Review: KTeas Hawaii Mauka Oolong

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Geoff’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"The aroma was much more tropical now. (Yes, I know how cliché that sounds, since it’s a Hawaiian tea, but it’s the truth, damn it!)"
Geoff’s Teaview: 9.6/10
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kteaslogoIn recent years, Hawaii has developed a knack for tea. I had the pleasure – about a year ago – of sampling some Hawaiian-grown black put out by San Fran’s Samovar Tea. It was an odd but exquisite beverage, and possessed a character unlike any other black tea I’ve tried. Thanks to KTeas, I was able to get my hands on more from the same growers.

The Mauka Oolong sourced/package by Tea Hawaii – and in turn, distributed by KTeas – was grown at the Volcano Tea Garden tea estate, owned and operated by Mike Riley. The estate itself rests at an elevation of 3600 ft. on the slopes of Mount Kilauea. Riley made it a point to cultivate different varietals of tea plant from the three major regions – China, Japan and Taiwan. There was no specific mention of what was used for the oolong, but by the smell…I was guessing Taiwan.

The green-to-purple-ness of the leaves, and the sweet, fruity smell gave away a cultivar origin that screamed Taiwanese to me. The dry aroma was very similar to a Bai Hao by way of a Doi Tung “blue tea” (Thai oolong). As a result, I knew of only one way to prepare this.

Brewing instructions on the Tea Hawaii bag stated to use 3g. of leaves per one cup of 208F (rolling boiled) water, infused for three minutes. This may have been Western-grown, but I had no intentions of drinking an oolong the Western Way. I obeyed the water temp (Hawaiian leaves are quite hardy), but went with four successive steeps in a gaiwan – first two for thirty seconds, last two for forty.

First infusion (thirty seconds): I actually didn’t think this would color so quickly, but – boy – was I wrong. The liquor palette was a light (white tea-ish) gold with a mild-to-strong citrus nose. Seriously, depending on how deep one sniffed, the citrus effect varied. Somewhere between lemons and…pineapple? The taste was very oolong-y on the front but took on a honey-textured fruit middle. Oh yeah, definitely Taiwanese cultivar. I’d put money on it.

Second infusion (thirty seconds): The liquor was noticeably foggier; it went along nicely with the BOLD gold color that dominated the cup. The aroma was much more tropical now. (Yes, I know how cliché that sounds, since it’s a Hawaiian tea, but it’s the truth, damn it!) The flavor was crisp on the front, slightly mineral/earthy. The honey texture was still there but much milder. Fruit notes were still present in spades.

Third infusion (forty seconds): A rogue leaf got loose of the gaiwan’s trappings and fell into the cup. What a quick and delicious death. Oh wait…taster notes…right! The liquor was the same color but less foggy. The scent was all tropical fruit now; this might’ve been the “green papaya” comparison the tea profile was talking about. Character-wise, I was reminded of GABA oolong. Another Taiwanese comparison, go figure. Thanks to the sweeter, more citrus profile, this was so far my favorite infusion.

Fourth infusion (forty seconds): Although quite lighter and fainter than the last three infusions – with a mild fruit aroma – this still had a lot of kick to it. It was a thinner infusion but still had a great lingering effect.

To conclude, wow…I would say this even trumps the Hawaiian black tea I tried, and that was high on the list. Part of that could be my newfound oolong addiction talking. It may be pricier than your average Bai Hao, Ali Shan, or Chinese oolong, but the tropical fruit characteristics more than make it worthwhile. But maybe that’s my inner nativist talking. (Go Amerikuh!)

— To purchase KTeas Hawaii Mauka 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.

Teaviews Member: Geoff Geoff Reviewer
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