Friday, June 4, 2010


I got this sample of "TEBIETE - The Tea King" (特別特 - 茶王) a year ago. Today I finally decided to break it out and review it.

This tea is from Anxi, Fujian (安溪,福建) province and was packed into one of those corny little "cigarette boxes" that you can sometimes find holding Da Hong Pao oolong (大紅袍烏龍).

The box was labeled as "organic oolong tea" in both Chinese and English. It contained one vacuum-packed foil bag holding 15 grams of tea. The dry leaves were huge pellet-shaped clusters of rolled-up leaves (a few were as big as an American dime).

the dry leaves

Before I began brewing this tea, I thought it was a nice, lightly-oxidized Tie Guanyin (鐵觀音) and that I'd be drinking it all day long. Little did I know!

I didn't stop to sniff the dry leaves and I had no clue what to expect as I dumped the whole pack of leaves into my gaiwan. I gave them a quick rinse with boiling water, opened the lid and sniffed the tea aroma.

OH MY GOD. It smells like peppermint!?!? I ran in to the living room and asked my wife to sniff it. She made a yuck face and said, "it smells really musty and has a distinctive mint smell."

I went back and brewed my first cup using a short, boiling hot steep. I brought the little cup of pleasant-colored mint-smelling tea up to my lips and took my first exploratory sip.

The liquor

YUCK! This tea is super sweet in a weird artificial-tasting way! It's an unpleasant and bitter sweetness that reminds me of stevia. The flavor also has a smoky, minty, licoricy, ginsingy aftertaste that hours later is still lingering on my poor victimized tongue.

I was only able to drink two small sips of TEBIETE before I tossed it all in the compost and started fresh with some truly good tea (this Meishan to be precise). Thank god I used a gaiwan and not a clay teapot to brew this minty monstrosity!


Charles said...

A super-sweet and artificial-tasting rolled oolong with "King" in the title .. could it be a variation on a ginseng-infused oolong? I haven't had one that smelled minty, but definitely had my share of uber-nasty uber-sweet and artificial-tasting ones!

Tony said...

Brett, I too have tried this. I too composted it. The weird artificial flavors overpowered the tea and the musty smell was not a good start.

Gingko said...

I've never had this tea but I think I know the "stevia" taste you mentioned. I don't like stevia taste in tea either. To make it even worse, this brand is super expensive. I think no matter how organic and how healthy a tea is, it should be tasty first of all. I will try a TGY style wild tea in a few weeks, and I am curious to know if organic and wild growing add weird taste in some oolong.

Sir William of the Leaf said...

As iggy said, I think it is probably a ginseng oolong sort of deal. They are said to be healthy, but goodness. The taste isnt even worth it.