Sunday Tea and Books: Formosa Oolong

Sunday Tea and Books: Formosa Oolong

Today’s tea: Formosa Oolong from Simple Loose Leaf Tea.

How I brewed it: I used 1 teaspoon of dried leaf per cup and steeped it for 4 minutes in boiling water. The leaf itself was a dark roasted brown, and slightly feathery instead of being rolled up into beads or nuggets as I’ve seen in other oolongs. Since it’s an oolong, I could have done multiple infusions using a gaiwan, but decided not to.

What it’s like: The tea was medium-dark brown and smelled earthy and slightly fruity. Simple Loose Leaf describes this tea as being “raisiny” and “leafy”. I can kind of taste those flavours if I squint, but instead I sense elements like leather and tobacco, and possibly apricots. Those flavours are really faint, though – overall, there isn’t whole lot going on. This is a weird tea in that it doesn’t seem like other oolongs: it doesn’t have the floral character I associate with green oolongs, or the malty, bready kick that I associate with dark ones. In fact, it reminds me most of roasted green tea (houjicha). If I had to describe this tea using a single word, it would be “inobtrusive”.

I struggled to think of a fictional character to fit Formosa Oolong, which is why this post is up so late. The leather and tobacco notes, coupled with the brown colour of both the dried leaf and the brewed tea, made me think of a soldier. But also, since the tea was so subtle in flavour, it couldn’t be like the kind of soldier who charged in, weapons blazing, desperate to be a hero. This character had to be one who could fight, but relied more on strategy and subterfuge. It also had to be one who could defy expectations, since this tea was so different from others of the same type.

Ultimately, I’m comparing it to Prince Alessan from Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay. In the book, Alessan is the last scion of Tigana’s royal family, and has been struggling from afar to foment rebellion against the two conquerors who have divided the Peninsula of the Palm, in half. Or rather, mostly in half – of the nine smaller provinces that make up the Palm, each conqueror controls four apiece, with the ninth one remaining neutral. Among other plot threads, the book follows Alessan and his group of Tiganese survivors, who are travelling in disguise as a musical troupe, as they travel across the entire Palm, trying to make allies and engage in covert propaganda campaigns against both conquerors.

In other words, Alessan is a fighter, but he’s also a lurker. He knows which buttons to press among his countryfolk, and how hard, to win them to his cause and encourage a consistent murmur of dissent among the conquered. Like many Guy Gavriel Kay characters, he’s a Mary Sue, which can get annoying – he’s a skilled fighter, a skilled musician, excellent at the art of disguise, and is intelligent, tortured, noble, somewhat ruthless, etc. After a while, such a character can get boring. Most interestingly, his mother finds him a disappointment because of his chosen path of guerilla warfare and quiet dissent. I suppose I feel the same way about this tea – that it needs to stop skulking in the shadows and instead do something to make people stand up and notice.

Where you can get it: Not sure. Formosa Oolong does not appear to be on sale at the Simple Loose Leaf website.

Note: I received this tea from Simple Loose Leaf for free to review.