Our next two teas are major departures from what’s become the Taiwanese oolong norm. First is this Red Jinxuan…oolong? It’s probably accurate to call it an oolong–probably more accurate is the appellation “Hong Shui” which refers to an older style of oolong processing that emphasizes high oxidation and lower roasting. The party line is that this type of oolong processing has fallen out of fashion, but over the past couple of years I’ve been seeing more and more hong shui oolongs showing up online and at domestic Taiwan oolong suppliers.
If you hang around Miro Tea, you’ve probably already seen or tried a Jinxuan oolong or two–it’s become a popular cultivar in Taiwan for its yield and robust, creamy body. This one’s very different from the pellet-rolled, green examples we’ve had so far. The leaf shape is almost like Baozhong, but it’s pretty clear that the oxidation level is much higher. The large, twisted leaves are almost black with a bit of light frost on the edges.
According to our source, Drew, this tea is completely organically grown, like Oriental Beauty, and the leaf hopper insects’ bites impart a sweetness into the end flavor. Tasting the tea, I found it to be unlike the other Hong Shui oolongs I’ve tried. It has an astounding mellowness–there is really no astringency to speak of, and the thick body coats the mouth almost immediately. The flavor develops more after swallowing–it’s not as up front as some teas. The wet leaves are full of grainy notes and, when inspected, are fairly uniformly dark green (as opposed to our Oriental Beauty, which has that iridescence to it). Still, there is a bit of redness on the stems and leaf edges that show the very high oxidation that this tea underwent. With its mellowness and closeness in characteristics to black teas, I think this is a tea that might go down well with fans of our China Vintage Special black tea.