Chinese Restaurant Tea Extraordinaire – a Tea Review

While searching for a replacement to the Teavana Iron Buddha Oolong tea I could no longer get, there were other discoveries along my journey. So many teas to drink! Which is just fine since I love tea and there are some that I’m rather pleased to have tried.

Next up is an Oolong which, to my happy little taste buds, is very much like the kind of Oolong found in many Chinese restaurants. (Naturally, it depends on what the restaurant serves as some have other options like Jasmine.)

When I purchased Iron Buddha tea in the first place, I was actually looking for Oolong similar to what I’ve tasted at a number of restaurants over the years–a rich, earthy oolong. Iron Buddha tea turned out to be a wonderfully delicious poor match and it became a favorite. But I still enjoyed the restaurant kind and came to realize that this was a more fermented and roasted Oolong.

According to some resources, Chinese Oolongs tend to be less fermented and therefore more green, while Taiwanese or Formosan Oolongs, more fermented. So my findings go somewhat completely against that as I found the more fermented Oolongs to be a better match for the kind served in Chinese restaurants, while my favorite replacement for the lightly fermented Iron Buddha Oolong turns out to be from Taiwan. Individual results may vary.

The closest tea I’ve found so far to match the taste of Chinese restaurant tea is [roll the tea kettle whistle], Wuyi Organic Oolong ($22.99/lb or about $2.88/2oz), purchased in “bulk” at Wegmans, sourced from China.

For comparison, Teavana’s Eastern Beauty Formosan Oolong is also very yummy. It too is an oolong which is fermented longer and is a darker (less green) Oolong. Eastern Beauty [which has now also been discontinued] is more delicate, lovely, but missing some of the heartier notes of Wuyi. It’s just not the same.

General Information: Wuyi, as it turns out, is oft advertised as a “weight loss” tea. I can’t comment on the weight loss claims, but I’ll let you know if that changes. Since it is more fermented than Iron Buddha, however, I do feel the higher level of caffeine, so that alone may burn an extra calorie or two.

Genuine Wuyi is grown on the Wuyi Mountains in Nanping prefecture, Fujain China. (I don’t know if what Wegmans carries is genuine Wuyi or just a similar style, but the label reads “Wuyi.”)

Leaves: The loose leaves of Wuyi are mostly all brown with hints of darker green, gold and charcoal here and there. The leaves are longer, looser and appear to be lightly twisted as opposed to rolled into pellets. They don’t expand terribly much in the 190-200 degree water, but tend to take up more room per dry weight in a storage container than the greener oolongs. I want to call this “fluffy” versus dense. If Iron Buddha Oolong is dense, Wuyi Oolong is fluffy.

Flavor & Aroma: It has a lovely flavor which instantly reminds me of a good version of the tea served in many Chinese restaurants. There is a distinctly similar taste. This is what I was looking for when I’d gotten stuck on Iron Buddha. The flavor of Wyui is not the drinkable perfume that is Iron Buddha, but earthier, heartier, maltier, with a natural sweetness, a slight metallic base and lightly chestnutty roasted flavor. There is somewhat of a warm peach aroma. It isn’t as strong or dark as black tea, but clearly more intense than green tea with virtually zero green or vegetal taste.

It works well for a couple of infusions, but not as many as Jade Oolong, Iron Buddha, or Monkey Picked Oolong.

Wuyi Oolong is completely yummy if you like this kind of tea and would do well to help wash down a heavier meal which is probably why it, or something like it, is served so often in restaurants.



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