At this year’s Toronto Tea Festival I picked up a pouch of Alishan Charcoal Roasted Oolong from Genuine Tea. I am a fan of darker oxidized oolong teas and this one boasted a strong smoky flavour and caramelized sweetness. This award winning oolong tea grows on the famous Ali mountain in Taiwan at an elevation of 2000m. Genuine Tea sell this for $12 for 25 grams, it is on sale right now for $9 so if you are interested in giving it a try now is a good time.
This tea is a GABA tea, this stands for Gamma Amino Butyric Acid. GABA teas are exposed to nitrogen instead of oxygen during the oxidation process, as a result they accumulate GABA in the leaves. You may be asking yourself “what is GABA?”, just as I was a few moments ago. GABA is an amino acid which acts as a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. In the brain it inhibits nerve transmission, this calms nervous activity. Some people take GABA as a supplement and believe that it has many benefits to it, some of these proposed benefits include: reducing high blood pressure, relieving stress and anxiety, increasing mental alertness and energy levels and many many more.
I opened the package to find tightly rolled leaves, mostly uniform in size and color. The smokey smell coming from the dry leaves already very strong, I knew that the steeped liquor was going to have a powerful flavor.
To steep I reached for my gaiwan (a Chinese vessel for infusing tea leaves, consisting of a bowl with lid and saucer). I did 9 steepings at 195o Fahrenheit (90o Celsius), starting with 45 seconds for the first infusion and adding 15 seconds for each following infusion. The next day I steeped this tea again this time using the small tea pot shown in these photos.
The first cup had a very strong toasted roasty flavor, it was earthy, smooth and creamy with notes or charcoal, nuts and sweetness. The smokey flavors started to mellow around the 4th steeping, the nutty sweet flavors became slightly less prominent and I could now taste some floral notes starting to emerge. This point was my favorite in the steepings, I enjoyed the mix of the nutty and floral flavors with the smokey flavor now more subtle but still clear in the background.
I enjoyed this tea a lot though it is not a tea that I would drink on a daily basis. Because this tea has such comforting flavors I would reach for this tea on days that I need something special to help me relax and recharge.