Gui Fei

gui fei - dry leaf

These leaves landed on my tea table in the form of a free 3 gram sample that was kindly included in my late October order over at House of Tea.

House of Tea’s notes say that this is a relatively new type of Taiwanese Oolong. In the aftermath of the terrible 1999 Jiji earthquake, the farmers of the Dong Ding tea producing area of Nantuo county were unable to tend to their tea bushes as they concentrated their efforts on rebuilding. During the period the bushes were left unattended, leafhopper insects established themselves in the plantations. This resulted in the same kind of damage to the tea leaves that Dongfang meiren (Oriental Beauty) leaves experience. As with that tea, these leaves defended themselves by secreting certain chemicals, which resulted in a distinctive sweet taste in the tea once the leaves were processed. In one sense, then, you can sort of think of this tea as a bug-bitten Dong Ding. The name of the tea means “Precious Concubine“, and refers to Yang Gui Fei, consort of Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang dynasty. This name itself might possibly be a nod to that other famous bug-bitten Oolong we mentioned earlier, Oriental Beauty.

House of Tea’s notes conclude by telling us that the raw material originates from Lugu township, Nantou County, Taiwan, and was grown at an elevation of 500 metres. This was a 2019 production, and the leaves were hand plucked in the Summer, in order to give the leafhoppers time to do their thing. During production the leaves were oxidized to 40%, and then roasted.

The dry leaf had a mild aroma that was a generic Oolong from central casting, but once they had been given a few moments in the warmed up pot a strong, sweet note popped up to say hello.

As per usual I went with my default method for such a small sample, namely a broadly Western style approach…

Steeping Method

  • Water Used: Filtered tap water

  • Weight of dry leaf: 3 grams

  • Infusion style: Western

  • Steeping vessel: 200 ml ceramic teapot

  • Water temperature: 95°C

  • No. & duration: 3 infusions of 2½, 3, and 3½ minutes duration

gui fei - a cup of

This mini session fell into the usual pattern I tend to see when steeping a small amount of leaf this way – an initial burst of flavour from the first infusion, a slight drop off in intensity from the second round, and finally a very drinkable third steeping, but one that clearly marks the end of proceedings.

Even though the leaves didn’t fully open up during the first infusion, the liquor coming out of the pot was as sweet as Skittles, with a wonderfully heady floral aroma, that old, pungent, hot-house flower thing that suggests orchids. The liquor was a true lip-sticker, creamy and luscious.

gui fei - used leaves

This is one of those teas where after tasting it for the first time, and even after taking all the race conditions involved in small samples like this into account, you have to almost physically restrain yourself from jumping straight back onto the Interwebs in order to buy some more, whatever the damage to the tea purchasing coffers.

This is very nice tea indeed, and I’m willing to bet that 6 grams in a gaiwan will result in a long and satisfying session.

gui fei - single used leaf

Definitely one that’s going on the “buy later” list.

Good stuff.

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