Wow – what a treat this tea is!
This is a medium-roasted version (Tan Pei) of Tung Ting from the 2019 Spring harvest. The clusters of leaf are slightly larger than those of a Winter Tung Ting, and the fragrance is higher and more defined. Less of the roasted quality and more of the underlying jade oolong quality of the tea is apparent in the cup with this seasonal, and now aged, tea. It is a very elegant tea that is easy to drink.
Some might ask: so why did you buy this old tea? To which the response is: because it is delicious and only now at the peak of its flavor release. The combination of its being an oolong, roasted, and from Taiwan all told us to pay careful attention to the samples that we received and perhaps think of the tea more as a ‘life list’ tea than an everyday drinker. We are so glad that we have been offered this delicious tea that we can now share with our clientele.
Tung Ting is a mid-level, mountain grown tea that is most well-known as a jade oolong – a semiball-rolled, green-style oolong. As such, it has a very appealing creamy, buttery texture in the cup. It is a very popular choice among Chinese tea drinkers who appreciate its easy-to-drink, rich mouth-feel and sweet flavor.
Our Tan Pei-roasted Tung Ting has the underlying light, dreamy, delicious floral notes associated with green-style Tung Ting, but features an added dimension of flavor imparted by medium roasting in an electric oven. This tea is clean and crisp and very well-made by our esteemed Tung Ting tea master, Mr. Lin. After roasting, Mr. Lin normally sets the finished tea outdoors to ‘breath’ and mellow before bringing the tea to market. This year (2021), due to the dry conditions for the recent several seasons, he has not made this tea for us yet.
However, it has been our good fortune to have been offered a limited supply of a hidden treasure: some of the ‘last’ of the 2019 harvest, which is just now rising to the pinnacle of its flavorfulness. (is that a word?!)
Do not confuse this Tan Pei style of roasting with the heavier, charcoal-roasted Tung Ting Hong Pei , which we also have, or the classic Fujian strip-style oolongs from Mainland China. Tan Pei roasting is subtle and swaddles the tea in a light veil of toasty-ness that embraces the natural flavor and character of the leaf and allows both taste qualities to come through harmoniously in the cup.
Instead of a heavy, dry woodsy-ness, this type of roasting emphasizes the natural sweetness of the tea by caramelizing only some of the sugars in the leaf. It’s a sweet-in-the-mouth roasting rather than a dry-in-the-mouth roasting. There is a reason that roasted oolongs became the standard production method of oolongs a long time ago. Roasting stabilizes the leaf for long-term keeping and increases mellowness and complexity in the tea. Chinese tea drinkers appreciate roasted oolongs for their warming, intricate, layered flavors.
The appeal of Tan Pei roasting is how light and clean it is. When coupled with the right leaf tea, as this is, the effect is magical. A unique taste in a very well made tea.
If you are feeling adventurous, and have enough leaf…try your hand at re-roasting this oolong. Think of toasting sesame seeds. Constant motion, moderate heat, heavy pan, anticipation of cooling (or lack of!) and you may surprise yourself!! Or just leave well enough alone and enjoy it the way it has developed all on its own…yum!