Before we kicked off Tea Time At Reverie, I had no idea that so many types of oolong tea exist. Now I do, thanks to Tea From Taiwan. This Taiwanese vendor specializes in top-quality oolong tea grown and processed in its home country. Each oolong is named after the region where it’s harvested and has different aromas and flavors resulting from their growing altitudes and soil conditions. I was a bit concerned that the Tea From Taiwan samples would overlap some of the oolongs I’ve received (and yet to review) from other vendors. That worry vanished once I opened my package. 🙂
Our first Tea From Taiwan sample is Dong Ding Ming Xiang Oolong Tea, grown and harvested in the Dong Ding region of Nantou, Taiwan. One of the country’s most famous oolong-producing areas since the 1860s, Dong Ding suffered extensive damage during the 1999 Jiji Earthquake. Tea plantations there were temporarily abandoned in the quake’s aftermath. When work resumed in Dong Ding and the neglected oolong was picked and processed, farmers discovered the tea had developed a surprising honey flavor – thanks to cicada secretions left on the leaves. That last factoid may make some tea drinkers cringe, but don’t let it scare you away. Dong Ding Ming Xiang’s distinctive taste (and its cultivation without the use of pesticides) is one of the reasons why you should try it.
Tea From Taiwan’s Description: “Taiwan Ming Xiang wu long has a distinctive sweet taste and aroma. It brews a dark colour wu long tea that has a lingering sweetness that settles on the back of the tongue. Dong Ding Ming Xiang is truly one of the jewels of Taiwan wu long tea and is highly valued by oolong tea connoisseurs.”
Ingredients: Dong Ding Ming Xiang Oolong tea leaves
Steeping Instructions: Use 1 teaspoon per 8 oz of water. Heat water to below boiling (195 degrees Fahrenheit / 90 degrees Celsius) and steep for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add 30 seconds for each subsequent brew.
Multiple Brews?: Yes, about 5 to 8 times
Bagged or Loose Leaf?: Loose leaf
Caffeine Level: Medium-low
Tea From Taiwan is right to call Dong Ding Ming Xiang (loosely translated as “fragrant tea from the frozen peak”) a dark-colored oolong. I immediately notice the difference with the dry leaves. These tightly curled pellets aren’t various shades of green, but a blackish brown with streaks of green. And while most oolongs produce a golden liquor, Dong Ding Ming Xiang results in an alluring dark amber that grows more lustrous with the longer brew times.
Aroma is another area where Dong Ding Ming Xiang deviates from its fellow oolongs. The dry leaves give off a slight forest scent that strengthens with the first steep. Instead of the usual orchid base, moist earth, wood, and hints of coffee lilt from the liquid and wet leaves. It’s not an unwelcome change. In fact, the mix of smells reminds me of early fall in New England. I wonder if the tea will taste like autumn, too.
And it does! With my first steep of 45 seconds using the instructions above, Dong Ding Ming Xiang offers an autumnal flavor foliage. Earthy and faintly tannic, it carries accents of coffee, caramel, and – as Tea From Taiwan described – honey. Not a dominant honey, but it’s there in the aftertaste. The second steep (about 90 seconds) highlights the honey without becoming overly sweet and introduces wood and roasted tones. This is when Dong Ding Ming Xiang reminds me of the current season. If I sit back and sip this tea, I can picture myself strolling along a tree-lined road, surveying the red and orange leaves, and savoring the crisp, bonfire-tinged air.
Longer brew times for Dong Ding Ming Xiang lead to a more outdoorsy infusion. My fourth and fifth steeps (about 3 and 4 minutes, respectively) bring out more of the earth and wood flavors. The honey and caramel notes have also disappeared. These later brews are more like a soft black tea than a typical oolong. They also lack the clean or creamy finish and orchid currents that most oolongs have. (So did the earlier steeps.) While I miss those familiar qualities, I can’t complain about Dong Ding Ming Xiang’s departure from the norm because I enjoyed every drop of it.
Tea From Taiwan’s Dong Ding Ming Xiang Oolong brings the wilderness to your teapot without too much sweetness or leaving a dirty taste on your tongue. It’s warm, cozy, and teeming with the natural smells and tastes of autumn. Steeps of 2 minutes or less will bring out this tea’s most appealing profiles. Dong Ding Ming Xiang may not be a typical oolong (though at $24 USD for 75 grams / 2.5 ounces, it’s still quite expensive) or a fall tea bursting with food aromas and flavors. However, once you find yourself relaxing by the fireside with a cup of Dong Ding Ming Xiang to chase away the season’s chill, you’ll agree it’s a worthy investment. Oh, and remember to thank the cicadas for their contributions! 😉
Grade: 8 / 10
- Tea Drinkers Who: Like oolong, black, or autumnal teas
- Time of Day and Year: Any time of the day during the fall, especially afternoons
- Possible Book Pairings: Dong Ding Ming Xiang can bring comfort to haunting or chilling reads like J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Children Of Húrin (epic fantasy), Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (dystopian), and Heather Gudenkauf’s The Weight Of Silence (contemporary fiction).
* * *
In addition to being a tea enthusiast, Sara Letourneau is an avid reader and a writer who… well, enjoys writing! Currently she’s working on a novel, and she writes book reviews and articles on the craft of writing. She’s also a published poet with works available in various print and online publications. Visit Sara at her personal blog, Facebook, or Twitter.
If you’re a tea seller and would like to have one of your products reviewed here, please visit the Contributors page for contact information.