Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Supermarket Tea: A-Li-Shan from Tradition Tea Co.

Hello all! Recently Ive become interested in the common "standard" of tea for Asia. Do they go for supermarket tea or always buy premium? I guess the same could be applied to American's (westerners) in regards to coffee. Who goes to Starbucks vs. Folgers at home. Thinking over a cup of high mountain oolong, I decided to seek out as many supermarket teas to compare the quality to some of the single farm/mountain artisan teas I've been drinking. I wasn't able to find a lot of information on the company... actually, I wasn't able to find ANY information. I'm sure there is a Chinese site out there but even if I found it, which I didn't, I wouldn't be able to read it.

First up in this experiment is an offering from Tradition Tea Co., A-Li-Shan Oolong!(Yes, that's how they spelled it.) I was shocked to find this tea in my local Asian market because teas from Ali Shan Mountain(s) are fairly sought after by us tea enthusiasts. Teas from this area are generally sweet and floral with creamy notes. I was a little concerned how good the tea would be with a mere $9.99 price tag for 100g (about $2.80 an ounce).

The tea is tightly rolled balls of green oolong in various sizes ranging from dust particles to 7-8mm(estimation) in diameter. Certainly not as "pretty" as my normal green oolongs but the proof is in the taste! Speaking of taste, lets get started with tasting notes!

Today I used my houhin with 5-6g of the cha. To start off I did an extra long wash(20-30 sec) with off boiling to get rid of anything on the leaves as well as debris that may have been trapped in the rolled balls. The smell coming from the leaves after the wash is very inviting. Sweet with a touch of floral. The first infusion was 30 seconds and produced a very light liquor with a muted flavor. I am getting a very light floral note but not much of anything else. The second infusion brought out more from the tea. I steeped for 40 seconds and I am getting floral and fruitiness with a lingering sweetness after the tea goes down. Not bad for such a cheap tea! To me this would be a good tea to try for someone interested in Li Shan teas but isn't ready to shell out for premium. The third infusion(50 seconds) is similar to the second but with about half of the flavor sticking around. The sweetness is still there but I can tell its going to fade; It doesn't linger as much as the last pour. The fourth infusion(1 min 10 seconds) gives an even lighter brew that is similar to the first with a hair more sweetness. I would call these leaves spent after this infusion.

After four infusions the tea gave up but to be honest, I wasn't expecting it to have the Qi of what I normally drink. You also get 3 times the amount of tea you would normally get if you purchased artisan tea, so you cant really fault that. Overall, I thought the Tradition A-Li-Shan was fairly good for the price plus you get a "reusable" tea tin! I would absolutely pick some up if my tea budget is blown or I'm being frugal with my funds.