Wednesday, 6 January 2010

King Hsuan Oolong by JustMake Taiwan Tea

I bought a sample of this tea (and a couple of others) from the Serenity Teahouse in Box Hill a few weeks ago. I heard about the place from fellow-Melbournite Eric of Tea Finely Brewed; aside from the teas which they carry, Serenity Teahouse has a great range of gaiwans, Yixing and gong-fu tea wares, all of which are difficult to come by in Melbourne, so I'm very glad to have found somewhere that stocks them, and at what appear to be reasonable prices as well.

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!


  1. Thanks for the review. I know what you mean about Oolongs. I finally tried some side by side and was able to detect a lot more differences and decide what I liked best. Pippen is a gorgeously cute kid.

  2. Great to hear you got to check out Serenity. I really love going there. I tasted King Hsuan while I was there and can't remember it particularly well, but I know I didn't buy it... I think it's a lighter oolong, so less oxidized and more like a green tea. With those ones I tend to steep them in water that's less hot.

    Did you get their pouchong? That was my first pouchong, and I absolutely love it. The aroma is incredible.

  3. That last comment was from me, by the way:)

  4. Hi Marlena - you are probably right about trying them side by side being a better way to learn about the differences between oolongs. That's next on my tasting schedule!

    Eric, I thought that was you ;) That's a good idea about the cooler water for greener oolongs - I'll try that next time. I didn't try the pouchong - but I'll look out for it next time I'm there!

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  6. Verity,

    I think Oolong is kind of strong taste tea, if you leave the leaves in water too long, it will get bitter, and I don't think people will use to this taste( but it is OK with me). If you brew " Mountain teas" from Taiwan, the taste will be different, maybe the way of toasting or processing is different. Just keep trying.

    BTW, I don't know who " MarvinRSottile" is, is the comments written in Chinese? If yes, I do suggest you delete them, something is wrong with that comment!

  7. Peichi, I think you're right - bitterness is certainly an acquired taste, and it's one that Westerners in particular tend not to acquire easily! I find it an enjoyable flavour in moderation though!

  8. King hsuan collected is one of my favourite teas. I brew it at at about 90 to 95 so maybe 1 or 2 little small bubbles have come up but no rolling boils for 1 minute and then 20 seconds the second time. Its quite a milky sort of tea and I found it really various depending on what time of the year you buy it. I think my last batch during the winter was better then this one during spring. -Which is odd- Serenity teahouse also does a nice four teas but for the life of me I cannot appreciate the blue oolong they do. The really high quality one. Oh well!


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