I’m still combing through the smorgasbord of oolong samples I’ve received since over the past few months. Today’s pick is Hua Gang Oolong, courtesy of Tea From Taiwan. Hua Gang is harvested on Mount Li (Pear Mountain), one of Taiwan’s most prized tea regions and located in the country’s Jade Mountains range. The plantation’s high altitudes (about 2400 meters, or roughly 1.5 miles) and cool, humid climate is said to be ideal for growing oolongs. So, how does Hua Gang tickle the senses of sight, smell, and taste? Let’s open the packet and find out!
Tea From Taiwan’s Description: “…. [A] tea with full, robust flavor and long-lasting aftertaste. The brewed tea has an exquisite aroma and brews to an appealing amber liquor. The leaves can be re-brewed many times while maintaining a full flavor.”
Ingredients: Hua Gang oolong tea leaves
Steeping Instructions: Use 1 teaspoon per 8 oz of water. Heat water to just 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
Hua Gang looks like a typical oolong. When dry, the dark green leaves are furled into misshapen pellets with black and bright green streaks. The difference, however, lies in Hua Gang’s fragrance. In fact, it doesn’t smell like much. Maybe a hint of grass and orchid, but that’s about it. Normally oolongs have a more resonant floral or plant aroma, so the lack of one here shocked me a little. But I’m not worried. Experience has taught me not to judge a tea before drinking it.
For my first cup of Hua Gang, I followed the instructions above, steeping the leaves for about 30 seconds. The infusion comes out pale yellow with a slight green tinge. I’d almost describe it as a dull yet pretty chartreuse. Unusual for an oolong, but the first steep always colors differently than the later ones. I inhale to see if there’s an aroma now –and there is! The signature orchid perfume of oolong balances nicely with a vegetal note. Taste-wise, the sip is lightly floral and grassy, with the beginnings of the creaminess that oolongs are also famous for. Mmmmmm, this is a pleasant introduction so far.
Steep #2 sits for about 90 seconds. This time the liquid is corn-colored, a warm medium yellow. The flavor has blossomed into fuller floral and vegetal tones, with hints of spinach and sugar snap peas as well as a smooth, primarily floral aftertaste. It reminds me of a meadow teeming with of wildflowers and freshly grown grass, like the rolling hills I’d find in rural coastal Maine during the spring. At the same time, this steep is more buttery and creamy in texture than the first one. Crisp yet luxurious – there’s a lot going on here, and my tastebuds are grateful for it!
With each subsequent steep of Hua Gang, the fragrance and flavor profile evolves in strength without changing its floral tune. The character starts to weaken after the fifth steep (about 3 minutes, 30 seconds). However, it still makes a decent cup, with the floral overtones lingering in the aftertaste. Some reviewers who’ve covered this tea on other sites have mentioned toasted rice (akin to genmaicha), buttered popcorn, or faint spice as possible flavors. I didn’t pick up on any of these. That’s not to say you won’t if you try it, however.
Tea From Taiwan’s Hua Gang Oolong may have found a permanent spot on my tea shelf! It combines a hypnotic orchid scent with buttery indulgence and crisp grassiness, resulting in a soulful infusion with depth and contrast. I don’t know if I would call it “robust” as the vendor does, but it definitely ticks off every checkbox on my oolong wishlist and then some. Other tea reviewers have noted a wider flavor range than what I noticed. However, every tea drinker will experience each tea differently, so I won’t hold that discrepancy against this darling of an oolong.
Grade: 8.5 / 10
- Tea Drinkers Who: Like oolong teas
- Time of Day and Year: Afternoons and evenings in the spring or summer
- Possible Book Pairings: I know I recommended Alison Goodman’s Eon for a previous Tea Time. However, the YA fantasy’s richly developed, Asian-inspired world and thematic twist on gender equality (with the feminine eventually winning out) couples beautifully with Hua Gang’s complexities.
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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.
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