An oolong tea was my first favorite, the one that showed me I could even like tea. So the category will always be significant to me. The best ones are super aromatic and approachably smooth, with flavors that slowly build and morph, leaving me wanting more.
Over the years I’ve seen so many people fall in love with oolongs, but most of them are the people selling the tea, not buying it. Oolongs aren’t well understood (are they green teas? black? Spoiler alert - they’re neither, but can have qualities of both), and even though they’re so easy to love, tend to get passed over in favor of their better known green and black cousins.
Bye bye Echo’s Answer
We recently sold through the last of 4track’s first oolong, Echo’s Answer. In keeping with local tradition it was a popular tea internally, with a modest but loyal paid following. It was a traditional Iron Goddess, or Tieguanyin Oolong from the Anxi region of Fujian Province, China. Medium oxidized, toasty and slightly fruity with good body. It’s been a sturdy favorite.
Hello Little Monkey
I sampled tea in the same style this season, but nothing as good as our own, older example. I tasted a few other teas from the same area and was taken by a particular lot - also a Tieguanyin, but a more modern, greener example. Not only that, but a very high grade of this style. The flavor was delicate and detailed, with sweetly floral aromas and a long linger. The body lighter than Echo’s Answer, requiring more heat and time to get a full experience of what the tea can offer. We’re calling it Little Monkey.
Why the name?
Legend has it that in 18th century Fujian, monkeys were trained to pick only the best leaves from wild tea trees. These leaves were used to make Tieguanyin. The term “monkey picked” has since been used to denote the highest quality of this style. In China, the highest grades of Tieguanyin are often reserved as gifts, and the appearance of the leaf is just as appreciated as the taste. The production of these prized teas involves a final step of grading the leaf by size and shape, removing any smaller or oddly shaped leaves. The even, graded teas fetch large sums from serious tea fans with money. But what happens to those equally high quality leaves that were picked out?
That’s where Little Monkey comes in. I kind of like things, people, songs...that don’t fit the mold. So I wasn’t put off when I saw these slightly smaller, less consistent leaves. I cupped them and saw the quality shine through. It was my favorite of the teas in consideration and a natural for 4track. This tea is different from Echo’s Answer in some ways, but similar in others. Those looking for an aromatic, delicate tea on the greener end of the flavor spectrum will find plenty to enjoy here. Taste it for yourself and let me know what you think. Little Monkey is available starting Monday, May 15. I hope you love it!