When we visited the farmer who supplies our Tieguanyin oolong this spring, we were in the process of trying to find a unique black tea that could hold a candle to or beat the Ruby 18 black tea that Taiwan is famous for. Upon hearing of our interest in black teas he told us to come back in the summer to try his Tieguanyin version of black tea and we did just that.
During the summer months a small insect, named the green leafhopper, becomes a welcome addition to tea plantations across Taiwan. As it bounces and bites its way from leaf to leaf the tea plant attempts to defend itself by releasing defensive compounds. These compounds ultimately alter the taste and fragrance of tea made with these leaves. Tea made from bug-bitten plants is most commonly known as the elusive Oriental beauty or “Mi Xiang” (honey fragrance) oolong.
This tea has undergone a full fermentation in order to be classified as a black tea and falls under the category of Mi Xiang oolong. When brewing this tea, it becomes instantly obvious why bug-bitten teas are referred to as having a honey fragrance. As soon as the water hits the leaf a burst of honey and spices waft up and fill your nose. The honey notes carry over into the cup to provide a mouth filling sweetness that can only be described as decadent. If you are a black tea drinker, this is not a tea to miss.
This tea is outstanding in the morning and would be great served as an accompaniment to dessert. If you normally add honey to your tea, you might want to hold off on this one and let the tea bring its own honey to the party. We don’t normally recommend weighing your leaf when brewing, but because this tea is very fluffy and light it is a bit hard to eyeball how much you need. We suggest about 4-5 grams of leaf per 100mL of water.