what I was expecting.
Water too hot? Steeping too long? Could have been either or both these things, I guess - or perhaps this is actually what the tea is meant to taste like? To keep things relatively simple I decided to do the second and third infusions at the same temperature - just off boiling - but for shorter amounts of time.
A second infusion of 30 seconds yielded a tea with a fruitier, less spicy aroma, and some fruity flavour with minimal bitterness or astringency, but not a particularly strong tasting brew overall. Third infusion at 45 seconds retained the fruity aroma but the taste was also overall quite bland.
Being out of time by this point, I did a fourth infusion with cold water, sticking the pot in the fridge for about 6 hours while I was out and about, and came home to find that this was the best of the lot; a sweeter, more complex tea with fruit and spice.
Hmm. So I reckon I pretty royally stuffed this one up, a humbling experience. I'll have to go back and get another sample of the King Hsuan at some point and try again. I am such a novice with oolongs; many of them smell and taste extremely alike to me (I've been working my way through a number of samples from Tea From Taiwan as well) and I was actually quite excited to find that I could detect spicy notes, rather than just flowery/fruity ones, in the King Hsuan. Lots more to learn and look forward to!