Today I went for a pot of Phoenix Pomelo Fragrance, a rare Chinese oolong. Normally, oolongs must be rinsed with hot water (205 F) before the first steep, but this particular type is instead only steam-rinsed: you warm the gaiwan with the hot water, pour our the water, put in the leaves, shake it up, then steep. The reason is that the leaves are rolled lengthwise in this type, giving so much surface that a water rinse would wash away all of the flavors.
Before rinsing, it smells like dried grass, after rinsing, it smells ten folds stronger, woodier, and kind of like dark chocolate. After a 10-second steep, the leaves look mossy green, the tea is golden yellow; the taste: dry, on the more bitter side. Not as strong and bitter as the Charcoal Fire Roasted Tung Ting, but it feels pretty dark roasted. I was looking hard for the citrus note, but I couldn’t find it. There is also no sweet aftertaste. Sam said that there are a lot of flavors in the Phoenix Pomelo Fragrance, but I couldn’t see any, even after I tried slurping it. The flavors also did not change after it cools. Sam and Darius said that you’re supposed to slurp the tea while it’s hot to diffuse the flavor in your mouth. There is merit in the statement: you do get a quicker, more frontal, direct taste of the tea that way, as opposed to holding the tea in your mouth for a while before swallowing, but in terms of flavor detection, there’s not really a difference.
Sam also said that this is a dangerous tea: when he drinks too much of it, he gets lightheaded. It’s supposed to be good for 12 steepings, and I went for only 3. I didn’t notice anything at the time because I was talking to the nice lady next to me, but now after 2.5 hours, my arms feel kind of weak as I type, as if my blood were diluted.
Ten-second steeps are easy for the professionals like Sam because it’s quick and you don’t have to time yourself, but it’s hard for novices like me because I have to position my hand correctly to not burn myself while pouring the gaiwan, and I end up oversteeping it for another 5 seconds.
Description from Teance: “Highly recommended for Phoenix Oolong fans, as this is one of the rarest of the rare. Only very few trees produce this fragrance. Grown at the peak of Wudong Mountain in the Phoenix range, hundred year old trees that produce about 10 lbs. of leaves per year are hand harvested meticulously. Greatly in demand, these rare Phoenix teas are only available because of our excellent relationship with the caretakers.
Citrus floral notes on a woody base, with a soothing and persistent aftertaste as well as hints of magnolia aroma.”