Review: Shanlinxi Yang Zi Wan Oolong

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Sophie’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"This is a very satisfying cup: creamy, flavourful and perfectly smooth. It has just enough going on to keep me wanting more. This is definitely a good buy as an everyday tea."
Sophie’s Teaview: 8.4/10
Other Teaviews: Katie gave it 8.2/10, Shaiha gave it 7.3/10, Jamie gave it 9/10
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This high altitude tea was grown on the slopes of the the Shanlinxi mountain range, in the Yang Zi Wan district. It was hand picked in November 2011. Generally the winter and spring harvests of this region are the most sought after because of their dynamic flavour profile. This semi-oxidized, unroasted offering is described as having a “strong floral and sweet aroma and taste, a long-lasting flavor and a pleasant sweet aftertaste”. The dark green leaf nuggets come in a vacuum-packed, foil-lined envelope, ensuring maximum freshness. Their aroma is sweet and enticing, mixing lily of the valley and a soft hint of cinnamon.

I steeped this tea gongfu style, using 5 grams of leaf in 6 ounces of filtered water heated to 95 degrees. After 40 seconds my first cup produced a pale gold liquor with a sweet, floral scent. Taking a sip, buttery top notes are followed by a delicious nutty and grainy middle – think milky cream of wheat. The finish is sweet, with a long-lasting flowery aftertaste. This is a very satisfying cup: creamy, flavourful and perfectly smooth. It has just enough going on to keep me wanting more.

My next steeps were interesting but not nearly as good as the first. Following a 50 second brew, steep number 2 is very floral, with lots of narcissus and hyacinth notes but a bit over the top to my taste. It's rare that flowery flavours seem astringent to me but these do. My third, minute-long infusion is much more pleasant and balanced, with softer floral and fruit tones. There is also an elusive hint of caramel that pops out in the finish every once in a while.

I pulled three more steeps out of the leaves, using 1 and a half, 2 and 3 minute-long brews. These all featured mild sweet floral notes against a buttery, slightly vegetal background. The tea got progressively more mineral over time but not bitter or rough. These cups were enjoyable but not memorable. I'm not sure I would go out of my way to make so many steeps next time. I might be more inclined to brew this tea Western-style to help concentrate what I liked about the first steep.

For fans of floral oolongs, this reasonably-priced tea is worth it for it's fantastic first infusion alone. It's only down side is that although the leaves do provide a few good steeps, they don't last as long as others I've tasted. This tea is currently on sale at the time of writing and available in a variety of sizes. This is definitely a good buy as an everyday tea.

— To purchase Shanlinxi Yang Zi Wan Oolong, or for more specific information on ingredients or the story behind this particular tea, click here to go directly to the manufacturer's web site.

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