Oolong Yabukita

oolong yabukita - dry leaf

This is the second part of a pair of posts detailing my experiences with two rather interesting teas from Japan that I came across while shopping over at House of Tea.

The two teas concerned, the black tea I wrote about earlier and this tea, an Oolong, are made from leaves of the Yabukita cultivar, which is normally used in the production of green teas.

These leaves were grown in Tenryū-ku ward of Hamamatsu city in Shizuoka Prefecture, and were harvested in the spring of 2016.

Although Japan has a history of black tea production, the same can not really be said about Oolongs, making this tea the slightly more exotic of the two.

Generally speaking, Oolongs tend to be made from larger, more mature leaves, and those kind of leaves are better suited to the “rougher” processing Oolongs undergo, and so I’m rather curious as to just exactly how these smaller, finer leaves were dealt with, especially in terms of rolling and roasting.

Appearance wise this tea looks quite similar to a slightly-longer-than-average fermented Imperial Grade shou Pu-erh rather than an Oolong. Smelling the dried leaf I noticed that the different processing with this Oolong variant seems to have trimmed off the interesting “marine” aspects I found in the black, and replaced it with an equally intriguing cacao note.

Steeping method
Weight of dry leaf: 3 grams
Infusion style: Western
Steeping vessel: 200 ml ceramic teapot
Water temperature: 100°C
No. & duration: 3 infusions of 1½, 2, and finally 3 minutes

Looking at the dry leaf it seemed that some of it was a bit broken up, which I assumed was down to the extra processing à la Oolong it received. The tea strainer picked up a few bits of stray debris during the pour, not much mind, it was just noteworthy as the black tea produced from the same leaves was a very clean tea in this respect.

oolong yabukita - a cup of

I’m guessing that the Oolong processing involved a relatively short oxidation, as the liquor didn’t have as deep and dark a hue as its black tea sister – this was more orange-like rather than ruby.

The Oolong also came across as a bit more assertive – it had a bit of a bite to it, whereas the black was all silky smooth. The Oolong had retained the floral aroma of the black, but had traded a part of the sweetness for that astringent nip, and the aftertaste had morphed into a honey / brown sugar affair.

Another difference between the two teas was that the third infusion for the Oolong was clearly the end of the line, whereas with the black tea I was left wondering if a fourth round was worth a shot.

oolong yabukita - used leaves

One thing they did have in common, though, was that I’ve come to the conclusion that this steeping method suits them best. I’ve never really gong-fu’ed any Japanese tea to my satisfaction – it always seems like I end up over egging the pudding and drawing out too much of something or other from the tea’s profile.

In conclusion I have to say hand on heart that the black is my favourite of the two. That doesn’t mean that this Oolong isn’t a nice tea – it is – just that I prefer the black.

This is, when all is said and done an interesting tea, and one that lovers of Japanese teas in general as well as Oolong fans should both consider taking a closer look at.

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