When I was introduced to Jin Xuan Oolong for the first time, I was very curious to get to know this relatively young tea. I had already read and heard a lot about the tea before. Jin Xuen can be translated as “Golden Daylily”. Less common is the tea under the name Tai Cha #12 (TTSE #12), which is actually the name of its cultivar, a cross between Ying Zhi Hong Xin (硬 枝 紅心) and Tai Cha #8 (TTSE #8), given by the Tea Research and Extension Station in Taiwan in 1981. Its popularity among tea aficionados, however, it owes to another, much more marketing-effective name, namely, Nai Xiang, which in turn can be translated into Milk Oolong (or Milky Oolong). As the word milk in the name already indicates, the tea has a very special characteristic: It carries in flavour and taste nuances of milk and is subtly creamy. Since I as a typical Westerner occasionally also like to drink tea with cloudlets and Hong Kong-style Milk Tea, I wanted to evaluate, whether the taste of a tea with added milk during preparation is in any way similar to Jin Xuan Oolong. The difference was, of course, immense and the comparison was pointless, because firstly it was an oolong, which can not be compared directly with a Nai Cha (milk tea, mostly black), so it was kind of apple vs. pear, and secondly the tea had really only very subtle milk-like nuances in flavour and taste, which an untrained palate, if at all, would perceive only unconsciously. I was admittedly disappointed.
Today, I like to drink Jin Xuan Oolong very much, especially when I’m in the mood for an subtle, gentle oolong, which I can enjoy for a long time, in relatively large quantities, often while working or as cold brew on hot days.
Unfortunately, not every Jin Xuan Oolong is enjoyable and you have to pay attention to what you buy. First of all, there are three variants of Jin Xuan Oolong:
- The real: pure loose leave tea with a natural milky aroma (nai xiang / 奶香); there is absolutely no milk involved in the production
- Jin Xuan Oolong steamed with milk in the manufacturing process
- Jin Xuan Oolong sprayed with artificial “milk-like” substances after processing
I would recommend agains even trying the latter. Between the first two you can choose individually, according to your own preferences: The milky nuances in the milk-steamed Jin Xuan are often more present in the aroma and it is a little more fruity in taste. The original Jin Xuan, on the other hand, is more reserved in the taste, but also more complex and more suitable for the Gong Fu style. But even within the three variants the offered teas vary greatly in taste and price. This is, amongst other things, due to the fact that Jin Xuan is one of the most popular cultivars in Taiwan. It is very resistant to environmental influences and can grow in deep as well as in very high locations. You can buy green as well as lightly roasted Jin Xuan Oolongs – the choice is abundant.
While I am writing this article, I drink a Jin Xuan Oolong from our shop. It is called Ali Bear and is an authentic, slightly roasted High Mountain Jin Xuan Oolong from Ali Shan Mountain in Taiwan. Here are some impressions:
Generally, I drink tea very quickly. I can not have a full or half cup of tea standing in front of me. If there is one, I immediately take the next sip. Therefore, my cup is now empty and I hope that Ning-Ning will soon offer me the next infusion. One of the aspects which makes this tea special, I notice right now, while I no longer drink it. In the mouth, or more precisely in the back of the mouth, there remains a long, sweet aftertaste. The sweetness contrasts with the subtle tart notes, which are due to the light roasting of the tea. With every infusion, those tart notes disappear, while the taste still remains round, full, creamy and sweet, while floral notes become more prominent. With the sixth and seventh infusion a vegetable mineral flavour develops, which gives the tea a surprising freshness. This feature of the tea allows long tea sessions in Gong Fu style, which we especially recommend for our Ali Bear. For the sake of completeness – the preparation parameters:
- Tea-to-water ratio: 1g / 15-20ml
- Water temperature: 85-95°C
- Steeping time: (short rinse) / 45s / 30s / 45s / 1min / 90s / 2min / 3min / at your own discretion …
The listed parameters are not a law but a recommendation. We also want to encourage everyone to experiment. With our Ali Bear you can control the taste in two directions adjusting the water temperature. At 85°C the tea becomes creamier; at 95°C the tea develops more floral notes.
Ali Bear has only very discreet milk-like properties in its creaminess and the aroma of the dry tea leaves. If you are looking for a more intense milky character or a tea which is to be prepared exclusively cold, you may be better off with a milk-steemed Jin Xuan, such as our Milky Cow. However, if you want to spend long Gong Fu Tea sessions with an authentic Jin Xuan, which develops from infusion to infusion and unfolds new tastes, you will surely be happy with an authentic Jin Xuan such as our Ali Bear.
If you have already made the acquaintance of Jin Xuan Oolong, tell us about it in our social media channels. We would be very interested.
Bye for now!
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