Raven’s Teaview Snapshot
|"The tea would make a great alternative to coffee, with something for black or oolong lovers alike in its mix of floral, spice and roasty savour that's smooth and hearty."|
By name alone, I would have guessed Imperial Pearl was a green tea or perhaps, a white, but I can’t say I’d ever guess Imperial Pearl was an oolong. Yet, Mountain Tea’s Imperial Pearl is far from a pearly white. As what they refer to as a brandy oolong, it’s oxidation level is near a black, at 85-90%, trumping even Oriental Beauty, its Taiwanese kin. From past samplings, Mountain Tea’s roster of teas, grown from their own tea gardens, do have luster and it was most curious where their Imperial would round out between a black and an oolong.
Fortunately, there’s no oyster to open to ogle the pearls that tumble forth more akin to the forest than the deep blue sea from their rich walnut black hue. Though intricate and tightly woven into squiggles like some elaborate coral, they bear a light shine like their namesake despite their rustic colour. More striking, is their scent which unravels a dark, richness almost like coffee. It has an earthiness at its base like charred leaves transfixed by a lovely sweet floral. The floral is very pretty, maybe somewhere between lily and gardenia, that is quite unique, while not cloying, sweetening the smoky roastiness. It’s both surprising and compelling in the juxtaposition, as finding a shimmering pearl inside an unassuming, rugged oyster.
Mountain Tea doesn’t offer specific brewing instructions but they do allude that brewing the tea with hotter water for longer yields a spicier brew whereas, cooler water for shorter, brews a sweeter one. Happily, the suggestions prove true, adding a cool adaptability of the tea to suit one’s mood. Either way, the first infusion mists into a clear, goldy brown hue, that catches the nose as much as the eye. Its aromatic fragrance has an intriguing mix of sweet earthiness, similar to cocoa mix and coffee, peaked by a more aggressive floralish oil. Mountain Tea describes the bouquet as having “notes of cinnamon, nutmeg, malt sugar, honey, and orange peel” which does seem telling. The scent tugs at the tummy with an appetizing wholesomeness, suggestive of malty crackers. It fortifies the sweet earthiness with a delicious appeal while the floralish oil adds high points and the spicier element.
From the aroma, the first sip is a surprise as the floralish bit is the first to register, perfuming the sip as if reverberating as it evaporates off one’s tongue with a citrusy prettiness. Settling in, the flavour is full and inviting with a tasty bittersweet roastiness, like carob, peaked by the citrusy, spiciness that reminds me of nutmeg. The feel isn’t quite as engaging but the tea isn’t too dry or astringent while finishing softly round. Initially, the aftertaste is lightly grainy yet, proceeding through, it becomes more perfumey and closer to a musky nutmeg as it lingers longer.
In subsequent cups, the tea remains fragrant as they become progressively less sweet but still welcome with a palate provoking character. The second, with an aroma of woody cookies, retains a chocolatey, coffee slant with a resiny nutmeg twist. A touch drier, the cup remains smooth, rich and flavourful with a bit more of a perfumey touch to the nutmeg tinged aftertaste. The third’s scent continues to have a roasty savour flirting with a spicy sweetness, like unsweetened rootbeer and roast potatoes. The light to medium body mellows but maintains a satisfying browned potato chip kind of flavour imbued with a slight perfume exhaling from the sip. From there, the roastiness fades into spice with a mix of cinnamon bark, coriander seeds and sandalwood incense that extends into the cup, less savory or roasty and more smoky, leathery and slightly astringent.
The steeping conditions seem to swing the balance between the sweeter roastiness and the floral spiciness. I enjoyed the tea brewed either way but I think I preferred the lower temperature brews which played up the sweetness and kept the sharper spiciness less perfumey. The floral character is so pure and oolong like, as is the lack of a black tea’s bite, yet, the tea reminds me of Feng Qing black tea some, in its smoky, roastier qualities.
As delicious as the tea is hot due to the warmth of the flavours, the tea is actually quite tasty cold. Chilling enhances its chocolatey nature while the floral and the spiciness keep it lively with a cinnamon tinged aftertaste.
After trying the Mountain Tea’s Imperial Pearl, its name seems even more fitting. Although, there’s nothing delicate about Mountain Tea’s Imperial Pearl, it’s well rounded and refined, much like the delight of pearls, to make it a fine brew to string up any time.
— To purchase Mountain Tea Imperial Pearl, 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.