Eight Immortals Phoenix Oolong
If you asked me, 'Do you want to try an Oolong you've never had before?', there's little doubt that I'd answer in the affirmative before you even got the question entirely out of your mouth. A High Mountain Oolong? I'd climb that mountain if I had to. But I have to admit, I like climbing mountains. It's not like that'd be a burden or anything.
While writing about white tea and the Teekampagne, I've actually been drinking a lot of quite good Oolong and working my way up to writing about it. When Jo Johnson sent me her beautiful children's book The World's Special Tea, which I wrote about several weeks ago, she mentioned that she'd thrown in a couple of tea samples. One of them was the Eight Immortals Phoenix Oolong from In Pursuit of Tea, and receiving it was like being asked the question up above. 'Would you like to try a really exceptional High Mountain Oolong?' Well yes. Yes, I would.
Their photo of the leaves is nice, but look how my sample looked:
I'm not going to do a tea review here. Not now. I read something that Alex Zorach said a while back about really getting to know a tea before reviewing it, and that's exactly what I'm doing with this one. Although I'm savouring it the way I would any exquisite tea, I'm also being a bit brutal with it to see if it can withstand the abuse. So far, it has stood up valiantly to every test.
Recently read about the origin of the term Wu Long (Oolong) in The Tea Drinker's Handbook, and thought it'd be a nice way to close out this post. Here it is:
'In Chinese, Wu Long means literally "black dragon" and refers to the very dark colour frequently taken on by the leaves during drying. However, according to legend, there's a different explanation for the origin of the colour: Wu Liang, a Chinese planter, was harvesting his tea one day when he saw a stag. He interrupted the harvest to give chase and arriving home with the carcass he got busy skinning and cutting it up and quite forgot to put the tea leaves out to dry. A few days later he remembered his precious crop and noticed that the leaves had changed colour. He fired them nevertheless, then infused some and was very surprised by the unusually soft and aromatic fragrance they gave off. The secret of his discovery spread around the entire province and the name Wu Liang was transformed into Wu Liang Cha or "tea of the black dragon."'
(source: The Tea Drinker's Handbook by Francois-Xavier Delmas, Mathias Minet, and Christine Barbaste)