Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Conference Orchid Oolong

Our company's conference this week was at the very same Intercontinental hotel that Obama chose for his SF visit so we had to suffer a bit of extra nuisance security.  No presidential sightings but I really wasn't looking.  On the tea front- I was a bit surprised to find bagged leaf oolong available as an option. Of course on my own I would never choose such tea but I'm always grateful when there's more than substandard orange pekoe at such events.

Even with the hotel water being less than piping hot- this oolong brewed decently with a toasty vanilla aroma.  This tea was pretty good considering the circumstances but it was a tad weak. Out of curiosity I snagged a few extra bags to see if it would brew up better at home with hotter water.  Strangely enough- it brewed up about the same even with perfectly hot water.  Of course at home without conference distractions,  I noticed it's flaws much more. 

I went to the mightyleaf.com to check prices. $14 for 4oz. $60 a pound- not cheap.  Mighty Leaf is yet another socially responsible SF tea outfit trying to bring artisanally crafted tea from field to cup.  I checked their puerh selections for giggles. I encountered yet another Cha Wang
"Elevate your tea drinking experience with this hand harvested and reserve batch of rare Tea King Pu-erh tea. Consisting only of delicate, golden leaf buds, this loose-leaf pu-erh produces an exquisitely smooth and savory cup with notes of chocolate and a creamy finish. Fit for a king, it is also known as "Cha Wang."
Royalty is not what it used to be and even a humble commoner like me can enjoy kingly tea at a sale price of $19 for 3oz.


  1. It's annoying to me that Mighty Leaf has such a foothold in SF cafes, because their wares, though better than say, Lipton, are really not that great. However, it feels more embarrassing to me, that in this land of gourmands upon gourmands, and people with multiple pedigrees in fish, chocolate, and everything in between who are so passionate about their food-craftstmanship, that the state of locally-run tea businesses can still be relatively poor. Despite the SF Bay Area being home to such a concentrated Chinese and Asian population and history, and this gourmand culture, one can still do better living in rural Indiana and ordering mail-order when it comes to tea, in many respects.

    About the multiple bags and not noticing much of a difference--I was just thinking about this exact point last night while I was drinking my Miles' Birthday Blend Tea Urchin sample (very nice, btw). Teas like this have an inherent depth and complexity to them, and if you brew, say, 7 g instead of 4 g, or 10 g instead of 7 g, for me, the experience of drinking them over the period of the session can become deeper and different by adding more in a sort of nonlinear/multiplicative way, I've found--sort of like, if you are looking at something that is complex with a microscope, like a cell, greater magnifications will allow you to see more detail at various stages. I think a similar thing is going on with more complex , high quality teas--there are certain flavor profiles or stages associated with the 1st, 3rd, 8th, brewing period, and if you extend the life of a pot of tea by adding more leaf, these periods become more prolonged, such that you can see the characteristic sweetness of a certain tea extend itself through 3 brewings instead of just 2, and in the process of doing that, you find ANOTHER layer that is only present when you can have 3 or 4 brewings at that one flavor stage, but not discernible enough when you pass over it too quickly.

    Bagged teas/low quality teas, I think, are just the opposite. They have a limited flavor profile, and basically, they don't evolve much as you drink them, or have a very narrow, short evolution--so if you pack more in, you just get more of the same, and maybe not discernibly more if you're using the same amount of water--I'd guess you will likely reach the saturation point of nutrients/flavors the water can absorb from the leaves before you reach the point of added strength or interestingsness with such teas.

    1. Nick-

      I think you are forgetting that puerh drinkers in the West are outliers among tea drinkers. People don't necessarily want to drink something with a complex profile. I have no shortage of friends and acquaintances who would really like Mighty Leaf's Orchid Oolong.

      Mighty Leaf are not selling to you and me because they would have been out of business by now.