Beautiful Taiwan Tea’s Formosa Assam (Highest Quality)

(Tea Provided for Review)
Origin: Sun-Moon Lake, Central Taiwan
Harvest: Fall 2014
Cultivar: Assam

As some of you may know I really enjoy Beautiful Taiwan Teas, but up to this point I’ve stuck mainly to their lighter oolongs; and after their successful Kickstarter I promised myself that I’d try some of their darker teas. Paul of Beautiful Taiwan Tea was nice enough to send me a couple samples to tide me over till the new teas come in. If you have been reading this blog for a while you may have notice I manly focus on green teas, greener oolongs, and the odd puerh here and there, but up to this point I have never looked at a tea that could be considered a black tea or at the very least a darker oolong. While I do try many teas that I never mention on this blog, I tend to avoid darker teas because I have a lot of trouble with them. As much I as I am ashamed to admit all darker oolongs tend to taste pretty similar to me, in fact I tend to think everything is roasted TGY and with black teas I am even worse. So I was a little nervous about writing this post while I stand by my tasting notes I am a little afraid if I am more suited to describing my experiences with lighter teas, so take everything I write with a grain of salt. Despite my qualms about writing about darker teas I rather enjoyed this and plan to buy some more. The description on Beautiful Taiwan Tea’s site is spot on:

Bold and very smooth! We're thrilled to have this delicious Black Tea from Mr. Lee and his wife, a wonderful and hospitable couple. Mr. Lee has been farming his land just above the pristine Alpine lake called Sun-Moon Lake for many years. In our opinion, he grows the best tea in the region. He grows without chemicals. This is a pure stock Assam Black Tea that has been growing in Taiwan since the Japanese imperial machine started to foster a tea industry in Taiwan for world-wide export.

Dry Leaves: Once again I had a bit of trouble with steam, I’ll try to fix this in the future, but this review is going to be a little light on images, although the liquor and used leaves were pretty much the same throughout. Regardless the leaves had a nice malty smell, not as pungent as most black teas I had, but this is my first tea of this kind so I am not sure what to expect. The leaves are slightly twisted, reminiscent of baozhong, although less regular. I was surprised to find a good portion of my sample had silvery/golden tips, probably one-eighth of my whole sample had tips, but I chose some of the darker strands for this review. (I did use up the remainder of my sample and their wasn't much difference)

First Steeping
Temperature: 200oF
Brewing Time: Three Minutes
Aroma: Malty
Flavor: Molasses and Fruity
Tasting Notes: I decided to start out on the lower end of the recommended brewing temperature and cut a minute off the recommended time; as I said before I was a little hesitant about brewing this. I don’t drink many Indian teas or black teas, but this had a nice boldness to it, perhaps not as much as typical Assam teas, but this was very smooth and lacked the bitterness and astringency I often find in Indian teas. It was one of the smoothest teas I had from Beautiful Taiwan Tea, although it is much simpler than many of the oolongs I tried from Beautiful Taiwan Tea so far, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. It feels very much like a breakfast tea, I am not necessarily referring to one of those various blends, but as the type of tea I’d imagine would be a nice addition to one’s morning meal. Unlike greens or puerhs (my typical morning tea) it does not clash with my typical breakfast.

Second Steeping
Temperature: 205oF
Brewing Time: Four Minutes
Aroma: Malty                     
Flavor: Molasses and Fruity
Tasting Notes: The liquor and the flavors are pretty similar to the last and next infusion; the intensity is pretty much the same as the last, although the fruity notes are becoming more distinct. Rich cherry notes are starting to come out as well as a tart raspberry. The molasses notes are a little darker this time, definitely richer, but not significantly different from the first. The only real difference I would say is the aroma, while it was malty the first time it is much more potent this time. I am not normally fond of malty aromas, I tend to find they tend to linger in the back of my throat; often they are stronger than the actual flavors of the tea, but not so much this time. Perhaps my inexperience with darker teas is showing, but I am not sure why the malty aroma didn’t muddy my ability to taste this tea nevertheless this was my favorite of the three infusions although there is not much difference between the three. The reason why this is my favorite is simple; the rich and tart fruity notes worked really well with the thick molasses notes.

Third Steeping
Temperature: Boiling
Brewing Time: Five Minutes
Aroma: Malty
Flavor: Molasses and Fruity
Tasting Notes: This is the point where the leaves are starting to feel thin and drained, I did get a fourth and fifth infusion out of these leaves, but when I used the remainder of my sample later I stopped after the third infusion. While this tea never had a thick mouthfeel, this third infusion felt thinner. Still the flavor is pretty much the same as the previous infusions, but it is starting to feel like the end which is kind of sad because I feel I finely found the ideal brewing temperature and time. I did squeeze out another two sessions out of the remainder of my sample and I did start brewing at a higher temperature (boiling) and steep for a longer period of time (five minutes starting), but there wasn’t significant difference in how it taste and how it smelled. In the past my caution had and tendency to brew at lower temperatures when I sample a tea has caused me to write off some great teas before, this time it didn’t have much of an effect. Although I do prefer using hotter water and brewing longer their isn’t much difference in the final product, it still is incredibly smooth with no astringency or bitterness, but it feels a little stronger.

I liked this tea. I am not one to try black teas, I’d probably have skipped this tea (and the other black tea I received from Beautiful Taiwan Tea) if I wasn’t so impressed by the teas I have tried from BTT before. While the majority of teas I look at for this blog have been purchased by me, I do get the occasional offer of samples, unfortunately for me many vendors who contact me intend for me to look at a type of tea I have a history of not liking (Indian Teas, Black Teas, Heavily Roasted Oolongs, CTC Teas, Indian Teas) I always have to turn them down. But I respect Paul of Beautiful Taiwan Tea and was willing to at least try this tea, a courtesy I do not give to many, and I am glad I did. While this is a lovely tea I’m not sure it is going to cause me to rethink my prejudices against those teas I listed before, but I certainly plan to buy more of this. As someone who has an extensive collection of greens, oolongs and shengs, this Formosa Assam was a nice distraction from the monotony of my daily teas. In fact the more I think about the stronger I feel, while I love astringency of Japanese greens, the sharpness of an immature sheng and Taiwanese Oolongs (the cotton candy of oolongs, a lovely treat that ruins my appetite for other oolongs), but this feels like a tea I can drink every day; the type of tea that I may not appreciate unless I am focusing entirely on the tea, but a tea I enjoy nonetheless. Currently Beautiful Taiwan Tea is offering a half ounce sample for $5.25 and while it may be a little more expensive than your typical breakfast tea I feel it is well worth the price. Even though up to now I tended to favor the greener oolongs from Beautiful Taiwan Tea I have to wonder have I been missing out on some truly great teas? I’ll have to keep watching BTT’s Black tea tab from now on, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t curious at what type of black teas they plan on souring this year. 


Just a guy who likes tea.

1 comment:

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