I had gotten quite weary of reading so many flavor and character analogies between wine and tea, and began building up a determination to avoid them myself. It seemed to me that people were often just taking the short cut of borrowing language from the wine industry instead of taking the trouble to develop their own. So naturally, as these things often happen, when I opened the package of auraTeas’ Formosa Aged Wuyi Variety Oolong, emptied the tight, darkly colored leaf into the presentation vessel and inhaled deeply, I was struck with the sense that the tea smelled like port. It emitted a dark, tangy, wine-like and delicious scent. So I had to admit defeat in the (probably not very worthwhile in the first place) fight against wine comparisons, because this one was purely sensory and inescapable.
The sharply port-like scent of this tea from Mingjian, Nantou, Taiwan was less prominent in the brewed tea, but it still had that underlying sweet wine-like tone. It is a tea with a lot of character, dark and tangy, with a taste that to me seemed a little like roasted corn and honey, not at all bright or sugary. The aging of the tea gives it a very different kind of flavor absent in younger wulong teas. Of course it is essentially very similar to other darkly roasted Wu Yi wulong teas, but aging contributes an interesting bite and complexity to its taste. The description on auraTeas’ website is interesting, particularly in the description of the aging process:
Formosa Aged Wuyi Oolong 2000 is a very rare find in Taiwan. Wuyi Oolong refers to the tea tree variety, not the location. Wuyi Tea Tree was first introduced to Taiwan 2 centuries ago. With developements of new varieties, Wuyi Tea Tree is getting smaller areas in Taiwan. Compare to other new developed varieties such as “Jinxuan” or “Cuiyu”, Wuyi produces darker oolong with riper characters, and may contain a bit more caffeine.
Aged oolong is re-roasted every few years, and stored in clay pots to enhance aging. This aging process produces the unique ripe fruit and roasted rice aromas. It is mild in caffeine and smooth for your stomach.
How to store aged oolong? It’s just as easy as “let it sit there and age more”, away from light, moisture, and ordor. It is not necessory to keep in air-tight container, because it helps aging if the tea is exposed to some air. It’s a good idea to keep it in a clay canister, or even in a plastic bag, and store in a nice, dry, dark space.
Anything I describe as “port-like” can be assumed to be something that I really, really like. Consequently, in addition to suggesting that you would do well to try this wonderful aged Wu Yi wulong tea from auraTeas, I can also offer you a recommendation for a delightful, and very affordable port. Warres Otima 10-year is remarkably good for a port in the under $30 price range. It’s a tawny, rather than a ruby port, but I can’t avoid describing its deep, luminous color as ruby. The tea might be good before a meal; the port might be good after that same meal. I’m not going to attempt speculation on what foods might be good to consume between. (Those slightly strange port-filled glass objects in the photograph are port sippers. They’re very similar to a popular type of vessel used for drinking absinthe in the 19th century, but considerably smaller.)