|"To say this was a creamy cup would be a massive understatement."|
I first heard about Milk Oolong through several fellow reviewers. An open debate was waged over how many could be considered true Milk Oolongs, or whether many were scented with milk to create the same desired effect. The general consensus reached was that to be a true Milk (or Silk) Oolong, it had to be from Quangzhou; a settlement in the Wuyi Mountains, Fujian Province. Taiwanese Silk Oolongs - or Jin Xuan - were often suspect, half of which being subject to flavor tampering.
Curiosity peaked, I began a search of my local teashops for the product. My first stop had a milk-scented oolong, but they could tell me nothing of the origin - other than the fact that it had no actual milk in it. They kindly gave me a free sample. It smelled like oolong, not milk, had a mildly creamy taste, and generally underwhelmed me. The second had a "Silk" Oolong, and from my online perusals, I knew that was another name for it. Same result. Oolong scent, creamy-ish taste, generally underwhelming. The third and final stop touted having a Taiwanese one and were less than thrilled that I knew flavoring was added.
Which brings me to the present. A tea friend in some of my online dealings sent me a care package with various teas from American Tea Room. The pointman of the package being their Milk Oolong. I was in a bit of a rush when I noticed the package but instantly paused to smell the contents of the oolong bag. The look of dumbstruck awe on my face said it all. It smelled like buttered popcorn. Little green, gunpowder leaf balls gave off so pungent and dairy-like an aroma. I tried it the following morning.
American Tea Room posted brewing instructions that were on the light side for an oolong. Instead of the usual 190F/three-minute-steep recommendation, they suggested a water temperature of 175F and an infusion time of two minutes. An approach usually used for a white or green tea. I didn't have enough in my sample to screw this up, so I went with their instructions precisely; 1 tsp worth.
After just two minutes, the infusion that resulted was light gold. The aromatic steam echoed the scent of the dry leaf balls. I could picture Orville Redenbacher giggling from his grave as I cocked an eyebrow at this magical concoction. The taste was even more unusual. Like other lightly-brewed Ti Guanyin's, it possessed a little dryness on the forefront that settled into a long-lasting fruit note. However, added to this usual visit with the Iron Goddess was a general feeling of "butter". To say this was a creamy cup would be a massive understatement. With other teas where I thought I "detected" creaminess in texture, this had it in taste as well. Not exactly milk but definitely dairy. I was impressed.
I can't say it was my absolute favorite oolong in the world. Part of that might be my fondness for fruit-noted cups. That said, American Tea Room's offering does hold a place in my private tea pantheon. Maybe Treasurer. I think that position's still open.
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