Today’s review focuses on the Tu Quy Oolong Tea sourced from Phuang Nam in Lam Dong Province of Vietnam. It is one of two primary oolong teas produced at Phuang Nam, the other being Thuy Ngoc Oolong Tea. According to my research, tea bushes destined to be processed into oolong tea were first brought to Vietnam in or around 1992. These bushes now cover a wide area of the southern highlands of Vietnam, particularly the Lam Dong Province. The Vietnam oolong producers follow the guidelines of Taiwan oolong producers, including equipment imported from Taiwan, and pay very close attention to using non-chemical fertilizers.
Let the journey begin…
The dry leaves have a light forest green to dark forest green color. The leaves are shaped into dense semi-balls. The leaves appear to be mostly whole, many having stems attached. The size of the semi-balls suggest a three to four leaf pluck. There are no bare stems in the mix, and a low amount of crumbs. The aroma has scents of brown sugar and cinnamon.
Five grams of dry leaves were placed in a 9.4 ounce (280 ml) Tokoname kyusu teapot. Purified spring water was heated to 195°F (90°C). The leaves were infused for 2:00 minutes for the first infusion, 1:15 minutes for the second, and 1:30 minutes for the third.
The first infusion produced a liquor with a light, greenish yellow color, perfectly clear and transparent, with a few fine particles in the cup. The aroma had light scents of brown sugar, sweet cream, and very light flowers. The body was medium, with a velvety, almost creamy texture. The taste had light notes of brown sugar, citrus, sweet cream, flowers, and a very light cooked vegetable hint. The aftertaste was sweet, and a pleasant flowery essence was left on the breath.
The second infusion produced a liquor with a brighter, bolder shade of golden yellow color. The aroma strengthened slightly, retaining the dominant scents of brown sugar, sweet cream, and light flowers. The body and texture maintained their medium and velvety texture. The taste also strengthened slightly, and retained the notes of brown sugar, sweet cream, flowers, and citrus. The vegetable taste was nearly non-existent, and I believe it could have been avoided all together in the first infusion by cutting the infusion time by 15 to 30 seconds. The aftertaste remained sweet, and the flowery essence maintained it’s strength.
The third infusion produced a liquor with a very similar shade to the first infusion, having a light greenish-yellow color. The aroma lightened some, but retained the general scents of brown sugar, sweet cream, and flowers. The body and texture thinned some from the second infusion, but remain medium and velvety. The taste also lightened, but retained the same notes as previous infusions. The aftertaste remains sweet, and the flowery essence thinned some, but was still strong enough to be enjoyed. I believe these leaves could provide at least one to two additional infusions of acceptable quality.
The infused leaves have a uniform forest green color, some displaying moderate levels of oxidation around the edges. The leaves are fairly broad, and display many characteristics of the Jin Xuan (TTES 12) cultivar, which would also explain the creamy aroma, texture, and taste. The leaves are mostly whole, with the remainder being large fragments. Most leaves are attached to stems, which display a three to five leaf pluck. Some stems are quite long, measuring about 3 to 4 inches (75 – 100 mm). The leaves have a smooth, wet leathery feel, and maintain a respectable amount of structural integrity. The aroma has scents of sweet cream, brown sugar, and very light flowers.
Of the four or five oolongs from Vietnam that I have tried so far, this Tu Quy Oolong Tea was in the top three. The aromas and tastes were consistent and enjoyable through three infusions. Although this product is not quite at the level of high quality oolongs from Taiwan, China, or even Thailand, the more competitive price could allow the oolongs from Vietnam to find a stable place in the market.
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