First Taste: Two Strange Yet Wonderful Oolongs

Two of the oolongs Roy brought back from China have unusual stories. We tasted them in the teahouse today and here's our report. They're now available in our online store

Jin Mao Hou ("golden-haired monkey") is an unusual tea from Wu Yi Shan that's like a "greatest hits" oolong hybrid: tie guan yin plants have been grafted to yan cha root stock in an experiment aiming to recreate the more weighty type of tie guan yin of yesteryear. Moderately fired, it yields a golden amber infusion with more vicosity and more pronounced florals than a typical yan cha, but more depth than most of today's tie guan yin. The leaves are smaller than your average yan cha and still mostly green, not too oxidized or high-fired. This well balanced tea is a fascinating brew that will appeal to everyone who loves oolong. We only have a very small quantity, so we're making it available in 8-gram sampler packs that make 1-2 gaiwans or teapots, depending on the size of the vessel.

Gui Fei Cha ("concubine tea") hails from Taiwan and is produced by a unique method: it’s briefly attacked by insects, tea green leaf hoppers. The plant's natural defense to the invasion changes the flavor of the leaf and unexpectedly yields a distinctive floral—almost honey-like—aroma and taste to the tea. You'll notice that Gui Fei Cha is made with a smaller leaf set than most oolongs, and includes downy white tips that add visual interest to the tightly rolled greenish leaves, as well as pleasing weightiness in the mouth. The dry leaves have a sweet, fresh aroma, but when they're moistened the powerful, enticing honey tone really comes forward. In the cup this well oxidized but moderately fired tea has a rich golden amber color and, again, the signature sweet honey smell.