Tea Time at Reverie: Tea From Taiwan’s GABA Oolong Tea

Tea From Taiwan logo

Ever heard of GABA Oolong Tea before? Most likely you haven’t. Neither had I, until Tea From Taiwan sent me a sample for review. Apparently it’s popular in Japan and Taiwan, but it hasn’t caught on here in the United States yet. Hmmmmmm. I wonder why?

First produced in Japan in 1987, GABA tea is made from high-grade whole leaves (either green or oolong) that are naturally rich in glutamic acid. The leaves undergo a unique process where they’re exposed to nitrogen gas under controlled conditions to release gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), an amino acid that occurs naturally in the human body’s nervous system and retinae. As for possible health benefits, scientific studies have shown that GABA tea may help with relieving anxiety and stress, increasing mental alertness, and lowering high blood pressure.

Interesting, don’t you think? If you’d like to learn more about GABA Oolong Tea, check out Tea From Taiwan’s article about it here. In the meantime, let’s see how it brews up.

The Basics

Photo courtesy of Tea From Taiwan
Photo courtesy of Tea From Taiwan

Tea From Taiwan’s Description: “According to Huang Tien Ming, a well-known tea expert in Taiwan, most people are surprised by the taste of GABA tea. ‘It is quite different from other tea, although there are similarities to black tea.’ The initial surprise, though, quickly turns to enthusiasm as the tea has a pleasing taste and can be enjoyed either hot or cold. ‘Everyone I’ve served it to has come to enjoy the refreshing taste,’ says Huang.”

Ingredients: Nitrogen-cured 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

The Experience

Up close, GABA Oolong Tea looks a lot like a typical oolong. The dry leaves are tightly curled and multi-hued, but they’re much darker in color. Instead of mostly green, they’re various shades of deep brown with bits of black. It reminds me a little of Tea From Taiwan’s Dong Ding Ming Xiang Oolong, which is also brown in color.

But that’s only in appearance. GABA Oolong’s fragrance is much different from Dong Ding Ming Xiang Oolong’s, or from any other oolong I’ve tried before. It… sort of smells like black tea. Earth and coffee, with maybe a mineral tinge. It’s definitely unique, and hard to describe otherwise.

Since Tea From Taiwan didn’t include steeping instructions for GABA Oolong Tea on the package or online, I needed to research the best way to brew this tea. Turns out it’s not much different than brewing other oolongs. So, I went with my standard oolong brewing method: near-boiling water for a 30-second first steep. The infusion comes out a dark gold color with a soft earthy scent. The taste is also fairly light, a mix of earth and mineral flavors. Very pleasant so far.

Steep #2 of GABA Oolong sits for about 1 minute. The tea has deepened in color to a dark amber, bordering on ochre. The aroma stuns me with its complexity; I detect coffee, earth, honey, wood, and mineral. As for taste, this cup of GABA Oolong has more of a honey-sweetened woodsy flavor, sort of like Dong Ding Ming Xiang Oolong. There’s also an odd sweet-and-sour quality to it that I wouldn’t normally associate with tea. It’s… different. I’m not sure how else to explain it, but so far I like it.

Like other oolongs, GABA Oolong matures as the brew times lengthen. At 90 seconds, Steep #3 turns true brown in color and has a stronger mix of mineral and sweet-and-sour flavors. In fact, it’s taking on more of a black tea-like profile now. I also take note of GABA Oolong’s medium body and broth-like texture. It’s not harsh, but it’s not a creamy or smooth oolong, either. I think I prefer the first two brews over this one.

Later cups of GABA Oolong continue to smell and taste more like black tea. The sweet-and-sour flavor also lingers through Steep #5 (2 minutes 30 seconds). Even the aftertaste carries that distinctive tang – and I don’t particularly care for it. It’s drinkable, but by the time I finish this cup, I end up making a cup of a totally different tea to cleanse the palate.

The Aftertaste

Well, GABA Oolong Tea is an interesting experience. It’s one of those rare oolongs that darkens in color and taste with each brew, and is definitely an acquired taste. Personally I prefer the earlier steeps, with the lighter, more pleasing profile of earth and mineral tones. The later “sweet-and-sour” flavor doesn’t convince me to keep a stash of this at home. But maybe you might like it. Or maybe you won’t. With tea, you never know whether you like something until you try it.

Grade: 7 / 10

Recommended For:

  • Tea Drinkers Who: Like oolong or black tea
  • Time of Day and Year: Late morning or early afternoon in autumn

You can purchase GABA Tea directly from Tea From Taiwan here or as part of the Chong Pei sample pack.

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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.

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.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Reblogged this on Sara Letourneau's Official Website & Blog and commented:

    Being a tea reviewer has allowed me to sample all kinds of teas that I had never heard of before. GABA tea is the latest example – and I bet this is a new one for many other tea drinkers, too. Find out what makes this oolong from Tea From Taiwan so unique in my latest post at A Bibliophile’s Reverie.


  2. ladyelasa says:

    This sounds like a really unique tea. ^ ^ It probably hasn’t caught on with the US because this country is coffee-soaked haha. I hope more teas do though. I love tea. ^ ^



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