Review: Wan Ling Tea House Heavily Roasted Tie Guan Yin

Oolong Tea, Ti Kuan Yin Tea, Wan Ling Tea House Add comments
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Thumbs up!"Despite the high oxidation, the roasty, oak leaf character falls into a sweetly tart aftertaste."
Raven’s Teaview: 7.6/10
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Despite the trend in lighter oxidized Tie Guan Yin, the first one I tried was actually a heavier one. While I’m easily enamoured by the green style, I still always fall upon a craving for the dark, roasted goodness. But they are none too easy to find these days, particularly from China, so upon trying Wan Ling Tea House for the first time, their Heavily Roasted Tie Guan Yin seemed a must try. I was surprised to find just how heavily oxidized the tea was as at 70-80% oxidation, it trumps most traditional style Tie Guan Yin and approaches Bai Hao oolongs. Yet, with such a high oxidation, it naturally ages well and their Heavily Roasted Tie Guan Yin is actually from a spring harvest of 2010.

Right from the start, the tea brings riches, dressed in a gold cello package. But it was some disheartening to find the seal on the package didn’t go right to the edge, close but not quite. Yet, fully opened, the leaves bring a renewed enthusiasm from their medium roasty bouquet. While the roast has some roar, it isn’t overpowering or one-sided, bringing a bit of char and warmth to a woody leafiness, like corn husks and kindling, for a pleasant greeting. Speaking up, the leaves reveal a colourful gradation of dark browns, near chocolate brown in colour with a few greeny taupe and black ones, rolled into their familiar semi-rolled balls for bunched commas and closer wound nuggets. With a matte, slightly dusty finish, a few look a touch dry with their sides worn, likely as they tossled while imparting the roast.

To quench their thirst and bring them to life, Wan Ling Tea House recommends steeping 5-7 grams of tea in 150-200 mL water starting at 60 seconds for the first two steeps and adding thirty seconds for each subsequent infusion. The first brew begins with a lovely leafy graininess wrapped with a hint of sweetness and the roast’s shape for a Honeysmacks kind of puffed wheat aroma with a touch of willowy sappiness from a branch-ish floral. Already a medium bouquet, it has a masculine grip with an almost brothy scope as if a bit salty while gaining structure from the sap-like notes. Following suit, the medium body has a soft, woody roast flavour with some acidity lining one’s tongue that adds a bit of freshness to the darker flavours. While it isn’t overly bold flavoured, the body and feel also lightens the density of its bravado, along with a bit of caramel tinge to the roasted character. As this sweetness follows into a light aftertaste, it builds with a slightly astringent young woodiness with a hint of butter for an interesting dynamic.

The second infusion actually starts to relax with a light to medium aroma that still has some graininess with more of a mineral dark leafiness from the roast, like rain on dry oak leaves. While not astringent, the light to medium body has enough acidity to be a bit fuzzy tasting with a kind of roast nut husks flavour. The flow is slower with a touch of acidity that culminates in a medium aftertaste, playfully evoking unripe persimmons.

Although it’s hard to tell from the leaves, as they maintain a crinked kind of appearance, even after a full round of infusions due to the roast, the leaves are still lively enough for three more cups. Even with the black scents, the nourishing aromas persist from the roast with a roasted corn aroma but with a bit of a dry, mineral spin for more of roasted dry corn or grain that lapses into a lima bean-like weight. It has an inviting wholesomeness while not being really rich or starchy. The bouquets retain a slight edge with a hint of astringent vineyness to give it bark and sturdiness.

The flavour continues to have a pleasing oak leaf nuttiness, somewhat akin to walnuts. It has a waxy smoothness that verges on bitter with hint of raw sharpness that you get with the odd nut with part of the hull or raw grain but it isn’t bothersome. As the body remains light, it counterbalances the denseness of the roasty bolder flavours that maintain a soft flintiness to the leafy nuttiness. As a result, it seems stealthier and structured rather than sumptuously hearty yet, it lends an endearing stoicism like old leather chairs and cigars. Although the high degree of roast seems to bring less range to the flavour through the cups, the tea still builds with a waiver of sweetness in the aftertaste that culminates in a serendipitous fruity finale.

From the flipside of Tie Guan Yin to walk on the darker side, Wan Ling Tea House’s Heavily Roasted Tie Guan Yin has a mean strut. The roasty character isn’t overly robust to conjure a very fall inspired nostalgia. Yet, with its smouldering nutty soled rhythm, it’s bound to be a great way to kick back any time of year.

— To purchase Wan Ling Tea House Heavily Roasted Tie Guan Yin, 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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