Saturday, August 18, 2012

Aged Tung Ting Oolong

The hot date I alluded to in the last post was with an Aged Tung Ting from the professor's course materials on Agedness.  When I had first taken a whiff of the ripe fruity lusciousness underneath this roasted oolong amongst all the other aged pu-erh,  I planned to reserve it for the end once I got past all the traditionally stored samples.  This week I'm jumping ahead to have a session I know will be entirely pleasurable.

This course is my first exposure to aged oolong- a category of tea I would perhaps have never explored without the professor's help- he also included two aged baozhongs of contrasting characters.  I read that aged oolongs are roasted multiple times in it's lifetime to reduce moisture and the leaves but MarshalN promptly corrected me that the best aged oolongs are not roasted.  The photo above also has the thirty year old Baozhong on the right as a comparison.  (I chose Tung Ting over the alternate Dong Ding Oolong which sounds like it belongs in an Irish limerick.  Obligatory folklore tells of 12 tea plants from Wuyi mountains sent to Tung Ting Mountain of Taiwan during the Qing Dynasty.  )

Friday was the appointed day.   Waiting to meet a lovely tea is a pleasure of it's own. Except for a mindless dianhong in the morning, I only drank water all day.  I waited for the late afternoon until I was quite hungry to heighten my senses.  I brewed up a small amount just for myself.  After the opening sips of burnt caramel paired with dried apricots and plums, the tea brings forth a creaminess that is effervescent and light.  The mouth coating of this tea is incredibly silky and something to behold.  I'm utterly beguiled by the soft feminine expressiveness of each sip.  Tiny sparks of sweetness ping delicately underneath my tongue.

After consulting Harold McGee on Food and Cooking, the creaminess can be most likely attributed to gamma-lactones and the caramel and fruit from other furanones.  Witapharma International Limited in China sells pure food flavoring which just these characteristics:

  • Furanone - fruity and caramel character
  • Chicory Furanone (Single Methyl Furanone) very distinctive fruity, roast bread, caramel and jam.
  • Fraision Methyl Ether - fresh fruit and burnt sugar
  • Fraision Ethyl Ether  - fruity or brandy like, soft caramel.  

Lactones are detectable at parts per billion. I'm curious to get my hands on a few sample bottles but my husband is weary I'm going to boost ho-hum teas with synthetic furanones and become a furanone junky.  Even a boring tea hosts hundreds of compounds to contribute to the aroma and flavor. A single synthetic compound probably will not turn a flavorless tea into a rich nuanced tea, but it could probably boost a mediocre one into something a little more interesting. (I can feel the cringing of traditionalists. No need to get your panties in a twist. I'm just stirring up the pot.)

Chemistry aside, the lush sensuality of this tea is so overwhelming, I probably could not drink this tea in public or at least not in front of other men.   Does the professor really drink such a tea?

Unlike the 20 year old fruity baozhong I enjoyed last week which revealed a slight underlying astringency of the leaf in the final brews, this Tung Ting is mellowed through and through.  I drank past a dozen brews, even though the color became increasingly lighter, the resulting brew still tasted of tea and continued to provide a lingering silkiness coating the entire mouth.  Even after brewing all night, the leaves would not give up their roll.

For a crusty old shu drinker like me, the experience of this tea disorients me entirely.  I want to wrap the rest of this tea in silk and hide it away in a secret drawer.  I don't want to get used to drinking such teas regularly. I probably couldn't tolerate shu if such fruity teas were regularly on my palate.

Aged pu-erh is considered an old man's tea.  Young sheng can be a force of masculinity and it tends to attract young male drinkers.  It's no coincidence the main hangout for pu-erh drinkers has moved onto a shaving forum.  I lurk there occasionally but even the testosterone is too much for the likes of me.  Who drinks lovely aged oolongs such as these?  (Well, who can get their grubby paws on such beauties...)

Many events conspired against my encounter with this tea.  I had planned a quiet session in my backyard only to be driven out-  there is no other tea mood killer than Berkeley backyard hippie chatter.  Thankfully they weren't smoking out and polluting the shared air with incense sticks.  I was chased back into the dining room only to have my husband start frying up onions and mushrooms for an early dinner as he had to rush to an art opening in the city.  I was finally forced into the bedroom in search of peace.  While contemplating the mouth-feel of this tea,  my husband tiptoed into the room to fetch his party clothes.  He put his finger to his lips and whispered- "Shhh. There's an intimate tea session going on here".  I am often the object of such ridicule but he's so dead on, I can do nothing but giggle with him. 


  1. Aged oolongs are also my very special treat tea. I am waiting for my friend Jose to give me a bit of 30 year old Taikuanyin recently brought back from Hong Kong by his motherinlaw. She got a full pound of it, for a very hefty price though. She has a good stash of aged oolongs hanging around and every now and then she shares a bit.

    1. Emmett-
      A private source like Jose and his mother-in-law is invaluable to a tea drinker. Such oolongs should only be special occasion as it would be sad to get used to drinking them and not treasure their charms.

      I actually have old friends in Hong Kong but they don't drink tea seriously hence I don't want to risk asking them to buy tea for me.


  2. This tea is almost certainly not re-roasted. You don't get this taste if it has been re-roasted. In fact, the best aged oolongs are not the re-roasted ones.

    I do drink this regularly, although since it's a very limited supply, "regularly" has to be pretty regulated.

    1. You have now spoiled me with a fine example of an aged oolong probably for which I cannot get a ready supply. More reason to hide this tea away for special occasions only. Actually I have firmly let the household know that a certain special box is strictly "hands off".

    2. Actually, Red Blossom seems to have a fairly ready supply of aged TW oolongs, which seems fairly reasonably priced to me:

  3. "Who drinks lovely aged oolongs such as these?"

    *Raises hand*

    As I think I've mentioned on your blog, I brought back a kilo of oolongs, both aged and not, from Taiwan, as these are pretty much what I was drinking every day while living there..they still make up at least half of my total tea intake.

    I have a 2001 Dong Ding and a 1987 Shan Lin Xi. I think it's hard to answer what the ideal aging for an oolong tea is. I can appreciate some characteristics of an 80s oolong that a 10 year old one doesn't have,but in some ways still prefer the 10 year one. Everything has its shelf life, but it can be hard determining what the optimal point of consumption is; depends a lot on storage, I think.
    I don't necessarily agree that unroasted aged oolongs are superior to roasted aged oolongs--I'm sure I haven't drunken as many as MarshalN, but just enough that I wouldn't necessarily prefer one to the other without knowing other variables.

    1. The reroasted stuff are a dime a dozen - they're easy to find and not at all rare. The unreroasted stuff are harder to acquire, and often come with a lot of problems, so a clean example of it is a rare thing.

  4. I was reading some things about this tea on the web and stumbled upon your blog and loved it!

    Oolong teas are a favorite and aged oolongs are simply wonderful. I absolutely love them.

    I've recently tried Dong Ding and was very pleased with its smooth flavor and peculiar fragrance and mostly with its health benefits.

    Since I don't drink coffee this tea gives me the energy push I need in the morning and it also helps me cope with my ulcer symptoms as it helps treat digestive disorders. What a wonderful tea!!!

    High mountain teas are simply amazing and Ali Shan tea is quite a treat as well!

    Speaking of it...I'll prepare myself a cup of Oolong tea and relax!

    Do you recommend other teas? I also enjoy drinking white teas.

    1. Maria,

      It appears you are a vendor for

      While anyone is welcome to comment on my blog, all vendors must identify themselves as such especially when pushing your own teas.


  5. Hello Hster,

    We are not vendors. Our website mainly purpose is to share information about tea and its health benefits.

    Considering we had recently tried Dong Ding tea and wrote a page about its health benefits, we thought it would be good to exchange some ideas about it, since we all love tea.