Source: The Simple Leaf
$15 / 4oz
Here is a pleasant tasting and highly aromatic oolong from Nepal. It’s certainly a new kind of animal for me! From observing the dry leaves, this oolong looks and smells like a good second flush Darjeeling tea of BOP (Broken Orange Pekoe) grade mixed with some OP (Orange Pekoe) grade. It smells like a mix of tropical fruits (mango, peach, citrus, orange peel), muscatel and floral honeysuckle.
I brewed this tea in several different ways to see how it reacts to different brewing methods: “gongfu” method with a gaiwan (lots of leaves, short infusions), “English” method in a porcelain teapot (little leaves, long infusion time of >3 minutes), as well as “office” method (vacuum thermos, little leaves, daylong brewing). I found the “middle path” method to be my personal choice for this tea. Middle path in this case is a method between the gongfu and the English styles where I use my larger (~400ml) Yixing pot, ~2 tablespoons of leaves, and medium infusion time of about 45 secs to 1 minute for each brew. Let me explain why.
I felt that the gongfu method yields an intense brew but not quite an aromatic liquor, as if the tea’s perfume did not have enough time to infuse itself out. The English method yielded a tea that I thought was a bit too acidic for my taste, and so does the office style especially after several hours in the thermos (although the nose is very vivid and appealing). As such, the “middle path” brews a tea that is not too acidic, yet smooth, perfumy with a hint of honey aftertaste.
The Simple Leaf provided this background information about the producer and the tea's characteristics.
“It exudes the aroma of the native Daphne bholua and Rhododendron plants. With a light and smooth liquor and a trace of honeysuckle flavor …. Founded in 1999, Meghma Garden is in the Kalikhop valley in the Ilam District in the far northeastern corner of Nepal. Nestled in the lap of the mighty Himalayas, Meghma Tea Estate is situated at an altitude of 7,000 feet, far away from the modern world. This makes it one of the highest tea growing areas in the world. This small estate produces hand-rolled all-natural teas."
What I still don’t understand about this tea is the description of “hand rolled” in the product information. Is this definition identical to when one refers to pellet-shaped (fisted) Chinese oolong leaves? The leaves of this Nepalese oolong certainly are not fisted. Or perhaps “hand-rolled” means differently when we are discussing Indian and Nepalese tea processing techniques? Does it perhaps mean the leaves were “bruised” by hand and not by a machine?
Another observation is that the picture of the tea on The Simple Leaf’s website looks much greener and more colorful than what I received. Has it been further oxidized during storage and so it lost its color vibrancy? The Simple Leaf claims that the tea was harvested in early August of 2006, which is only 2 months since this tasting note was written.
Overall, a pleasant tasting and aromatic everyday kind of tea. Due to its shape and size, this tea is quite sensitive to infusion time. I agree with whoever said it would make a very refreshing iced tea, though I think serving it warm brings out its charms better.