An Oolong Buyers Guide
We’ve tasted more than 1,200 different oolongs, and yet we offer only 8 at Samovar. Why? Because it’s hard to find good oolong, oolong that is sourced sustainably and is both complex and delicious.
All over the world, people who want to drink oolong come to Samovar. We ship to Bolivia, Estonia, Ireland, Sweden, Brazil. And people come back to us because of one thing: our tea is damn good.
But for those new to oolong, there’s a big problem—it’s overwhelming.
This is our guide to getting into oolong.
Samovar Black Label
Let’s start with two awesome teas, our Ginger Lily and Eight Immortals Dancong Oolongs (pronounced Dawn-Song). Lots of other companies sell Dancong variety oolongs, but nothing with the aromas and flavors of our tea—and we’ve tasted almost all of them.
We put our Dancongs at the top of our Black Label Collection, a short-list of the most rare, delicious, and expensive teas we offer. They aren’t for everyone, but they’re perfect for people who are serious about tea and want the best. (Some of these farmers have begun making tea ware just for us and the passionate drinkers who appreciate this caliber of tea—more on that coming soon).
How To Judge A Quality Oolong
Look for oolong with consistent size, shape, and color. Color indicates flavor. Darker oolongs are more oxidized and have roasted, fruity, and tropical notes. Greener oolongs are more vegetal and have more buttery, floral, and grassy qualities.
Oolongs come in two different shapes, twisted or rolled. Twisted oolongs steep quicker and support fewer infusions because more leaf surface area is exposed. Oolongs rolled in tight, little balls last for more infusions because it takes longer for them to open. Rolled oolongs also tend to stay fresh longer in storage.
Neither is better, just different.
Be a tea snob. Judge our teas and everyone else’s. Be discerning and look for consistency: size, shape, color.
Our tea pots have a timeless tea aesthetic, and stand up to rigorous restaurant use serving hundreds of pots of tea every day.
The Samovar Teapot, originally made for our Lounges, was so popular we had to offer it online. It’s matte black with an elegant spout and hidden features like the removable infusing basket so you can time your infusion, the locking lid that stays put when you pour, the spout that pours without dripping, and the handle that never gets hot so you won’t burn your fingers. And it’s dishwasher safe.
Go traditional with a Gaiwan, “covered cup”, an ancient teapot that’s ideal for concentrating tea’s aroma and flavor. Decant into cups, or use the lid as a strainer and sip directly from the Gaiwan.
Or go for a modern aesthetic with the Vivid Brewpot. Made from strong and crystal clear Taiwanese glass, this tea pot lets you watch your tea brew; the metal mesh filter strains it perfectly when ready.
We love the all-day energy of our Apple Ginseng Oolong. Fruity, earthy, slightly astringent, it pairs perfectly with breakfast: scrambled eggs, French toast, hearty oatmeal, blueberry short-stack.
Wuyi Dark Roast Oolong is an affordable entry into more traditional high-end oolongs. From the misty mountains of Fujian China, this twisted oolong has a complex body, aroma of roasted barley and finish of honeysuckle and caramelized raisin.
Legends tell of monkeys trained to scramble along cliffs and mountains of China to pick this classic Tie Quan Yin, Monkey Picked Iron Goddess of Mercy Oolong. This rolled tea unfurls to release a liqueur that is stout and smooth-bodied with notes of apricot, honey, forest.
Golden Phoenix Oolong comes from a tree whose thousand year-old ancestor produced tea so fine it was offered as a tribute to the emperors of China. This connoisseur’s tea is wildly aromatic and sweet. An exquisite tea recommended for experts. It’s buttery and rich with notes of honey, ripe peach, and apricot followed by a sweet, woodsy, toasted barley aftertaste.
From the mountains of Taiwan, Four Seasons Oolong is prized for vegetal, green notes with hints of gardenia and warm milk.
And then there’s our two Black Label oolongs, Ginger Lily Dancong and Eight Immortals Dancong, made just for people who want to take their tea drinking to the next level. Supply is limited. When they’re gone, they’re gone.
Teacups & Accessories
We love the Lotus Teacup because you can see the color of the infusion against the elegant white porcelain. It’s modern, refined.
For something more rustic, the Wabi Sabi Teacup was expertly designed by a local potter to be the perfect tea vessel: the tapered shape concentrates aromas like a brandy snifter, the small stature is offset by robust clay that fits well in one hand or two, the rounded lip feels so natural in the mouth. No two are alike. And they are not available anywhere else.
And all of these cups fit perfectly on our favorite bamboo tray.
Continue Your Oolong Education
Stop by our San Francisco Tea Lounges for a private tea tasting, or learn more on our blog. If you’d like to see a video of how to taste oolong tea, check out Episode 10 (below) from the Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Tea where I introduce my friend Leo Babauta (zenhabits.net) to the delicious world of oolong tea.
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