Dark Roast TieGuanYin from Tealet Teas and Mountain Tea

On October 6th of 2013, my journey through the world of tea tasting took me back to the Wushe Mountains (I think) of Nantou County, Taiwan. This sample of Dark Roast TieGuanYin was purchased from Tealet Teas, who sourced it directly from Mountain Tea in Taiwan. For information on Tealet and Mountain Tea, please visit Tealet’s website here.

If you have followed my blog for even a short time, then you have noticed that I have reviewed several TieGuanYin (Ti Kwan Yin) products. So what is the difference between this TieGuanYin and the other Ti Kwan Yin’s that I have previously reviewed? There are two main differences. First, this TieGuanYin was grown in the mountains of Taiwan, and the other Ti Kwan Yin’s were grown in the Fujian Province of mainland China. Second, this TieGuanYin is dark roasted, and the other Ti Kwan Yins seemed on the lighter side of the roasting. Both of these factors are going to create a completely different taste and feel to this TieGuanYin compared to previously reviewed Ti Kwan Yins.

Although my preferences in oolong tea are beginning to strengthen on the lighter oxidized and greener varieties due to their fruity and floral characteristics, I will always get excited to try a dark roasted and higher oxidized oolong such as this. With that being said, let the journey begin…

The dry tea leaves are dark brown to black in color. The average size is that of a black bean. There is no breakage or crumbs whatsoever. The leaves are rolled in semi-ball shape, with many leaves appearing to be attached to the stem. There are no bare stems. The aroma is roasty, char, and lightly sweet.

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The standard preparation method was used for this sampling. Filtered tap water was heated to 200ºF (96ºC). Twelve grams of tea were placed in a 32 ounce (950ml) glass teapot. The tea leaves were infused in the water for two minutes, then strained into a separate decantor.

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The first infusion produced a liquor that was bright orange in color, clear and transparent, with some particulates from baking. The aroma is roasty and char, with a light sweetness. The liquor is medium to full bodied with a smooth texture. The most outstanding taste is char, with overpowered but recognizable notes of caramel and cocoa. The aftertaste is roasty and smooth, with a pleasantly lasting taste. On the next sampling, I am going to try to “prime” the tea leaves prior to beginning the first full infusion to see if the balance of tastes can be improved, as I expect the second infusion to.

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The second infusion produced a noticeably darker orange liquor color. The aroma remains roasty and char, but has lightened some, exposing more of a sweet character. The liquor remains on the heavier medium body and smooth. The strongest taste is still char, but it has lightened some to allow the sweet tastes of caramel and cocoa to be more evident. The balance of tastes is much better. The aftertaste has sweetened some, but remains strongly char. This second infusion was much better than the first. However, I expect the third infusion to be the best of the three, as I believe the tastes will continue to improve in balance.

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The third infusion produced a liquor with a color that is darker than the first infusion but lighter than the second. The char aroma has lightened some, and sweet scents are standing out more. The body remains medium heavy. The taste has an improved balance of char and sweetness, with the caramel notes being more evident. Aftertaste has lightened some, but still has a pleasant, full taste. This third infusion has been the best of the three. In fact, although I do not intend on taking photos on additional infusions, I do intend on infusing these leaves at least two more times.

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The wet leaves of the Dark Roast TieGuanYin are pitch black in color, and appear almost like onyx. The aroma is sweet and roasty. The leaves, after five infusions, are fairly delicate and are breaking from the stem before I am able to put enough pressure on them to spread the leaves. I believe these leaves may be able to provide a sixth infusion with an acceptable flavor. The stems appear to be holding two to three leaves. Almost all leaves are fully intact, with no crumbs or small fragments whatsoever.

Even after five infusions, the taste was very high quality. The caramel tastes improved with each infusion. The first infusion was quite strong on the char tastes, and I would recommend a light priming of the leaves prior to the first full infusion. In my mind, TieGuanYin is recognized as a lighter oolong tea, with more gentle characteristics of fruit, flowers, and vegetation. Although this dark roast was very tasteful and enjoyable, I feel as though I was not able to appreciate the better known characteristics of the TieGuanYin. That is more of a statement of personal reflection, not in any way a negative notation on the tea itself. I literally brewed the first pot at 9:30 AM, and finished the last sips at about 5:30 PM. This was a tea that went through five infusions, remained tasteful all day, and could have gone one more round, if not two. I have nothing but good experiences with this tea, and look forward to experiencing it again.

Thank you for taking your time to read this review. Please leave a comment and start a discussion.

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