Oriental Beauty oolong, or Bai Hao oolong has gained quite a following recently. The concept arose out of Hsinchu, a northwestern county in Taiwan. Forgive me reader, as I do not know the validity of the story, but the tale speaks of a farmer whose tea crop had been invaded by pests. The farmer chose to continue with production where others would cease picking the leaves at all. The product was hailed as the new victor of an oolong competition, sold to a western market for an invaluable sum, and somehow this tea made its way to the bosom of the Queen of England. Here, she dubbed it Oriental Beauty Formosa Oolong. Back home in Taiwan, it was nicknamed Braggar’s tea. It also goes by a colorful name of Wu Se, referring to the five colors of the tea.
If I ever get a chance to have a good version of this tea again, which is rather hard to find lately, I’ll speak more about it in a later post. Today, we look at the Nantou answer to Oriental Beauty: Concubine Tea. I really do love these names, dear Reader. Go ahead, name a tea, I will probably chuckle a little.
Concubine Tea is produced in the same way Oriental Beauty is. During the summer months, the leaves are allowed to be bitten by small green hoppers called Jacobiasca Formosana. After sucking on sweet pholemic goodness from the leaves, stems, and buds, the tea begins undergoing oxidation. The first step in tea production is oxidation by bruising after all. This is simply allowing a natural state of oxidation to proceed instead of barring the critters with pesticides. It’s also a pretty good indicator that these teas will usually be pesticide free, if you so care, conscious Reader.
The Nantou Concubine Tea is tightly rolled, à la newer Dong Ding teas. It fans out its colors like a peacock, proudly displaying its greens and reds. If you didn’t say anything about the tea beforehand, I would almost certainly cast heavy doubts about blending teas. The leaves don’t look similar to each other at all. But this tea is less dubious than it seems. You can also trace the vastly different colors in the wet leaf as well.
The tea did take on a sweeter characteristic despite its heavy oxidation. Although, this version pales in comparison to the distinctly complex older sister, Oriental Beauty. Not to say it’s a non-competitor. This particular sample was simply not up to snuff. It was weaker and thinner bodied than I would’ve liked, especially since I wanted that honey sweetness to really stick around on my tongue. The stuff is pretty cheap too, but I can certainly see the appeal to potential buyers. It is not an impersonation of Oriental Beauty. It is a tightly rolled, highly oxidized, slightly more complex (in theory) version of overtly bitter Summer Nantou teas. That is a merit on its own.