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Formosa oolong (ETS Image)

Formosa oolong (ETS Image)

There are a few significant tea producing countries or regions that have changed their name since tea began to be a significant industry there. Probably the most notable example is Sri Lanka. It used to be known as Ceylon, and to this day the tea produced there is known by the same name. And then there’s Taiwan.

Formerly known as Formosa, Taiwan is an island nation located directly to the east of mainland China. Unlike the situation in Sri Lanka, Taiwanese tea such as this one is no longer sold under the name Formosa. Much of the tea that’s produced in Taiwan today is one of a number of highly regarded varieties of oolong.

Writing about tea in the early twentieth century, in an article called The Tea Industry of Formosa, journalist Herbert Compton that there were “highly bright prospects” for the future of this industry. He also noted that Formosa, as it was still called, was “a most delightful realm for human habitation.”

Compton recounts that according to some tales wild tea plants were thought to be native to Formosa but suggests that it was more likely that the plant was brought there from neighboring China. Tea historians Victor Mair and Erling Hoh don’t go into the specifics of exactly when and how tea got to Taiwan but apparently there are records of it being grown there as early as 1701.

By 1861, according to a British government report, a fair amount of tea was being shipped from Formosa back to tea’s place of origin – China – but tea production was apparently still a relatively minor industry. Compton credits Englishman John Dodd with doing much to further the tea industry there in the years that followed.

In the half century from 1895 onward Formosa was a colony of Japan, and both sources agree that it was during this time that tea production really began to take off. Which is probably not surprising, given Japan’s long relationship with tea. Of course, Japan is best known for producing green tea and, while it would be interesting to determine how their colony became a hotbed for oolong tea, that’s a question that will have to wait for another day.

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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After having stopped in a lovely chocolaterie and tearoom in Part 1, I wasn’t sure what the next chapter of Dutch tea adventures would bring. But, as luck would have it, the very next day we stumbled upon another tearoom. And this time it served—yep, you’ve guessed it—loose leaf tea!

Rejoice!

This was quite an unexpected occurrence, as we had been finding that good coffee was more prevalent than good tea in Amsterdam, and so we quickly abandoned our original destination and rerouted ourselves through the door of the teashop. Wijs & zonen (Wijs and Sons) are located just a few minutes walk from Amsterdam Centraal (Central Station), and so make for an easy stop for any visitors to the city. They describe themselves as “the meeting place for lovers of tea and coffee.”

Wijs and Sons (Photo source: screen capture from site)

Wijs and Sons (Photo source: screen capture from site)

What’s this? Not solely dedicated to tea?

But once we saw the list of teas they had on offer we decided to overlook this detail. With five varieties of Assam, seven of Ceylon, and eleven of Darjeeling, we were spoiled for choice. And that was just (some of) the black teas.

Formosa Oolong Estate Tea (Photo source: The English Tea Store)

Formosa Oolong Estate Tea (Photo source: The English Tea Store)

There were some interesting sounding blends on the menu, such as “Flowers of Amsterdam”, a “colourful black tea blend with a lot of Holland flowers”, or “Amsterdam Tea Pot, a green tea “with hazelnut leaf and hemp aroma…that makes you dream of Amsterdam.” But we decided to go with a tried and tested tea, and so settled on Formosa Oolong. This Taiwanese oolong tea has a slightly sweeter taste, which some people describe as peachy, or nutty. Personally, I don’t get either of those taste suggestions when I drink it, just a slightly sweeter taste. But tea tasting is so incredibly subjective that it’s hardly worth splitting straws. Suffice to say, if you haven’t tried this oolong tea before, I’d recommend it. It’s a little heavier than some oolongs, as it is on the more fermented side—perfect for warming up on a cold winter’s day in Amsterdam!

Wijs & zonen also sell bulk tea but we managed to resist the temptation to indulge. However, if you are visiting for a longer period of time and don’t want to travel with your own tea, it would be a great place to stop and pick some up!

See more of Elise Nuding’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Time for another recipe (the 7th in a baker’s dozen). This is another that goes great with tea. Be adventurous and give her recipe a try with a pot of the tea named and assess the pairing for yourself.

Double-Duty Measuring Cups (Photo courtesy of Kitchen Couture)

Double-Duty Measuring Cups (Photo courtesy of Kitchen Couture)

The recipe: Mocha Peanut Butter Brownies

No picture available — yikes! So, here are the Double-Duty Measuring Cups the cook used to make them.

There is never a bad time for brownies. And any excuse to make them is legitimate, no matter how flimsy. In this case, she was trying out a new set of measuring cups. She said that these brownies are “a variant of the recipe for Fudgy Cocoa Brownies by SACO Foods”. This version isn’t as rich as you’d expect, but she points out that this is good for enjoying a second helping without risking getting a tummy ache or a big case of the “guilts.” Now, that’s MY kind of brownie!

The tea: Formosa Oolong Tea

Formosa Oolong makes teapots, teacups, and tastebuds happy! (Photo source: A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

Formosa Oolong makes teapots, teacups, and tastebuds happy! (Photo source: A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

Formosa Oolong seems the perfect tea to go with these lighter tasting brownies. Hubby and I did a taste test of it about a year ago and have been entranced ever since. The version we tried was more oxidized than others but could still undergo multiple infusions, giving a walnutty flavor to the cup each time. There was also a smokiness, a smooth feel, and no bitterness. Keep you infusion times short — a maximum of one-and-a-half minutes for the first infusion and two minutes for the second one. This will give you a more even flavor each time.

Hope this works for you. Feel free to comment here with your experience, and watch for the next pairing to be posted in November.

See also:
Pairing Tea and Food — Black Bean Quesadillas and Assam Tea
Pairing Tea and Food — Spinach-Stuffed Mushrooms and Nilgiri Tea
Pairing Tea and Food — Pomegranate Vanilla Scones and Sencha Tea
Pairing Tea and Food — Simple Summer Couscous Salad and Golden Yunnan Tea
Pairing Tea and Food — Stuffed Bell Peppers and Ceylon Black Tea
Pairing Tea and Food — Forelle Pear Tart and Dong Ding Oolong Tea

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

I usually prefer to start my day with an oolong tea. Yes, I know that lots of tea drinkers need the “kick” of a strong black tea in the morning. But I like to ease into the day with a gentler cup.

Waiting for the water to boil. (Photo source: article author)

Waiting for the water to boil. (Photo source: article author)

Generally my tastes run to the lighter end of the oolong spectrum, to the greenish, less fermented, floral type of oolong referred to as pouchong or baozhong. Every so often, though, I find myself – through either choice or chance – with a pot of a darker, more roasted variety of oolong. Like this Formosa Oolong Estate Tea.

Now there are lots of types of oolongs from Taiwan, the island originally named Formosa by Portuguese explorers. (Formosa means “beautiful” in Portuguese.) And you can correctly call them all Formosa oolongs. The more or less generic term “Formosa oolong” on its own, however, is generally understood to describe a medium-fermented oolong comprising brownish broken leaves and stems, and a taste profile that is peachy or nutty or both.

When I prepare oolongs for general drinking, I use a procedure I refer to as “modified gong-fu style,” where I combine serial steepings into a larger teapot. A fellow tea lover who also enjoys this method laughingly calls it “oolong blasphemy.” On those occasions when I’m sampling a tea for the first time – that is, when I want to understand its flavor profile – I modify the process yet again by pouring a small amount from each steep into a cup for individual tasting before adding the rest to my sharing teapot.

As I did with this oolong. And discerned a somewhat unpleasant sharpness in the first steeping, kind of like nuts with the bitter skin still on them. I’m not talking about the initial brief “rinse,” which serves more to open the leaves to infusion rather than as any kind of washing, but to the first full steep after that. And it’s not just this oolong; I find that with darker oolongs in general I have to discard the first infusion. It’s just too harsh to my taste. The second infusion, however, was quite smoothed out, as were the following steeps.

Although the aroma when water first meets leaf is an extraordinary blend of charcoal and chocolate, the taste is more in the realm of roasted nuts. It has a dryness about it, neither sharp like walnuts nor sweet like pecans. Maybe filberts? It finishes with a subtle root-vegetable flavor. Sweet potatoes?

As I said, although I drink dark oolongs occasionally, they’re really not my favourites. Which is not to say that I won’t enjoy a pot every now and then, or that other tea drinkers won’t appreciate its qualities. What I do think its flavor profile is absolutely perfect for is my Hot and Sour Sesame Noodles recipe. In fact I think I’ll mix up a batch with it tonight!

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Formosa Oolong

Formosa Oolong

Tea Name: Formosa Oolong Estate Tea

Tea Type: Oolong from Taiwan

The British found out centuries ago that tea drinking was essential and drinking good tea was even more essential. How do you have civilization without a good “cuppa”? You can certainly feel civilized after a cup of this tasty oolong.

Oolongs are semi-oxidized, that is, they are allowed to oxidize to a certain extent, more than for a green tea which isn’t oxidized at all, and less than for a black tea which is fully oxidized. This oolong is very oxidized, more toward the black tea end of the scale.

This type of tea is also very suitable for multiple steepings, so doing one cupful at a time seems appropriate. Thus, we used our little white teacup and an infuser basket. The infuser basket, usually something we avoid like the Plague, fits perfectly into that cup, so we had the best of both worlds. The tea leaves had plenty of interaction with the water and expanded to their hearts’ content, but the basket lifts out so no straining is needed.

The dry leaves are different in appearance and aroma from other Formosa Oolongs we’ve steeped. They are more broken up and have a strong nutty flavor. The small size means they steep faster. We used water heated to 195° F and steeped twice for 2 minutes each. Here is the results of the first steep:

Some taste descriptions we’ve read of other teas use words that we think are a bit “out there.” Scallops? Bread dough? They don’t sound very appetizing in a tea. In this case, one of those “out there” terms seems more realistic to us now: “walnutty.” The first steeping was a nutty brown color and had a walnutty flavor with a hint of smokiness, no bitterness, and a smooth feel. The second steeping was very faint overall. We recommend that you steep the first round for only 1½ minutes, not 2 minutes. Otherwise, figure on just one really nice steep. It’s great straight. We totally avoided any enhancements. This is a tea you’ll want to taste every drop of.

Disclaimer: This tea was provided by the company named. However, any opinions concerning this tea and the company  are always strictly objective.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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© Online Stores, LLC, and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, LLC., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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