Monday, March 2, 2009


Last month, my Chinese teacher's parents were in town. During their visit we all met for tea at Seattle's Teahouse Kuanyin. I was surprised and honored when they gave me a 300 gram bag of He Huan Shan high mountain oolong tea (合歡山高山烏龍茶)! According to the package this tea is winter 2008 tea. Before this generous gift, I had never heard of He Huan Shan (合歡山), but that does not surprise me, because you can study Taiwanese tea your whole life but you'll never learn everything.

After doing a little research I learned that He Huan Shan is located near Lishan (梨山) in central Taiwan. Its main peak is 3,416 metres (or 11,207 feet) high and it is one of only a few peaks in Taiwan to receive snow. He Huan Shan tea is generally produced between 2000 and 2400 meters which is considered very high elevation and excellent for oolong tea.

The dry leaf:

I have been enjoying this tea immensely. It has a very clean taste. My wife, who has a great palate for high mountain tea, likened the flavor to Lishan high mountain tea (which is often our mutual favorite). She said it was buttery, fruity and had good hui gan (回甘) which means lingering sweet aftertaste, and I would absolutely agree. The aroma of a freshly poured, steaming hot cup of this tea will start off with a milky, malty, vanilla aroma but as it quickly cools the aroma will completely change, morphing into a much brighter "apple candy" and "sugar cane" smell. The color of each infusion is a deceptively light yellow and the taste is quite unique. Some flavor notes that I picked up in my last session included: alpine meadow grass, toasted grains, and sparkly yeasty beer. This particular Taiwanese tea, unlike some other high mountain oolong teas, does not seem to have any floral notes, which can be a very nice change of pace if you're not craving a flowery brew. I have recently been brewing this oolong in Desmond and if Desmond is filled about 1/4 full of dry leaf I will easily get 15 great infusions!

The color of the 3rd infusion:

In closing, I'd like to thank Cindy (my Chinese teacher) and her parents, Henry and Mei, for giving me this excellent tea! If you ever get a chance to try some He Huan Shan high mountain tea don't hesitate!

The big leathery leaves after 12 awesome infusions:


Cecil Hill said...

Enjoy reading your blogs. I especially like the part where you add the Chinese to the tasting vocabulary. I am working hard to figure out both the Chinese and the English vocabulary for tea tasting.

I have looked at Taiwan oolongs here in Sichuan but they are about twice the price of Chinese mainland oolongs. Of course, the vendors all tell me they only import the very best from Taiwan and the prices probably show this to be correct.

I recently "stole" some Thailand high mountain oolong from my sister-in-law last month while in Thailand. It was well over 800 Baht for a few grams. My wife refused to allow me to buy any as she thinks all Thai tea is pretty bad. Recent information indicates that Thailand is beginning to become competitive. I will see for myself soon enough.

We recently bought some Tie Guan Yin and Guan Yin Wang from the vendors in Chengdu. It appeared to be very green and very fresh. Both made me feel funny, like breathing fresh paint. The Tie Guan Yin we were buying locally looked to be aged and we really liked it. What am I missing. The fresh stuff made me feel as if my whole body was giving off paint fumes. Strange.

Keep up the tea tasting and throw in the Chinese equivalent of what we are tasting.

Brett said...

Hi Cecil! Thanks so much for reading my tea blog. Your experiences in China and Thailand are very interesting and I also like reading your blog.

I really enjoy learning Mandarin Chinese and adding traditional Chinese words to my tea blog posts and I am glad to know that other people are finding it useful!