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Hualien County Taiwan Mi Xiang / Honey Aroma Black Tea (50g)

Hualien County Taiwan Mi Xiang / Honey Aroma Black Tea (50g)

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November 2019:

After trying some of this tea (low ratio, longer steep) after leaving the first pack open for a month, but closed with a clip (not one of mine), I get a much sweeter experience from this tea. While the dry leaf now has barely any aroma to it, it comes back to life when the water hits it! Cinnamon, sugarcane, mineral notes and less intense osmanthus, along with the same excellent calming energy! Please note this tea will start to change the moment you open the pack (like with all Taiwanese tea for the most part)!

Please note: this tea is produced year round. This first batch was packed at the end of August 2019. I will keep minimal amounts on hand, so you always get the freshest tea possible!

This is a truly excellent tea from Hualien County in Taiwan. While I do like Chinese and Taiwanese hongcha, I don't drink it as often as other teas: this one stands out as something I'd happily drink regularly because of the outstanding cha qi and flavor. This is a very high grade tea from a family-run farm that got into sustainable agriculture early on due to support from the local government. While the farm's cultivation is supposedly pesticide free, this tea does not have organic certification, so I won't sell it as organic. This tea does, however, meet and exceed Taiwanese SGS standards for pesticides.

Like oriental beauty, this tea develops osmanthus notes when the leaves are bitten by leaf hoppers. The best oriental beauty (and mi xiang!) has a lovely and intense osmanthus note (lower grade stuff, in my experience, doesn't). This does make me wonder if similar leaf damage is incurred in Guangdong to produce dancong teas, which can have similar osmanthus aromatics.

This tea is produced from jinxuan and qingxin material, which makes it very different from Chinese hongcha. Taiwan produces hongcha from many different cultivars. I have an excellent Taiwanese tieguanyin hongcha that also reminds me of this tea. Mi xiang is a relatively new tea to the Taiwanese scene, but this farm has already won several awards for this tea, and I feel this tea is definitely worthy of acclaim!

What makes this tea different from oriental beauty, aside from the choice of cultivars, is this tea is also lightly roasted to further bring out and transform the lovely aromatics contained within the leaf. The roast is barely detectable, but this tea definitely stands out as something unique!

I first tried this tea as soon as it arrived, and while the osmanthus, lovely, thick, smooth body, sweetness and huigan were detectable, this tea was much better after more rest! I could already tell this tea was excellent, but my second session with it really showed me what I had on my hands!

The leaf smelled much more like honey after resting. In a warmed pot, I could detect osmanthus and some offgassing chlorophyll. There was malt and sugarcane in the background as well. This tea is very aromatic!

I brewed this tea in a glass teapot with a built-in glass filter at 90 Celsius, using my standard parameters for Taiwanese oolong: cover the bottom of the teapot (and a bit more), and start at 45 seconds to 1 minute. I drop the second infusion down to 30 seconds, and then go back to 45 seconds to one minute for the third infusion. I then add 30 seconds to each subsequent infusion.

In the first infusion, I could detect a hint of smokey agarwood, which was a pleasant surprise. Both sugarcane and osmanthus were detectable in the cup, along with some malt (the malt definitely is not a dominant note)! The longlasting sweetness definitely made me think of honey. As I continued to drink my way through the first infusion, I realized the malt note was very much like malted barley (which I love)! I've never detected clear barley notes in a hongcha before, so that was a definite surprise. 

The cha qi was extremely calming, as it was the first time I tried this tea. The Taiwanese really do produce excellent hongcha with excellent cha qi. I get similar calming energy from Ruby #18 as well. The cha qi from this tea ranks at the very top of the range of all the teas I've ever tried. It was almost dissociative!

The second infusion was more savory than sweet: the smokey agarwood and chlorophyll dominated this infusion. A hint of bitterness also arose, but couple with returning sweetness (huigan). I also got some notes that reminded me of baozhong, which was a surprise.

The returning sweetness from this tea lingered on the palate. Coupled with light bitterness, it reminded me of saccharin, but was much more pleasant!

As the tea cooled, I could detect sweet aromatics again: sugarcane, osmanthus and sweet agarwood were evident. Some light astringency was also apparent. I also surprisingly got a hint of wildflower honey, which I definitely wasn't expecting!

The third infusion was also very different. The light bitterness was even less apparent in the third infusion. I instead detected some light sourness. The flavors were much more blended together in the third infusion and harder to pick out. Roasty baozhong character was evident, as well as some light grassy notes (but not the chlorophyll note I detected early on). I also detected notes of Assam hongcha (but without the corresponding astringency and bitterness you get with most Assam teas)! I also noticed significant umami from this tea, which is always very welcome!

The fourth infusion gave me clear baozhong notes: sweet and floral at first, but also notes of lightly roasted and buttery baozhong. It reminded me of baozhong I've roasted myself (at home). The cha qi was still very apparent. I also got some light tobacco smoke notes, which I wasn't expecting, and some mineral character in the finish!

By the sixth infusion, buttery baozhong notes dominated. The lovely light bitterness coupled with longlasting sweetness were still very apparent. I noted that this tea gave me a more powerful calming effect than any other hongcha I've ever had (impressive)! As the tea cooled, osmanthus, chlorophyll, tobacco and mineral were again very apparent. This tea has serious longevity in the pot (not that you can't use a gaiwan instead)!

The seventh infusion gave me more osmanthus, and I also detected a surprising savory meat note, and a hint of tobacco. This tea got my digestive juices going!

I went eight infusions with this tea, and may have been able to take it further. This is a great tea that is well worth trying if you like hongcha (or even oolongs) since there's nothing else quite like this!

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