The hardest thing about teaching Tea Discovery, as with all my classes, is choosing which teas to steep for the class—there are so many wonderful teas and only so much time. For this class I use one white, one green, two oolongs, two black teas and a pu’erh. When choosing the two oolongs, I almost always go with two traditional choices—making sure participants get to taste two distinct areas (oxidation levels) of the tea spectrum.
In one of our classes the other day, we went through our tea exploration: tasting and talking about perceptions of the chosen teas. In this class we tasted a few more oolongs than normal, but in an effort to keep a traditional focus, I had the class taste the better known oolongs from Taiwan and mainland China.
After class, one of the participants decided to take home a Darjeeling oolong—which is not so traditional. A few days later, she came in to tell me what an unbelievably pleasant surprise this tea was for her. I agree with her: the first time I tasted Darjeeling oolong, I was so delighted—I think because it has all the spice and floral notes of Darjeeling, but has that unique roundedness imparted from the oolong process. It almost seems like it needs to be in a class of its own…it is definitely unique among the oolongs, but it is quite different from the Darjeelings processed as black teas. Many people complain about the astringency of Darjeeling teas and the oolong style does not have this. It makes a wonderful self-drinker for morning or afternoon.
Sometimes I get so focused on the traditional teas that I forget about little gems like Darjeeling oolong. I’m glad my customers remind me to appreciate everything unique in tea as well as the traditional ones.