|"I think this is a noble, perhaps inevitable experiment. And it works, if you don't expect to find a lot of Darjeeling or Oolong flavor."|
Oolong teas fall between green and black teas. There is light fermentation, but it is stopped early in the process and the leaves are dried to finish. There are a lot of Oolong teas, from China, Taiwan, even Thailand, but all that I could find referred to Oolong as a style, making no mention of their base teas. Oolong is customarily thought of as a process rather than an actual tea; it is the manufacture and not the terroir that gives Oolongs their distinctive flavor.
That alone makes The Simple Leaf's Tankha an interesting concept in tea production. Tankha is an Oolong made in India from high-grown Darjeeling tea, from the renowned Phoobsering plantation. A fine pedigree, to be sure. Still, I found myself bending over backward to find things to like; this tankha is woven from pretty pastels with no real punch or character.
Physically, this is beautiful tea. The leaves are large and lovely, a perfect example of the Oolong standard of leaves that are 30% red and 70% green. I followed the brewing recommendation of one tsp. of leaves for six ounces of 160-180 degree water, steeped for three minutes. The peachy, fruity aroma was enticing and I was quite ready for what I expected would be a revelatory experience with this fragrant amber brew.
Unfortunately, everything about this tea is bold and beautiful but the flavor. Each sip had me sticking my nose into a mug full of delicious fragrance, followed by a taste that started as bland and never moved beyond subtle. It just didn't match up. I really wanted to like this tea. My second cup was hopefully brewed hotter and longer, to no avail. I could taste the unmistakable background Darjeeling character and the subdued peachiness of the Oolong process, just not nearly enough.
I think this is a noble, perhaps inevitable experiment. And it works, if you don't expect to find a lot of Darjeeling or Oolong flavor. It is a mild tea, suitable for a time when you don't want to overload your system with caffeine. It's also a lovely tea for those who genuinely prefer mild teas. I don't, but that's not the fault of this tea. And there I go making excuses for it again.
This is an interesting effort, but for my taste it fails on both counts. It's not a superb Oolong, nor a lush Darjeeling. To be fair, it doesn't actually promise that. The Simple Leaf specializes in keeping tea simple. I enjoy the complexity of tea. I will find good times to enjoy the rest of my sample, but I wouldn't buy this for myself. I would spend the $13.95 per quarter pound on a mysterious, multi-layered Darjeeling, or a cheery, bouncy Taiwanese Oolong.
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