Mooncakes, Oolong and Chrysanthemum

Nancy so kindly shared with me some of her Wild Trees oolong, noting that the package says “a taste of ginseng”. At first, its clumpy look reminds me of a green puer (and it is a lot browner than in the picture), but it smells of wet bark, pine needle and ripe grapes, which is more like red teas. I gave the first infusion a little over 30 seconds and it came out shining gold, subsequent infusions take as little as 10 seconds to achieve the same color, and the leaves were so tightly rolled that the clumps still appeared as a miniature tight cabbage after 3 infusions. It smells syrupy, and tastes like persimmon su jeong gwa (수정과), a sweet cinnamon dessert drink of Korean people. Nancy described it as “gingery” and “like wood sap”, and I find it’s most similar to the Ginseng oolong, minus the hour-long-lingering aftertaste.

Notice how the leaves turn a lot greener post-infusion. Although it might be too sweet without much variations in flavor by itself, the Wild Trees pairs surprisingly well with a yam mooncake. This yam filling is starchy and dry, unlike most bean pastes and orange sweet potato pastes, so the mooncake has a fair saltiness instead of being too sweet. It adds depth to the Wild Trees, and the Wild Trees smoothens it.

I tried the Wild Trees with a few other mooncakes too, a red bean one, a mung bean one, and a flaky green tea pastry (similar to this taro ball from Sheng Kee Bakery), but none of these stood out, and the green tea-Wild Tree pair was even slightly stringent. Soon I got a bit bored by the sweetness, so I made a pot of chrysanthemum. Herbal teas are easy on the mind both mentally and neurologically: it takes boiling water and you cannot oversteep it, and it has zero caffeine.

The hard thing is chrysanthemum tea doesn’t smell nice, it actually smells a bit weird (well, like the fresh flower); it tastes neither sweet nor bitter, just really clean. I didn’t expect much but I took a bite of each mooncake followed with a sip of chrysanthemum anyway.

Who knew. With the red bean, it bloomed.

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