GABA Oolong

gaba oolong - dry leaves

It doesn’t seem that long ago that everyone seemed to be talking about GABA Oolongs in the teaosphere.

For reasons I’m at a loss to remember I missed that particular boat when it first sailed, but when I was putting together a recent order at House of Tea I noticed that they stock such a tea, and thought I’d better get some in, and see what all the fuss had been about.

This particular tea hails from Nantuo, Taiwan. In their notes for this tea House of Tea say that GABA Oolongs produced in Taiwan are often intended for the Japanese market, where GABA teas enjoy a high popularity.

Rather than trying to re-invent the wheel, I’ll let Wikipedia’s article explain what GABA teas are all about…

Steeping method
Weight of dry leaf: 7.5 grams
Infusion style: Gong-fu / Asian
Steeping vessel: 150 ml porcelain gaiwan
Water temperature: 100°C
No. & duration: a flash rinse, then a 1st. infusion @ 10 seconds, then @ +5 seconds until 35 seconds, then @ 50 and finally 90 seconds for a total of 8 infusions

Right then, cards on the table – this is a weird little tea, and no mistake. The byline for this post could easily be…”Wait, what…?

I have a gut feeling that even long after the last of this batch has been steeped, I’ll still be trying to figure it out. It’s kind of like the end of the Jodie Foster movie “Contact“, when even the characters at the heart of the action are wondering what the hell just happened. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

The dry leaves had an aroma that reminded me of cacao nibs. Post rinse they had gained something else, something else I’m still trying to pin down…

There was a kind of a background “Oolonginess” here that would have been familiar to anyone who has ever sampled other Oolongs from Nantuo, but with that cacao thing layered on top, and higher up in the stack was that…whatever it is.

gaba oolong - gong dao bei

Re-reading the notes I took during the session they seem even more vague than usual. Tea often presses so many memory buttons that any reference made in the heat of a session can look odd or out of place afterwards, but even allowing for that the two suggestions I came up with for the “whatever” were bizarre. I noted that “whatever” resembled the kind of vapoury, spirit-fumes aroma you get off of high grade vodka, and toothpaste. I know…vodka and toothpaste…

The liquor had a distinct peppery buzz to it, and that cacao thing lingered as a strong aftertaste.

As I hope the pictures show, the tea had a beautiful deep colour, one that was present right from the first infusion, even though the body was medium verging on a tad on the weak side, something I’m assuming was down to the relatively small size of the leaves.

This was also a very clean tea – even at the end of the session very little dust or debris was in the tea strainer.

By the sixth round the leaves were running out of steam a bit. The “whatever it was” was fading, leaving behind a more traditional Oolong experience in it’s wake. By bumping up the infusion times I managed to get another couple of good rounds out of them, but there was a definite feel of eight steepings being the natural end point for these leaves.

gaba oolong - a cup of

Now, what about that GABA effect? Well, something happened. I’ll try to describe it as best I can.

I haven’t drunk alcohol for quite some time, but based on what I remember from those days, and after re-re-reading my notes this is what I came up with.

Imagine you’ve just taken your first sip of your favourite alcoholic beverage one evening. After a slight delay you suddenly have that first moment of recognition that you’re beginning to fall under the influence. Now imagine your gradual slide into intoxication being paused right at that instant, but then going on to morph into a kind of sleepy, euphoric feeling. That’s what it felt like.

gaba oolong - used leaves

It might sound like some sort of sheng Pu-erh induced Qi hit, but it wasn’t. The really odd thing is, it’s proving incredibly hard to figure out exactly how you know it isn’t the same kind of experience. It’s going to sound weird, but it felt different on some sort of low down, brain-bios, core system, apples-are-not-oranges way.

A very interesting tea, this, albeit in a “more questions than answers” kind of a way. I’m certainly going to have to acquire other GABA teas, for comparative purposes.

Tea, eh? Ever deeper goes the rabbit hole, ever deeper…

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One Response to GABA Oolong

  1. Pingback: A Mini-Mini-Break | Diary of a Northern Teaist

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