I was once told by an Italian that if I wanted decent olive oil and tomatoes then the last place I should be going was the local supermarket. The good stuff, she said, never left the Italosphere. Follow the Italians, she said, see where they are shopping.
Similarly, the Chinese are more than a little knowledgeable when it comes to the subject of tea.
Your local tea merchant may well be your go-to source for high-end or slightly less common teas, but if you’re after decent, drinkable tea at a competitive price, then your local Asian supermarkets should be worth getting to know.
If you’re also looking to start getting to know Chinese tea, then you can afford to experiment and try a few new teas without breaking the bank. You might be able to pick up some teaware at the same time, too.
I recently happened across this particular tea at one of the shops in town.
It’s an Oolong, more specifically a Ti Guan Yin.
I thought it was worth a punt because, according to the label at least, it was from Fujian province on the South-east coast of China, one of the places considered to be the home of good Oolong tea.
The tea, a product of the Tian Hu Shan brand, weighs in at 200g net, and comes in a glass jar. I paid 90 Swedish crowns at the time of writing.
After a bit of detective work, it looks as though its a product of the Xuefeng Tea Plantation, which is located to the North-west of Fuzhou city…
The tea itself is a lightly oxidised ball rolled Oolong.
It steeps well both Asian style in a gaiwan, as well as Western style in a medium sized pot. In the gaiwan it was good for 7 or 8 rounds before its flavour started to fade, and in the pot I comfortably achieved 3 infusions before the flavour noticeably deteriorated.
The taste is more or less what you’d expect – the freshness of the green with the roasted, honey overtones of an Oolong. The colour was also pleasing, yellow with a hint of green, I am reliably informed (I’m colour-blind, hence the need to outsource colour identification!) .
After you’ve drunk the tea, it’s always nice to examine the leaves…
It’s nice enough as a stand-alone drink, but works well with food, too, especially something a bit hot and spicy.
The verdict? Good enough value for money, and a solid, drinkable tea of a decent quality. Definitely on the “buy this one again” list.