Forgive me if I’ve said it before, but the variety of oolong teas never ceases to amaze me. Vegetal, floral, fruity, roasted – each one has been as unique as a person’s fingerprint. Today we have another oolong offering for you: Zhong Shu Hu Oolong, courtesy of Tea From Taiwan. This particular tea is grown in the Ali Mountain region (Alishan), which is one of Taiwan’s most famous tea-producing regions. Most oolongs from this part of the world are known for their unique “milky” presence in both aroma and taste. However, Tea From Taiwan describes Zhong Shu Hu as sweet and complex. Maybe it’s a little bit of all three qualities? Let’s find out.
Tea From Taiwan’s Description: “Zhong Shu Hu oolong tea has a sweet taste and refined aroma. Each brewing brings out new flavours and taste sensations. This tea has a complexity that provides continuous nuances with every cup. Zhong Shu Hu oolong tea can be re-brewed several times while maintaining an excellent flavour. We recommend the Gong Fu method of preparation to bring out the best of this excellent tea.”
Ingredients: Zhong Shu Hu 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
Dry Zhong Shu Hu looks like most of the other oolongs we’re reviewed here. The leaves are closely curled into nuggets of dark green with lighter green streaks. Some of the nuggets are huge, about the size of a Jasmine Dragon Pearl as opposed to the typical pea size. The dry aroma is subtle, mostly grass and floral with a trace of milk. This last bit doesn’t surprise me. Oolongs like this one that are grown in Taiwan’s Alishan region are famous for their milky fragrance and creamy texture. I wonder if Zhong Shu Hu will turn out similarly.
For my first steep of Zhong Shu Hu, I brew 1 teaspoon of leaves for about 1 minute. Out comes a pale yellow-green liquor with a fragrance of orchid and grass. The milky traces have already disappeared; I can’t smell them now. Nor do I taste it as I sip the tea. Instead, the initial profile is a mingling of grass and flowers, so light that the flavors are almost imperceptible. That’s OK, though. This is still a pleasant tea. And if Zhong Shu Hu is like other light oolongs such as Wu Ling Oolong, it will work its strongest magic with the second and third brews.
Which means it’s time for another cup! Steep #2 of Zhong Shu Hu infuses for about 90 seconds and evolves quite a bit. The tea takes on more of a true golden yellow color and a slightly nutty, roasted flavor on top of the floral and grass presence. It’s an interesting combination, and one that works surprisingly well. This second brew also introduces a creamy mouthful, though it’s not as rich or buttery as other creamy oolongs.
Later steeps of Zhong Shu Hu continue the same pattern of “subtlety” and “almost but not quite.” The profile retains its mixture of nutty, floral, and grass flavors, with a hint of sweetness. The texture remains mildly creamy, and its body relatively light. Overall, nothing much changes between these later brews until the flavors began to fade (Steep #5, about 3 minutes). Other reviewers have described Zhong Shu Hu as fruity or buttery, but I didn’t find those qualities with my sample. This was disappointing, since discovering new nuances with each brew is why I love oolongs to begin with.
For me, Tea From Taiwan’s Zhong Shu Hu Oolong never quite reached its full potential. It’s pleasant to taste, with a dry aroma reminiscent of milky oolongs and a palatable blend of grass, floral, and roasted flavors. Yet it lacks the complexity of other oolong teas I’ve tried. It’s possible that my sample may have been on the old side, and the tea could have lost some of its dynamism. Maybe I’ll have to try a fresh batch at a later date and compare. Until then, I’d recommend checking out other reviews of Zhong Shu Hu elsewhere before trying it for yourself.
Grade: 7.5 / 10
- Tea Drinkers Who: Like milky, green, or lighter oolongs
- Time of Day and Year: Early afternoons in the spring or summer
- Possible Book Pairings: I always think of my favorite writer Ursula K. Le Guin when I drink oolong teas. Try Zhong Shu Hu with novels like Tales from Earthsea (fantasy short stories), Changing Planes (science fiction short stories), or Lavinia (mythology retelling).
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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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