by kate on October 11th, 2012
Those of you that were customers of Canton before joining the club will probably have heard us wax lyrical about our Pouchong many times before, and many of you might be regular drinkers. It may seem like we are taking a very safe route by putting this tea in the Tea Club box – as it is one we stock on our website and indeed one of our bestsellers. But we just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share this tea with as many people as possible – and tell the story of why we are in this business.
Canton co-founder Barney Allen: Why are we doing this? Why do we exhaust ourselves to start a tea company in the teeth of competition from giant corporations and fake independent companies?
Er, that’ll be the Pouchong – the enigmatic green/oolong tea from Taiwan that led us into this mayhem.
Taipei 1988: ‘It’s just green tea’ said Professor Lin, as the large dark green leaves lurked, unfurling in my cup. I knew I was tasting something special. At once sweet and dry, mineral and floral, rich and light, complex yet direct. Sometimes we don’t know what the music is but we like it anyway. It took us over 20 years of drinking Pouchong to realise that we wanted to share it. The rest is history.
Pouchong Oolong is grown around Pingling, Wenshan County just outside Taipei. It’s so lightly oxidized, the locals call it a green tea (and we classify it as such in our shop). It’s easy to brew, easy to ‘get’ – a great gateway into green tea – but very hard to actually get.
The harvest happens suddenly, when the confluence of biodynamic elements and the rather crazy weather is right. The email comes within hours – maybe 15 grades – $30 a kilo to $3,600. The merest delay means disappointment as the more earthly-priced grades are quickly snapped up by wholesalers, who then mix it with inferior teas. We have to move fast to capture the single estate grades. We do. Can we negotiate the price? No, this is true Fair Trade, Taiwan-style: ‘You want it, or not?’. We do.
Visiting Wenshan County is weird and wonderful experience: a short drive from the suburban jungle of Taipei into a volcanic, subtropical world of impossibly steep twisting roads, small tea plantations, and tea farmers, who are delighted to see you. So keen to share tea, but perhaps even more so to press you with ‘special country dishes’ – don’t ask, don’t tell – and the oh so fiery local firewater.
Professor Lin’s cousin, Farmer Xu and his aged parents are a joy to meet. Sun-baked like their tea, delighted to show you their wares, their many wooden plaques proclaiming their victories in the tea-grading competitions, their amazing vegetable patch, and their stunning views.
So try their Pouchong. Dump it in a mug and keep topping up with hot water. Or get your stopwatch out and brew it gong fu style to explore the range of flavour and texture as you go through the infusions. Pouchong has that indefinable, elusive quality of everything good. It is an expression of the producers’ unbending will to create something fabulous. As Edgar said when he first started drinking it: ‘That Pouchong…’
Laid-back, unpretentious tea that I've enjoyed in a variety of ways, my favourite brewing method is just putting a small amount of leaves in a bowl, pouring the water over them and start drinking when the temp's gone down a bit.
Smelling the gaiwan lid when doing it gong-fu style recommended!
I got my sample fairly late. Am thinking US Customs is delaying delivery. Oh, well. Have avoided seeing comments from others until hubby and I could try this tea. As for whether is oolong or green, for us, is definitely more oolong than green in terms of flavor. Dry leaves – dark blue green color, aroma faintly floral. Steeped in teapot. 3 infusions. Taste – 1 was smooth, buttery, mellow, hubby said it cleared his nasal passages, calming, soothing; 2 – sweetness, smooth, slightly floral/nutty; 3 – more floral, not smooth, had sugary notes. Overall, a heavenly tea but poses a quandary: pricey so we’d want to spread out enjoying it, but not sure if it will store long-term (6-12 mos, maybe longer).
Holy cucumber sandwiches of the apocalypse, I just got the pouchong and it's delightful, especially in the late afternoon when my palate's fully wakened. Only an oolong can taste like this. I can see why Canton got so excited. At first I thought that the fragrance was more engaging than the taste but I just kept re-brewing and re-brewing. And here's a suggestion to Canton, please let us know when these teas are harvested.
This tea reminds me a bit of Zealong pure (oolong tea grown in New Zealand) that I picked up a year or two ago. Both are very light and subtly flavored teas, yet very drinkable and complex at the same time. With my first sip of the pouchong I got a definite floral taste that I was not expecting at all. With further steepings I got little to no floral taste after that first steeping. A new tea for me, and definitely enjoyable!
I recently tried this tea and I'm definitely in love! While this may be the "safe" choice, I think it's a great one - I've never tried this tea before and was delighted by the opportunity. See my impressions (and pics) of the tea on my blog here: http://www.leafjoy.com/2012/10/canton-tea-club-52-teas-a-year/. PS. Also, I'm in the camp that this tastes very much like a floral oolong tea.
This was what I received for week 2 of the Canton Tea Club but unfortunately due to a bad cold I had to postpone the tasting. It didn’t dawn on me until yesterday when I received week 3 that I was behind and thought I should get a move on with the logging.
Firstly upon reading about the origin I found it super fascinating that this is considered by some to be a green tea and others to be an oolong tea. Imagine it…an oolong tea with a green effect (or a green tea with an oolong effect), it sounds so marvellous and magical!
Whilst raw the tea itself consists of very dark green and very dark brown twisted leaves that smell strongly floral and very green. Not especially grassy green but fresh and slightly sweet.
Once brewed this is very light yellow in colour and it smells toned down from the raw leaves. There is still a slight sweetness to a smooth floral smell but it’s very delicate. At this point I am still not sure whether I would class it as a green or an oolong…hopefully I will be able to make a decision at the end.
Alright lets get down to the nitty gritty of the taste test. This is very light and fresh, subtly floral, slightly green tasting as it’s slightly bitter (very slightly) and a little buttery. Due to the gentle nature of this tea I think it’s going to be something you either love or hate.
This does get stronger half way down the cup but still remains super smooth and light. Great for a mellow, relaxing drink. I have also been contemplating what I would categorize this as and the type with the most ticks is oolong BUT I feel that if the farmer himself grows and sells it as a green tea then it may technically be classed as a green. It says on the leaflet I received with this tea from the club that Xu (the farmer) sells it as a green personally but people claim it to be a slightly oxidised oolong.
Reguardless this is very nice and cleanses the pallet wonderfully. My last few cups have been flavoured black tea’s and this has completely neutralised any remaining flavours.
In a few words this tea is: subtle, light, floral, buttery, green, and naturally sweet. That spells WINNER to me.
I've been enjoying this Pouchong very much for the past couple of days! I have to say I'm casting my vote as a "green" based on scent and taste. I've found oolongs to have a floral tone in their aroma, and I din't find that here. It's tasting more like a spinach-y Chinese green. I really like the dry taste. It's kind of fascinating.
Haven't received this tea yet. Maybe weekly tastings is a bit optimistic, given that some of the recipients are not in the UK.
I agree with the consensus that it's a stonewall oolong, all day long. The pooch wears it oolongness so lightly that you can forgive the Taiwanese for calling it green. But that's why it's such a good gateway to exploring fine tea - it's approachable yet classy, straightforward/complex in a way that inspires us to explore other semi-oxidized teas. It's also so damn easy to brew - try doing short infusions with higher temperature water.
Took me awhile to chime in on this because I just got it last week, and I was busy with other shtuff. I'd completely forgotten that this was the first pouchong/baozhong "gr-oolong" I'd ever tried. It smells like an oolong, looks like a green tea, tastes like an amalgamation of the two.
I'm firmly in the camp that it's an oolong. It's floral, buttery and a little sweet on the end. Traits I associate with Taiwanese oolongs. That said, I can see where it could be considered a green tea, what with the gentle temperature required to brew it.
I still like "groolong" as a possible title.
In the interim, what kind of water are people using? What kind does Canton recommend? After 20 years of tasting, experimenting, I use de-ionized water because of it's aggressive leaching capacities.
Hi Edgar, thanks for your response. Posting US boxes earlier is a good idea. My post office box is 25 miles away so my attitude is that it comes when it comes.
I guess I'll have to order my tea from one of those "fake independent companies" on this side of the pond from now on.
It's Tuesday and I'm still haven't received my tea. Last weels tea came on Monday. The club is a wonderful idea, but for us Americans, the shipping times are problematic. I guess it's a good thing I canceled my PayPal subscription.
This tea is lovely, and really moreish. I've been drinking it non-stop since Friday! At first I thought it was more like a green than an oolong but the more I've drunk the more I've detected that oolong flavour. Either way, I'm not particularly fussy about the classification, this is a beautiful and easy drinking tea.
This one is really surprising. I had it in the morning and i was astonished by the flavours of this tea. It reminds me more oolong teas than green, so i voted for it, but it's more complex.
Really beautiful flavour, and definitely an oolong. I think that it was the only thing that I drank yesterday :)
I am a die-hard Pouchong fan..."Pure Tea" as it is called by Taiwanese... The luscious aroma might be more treasured than its taste...
@sparrisupdate Agreement on the gaiwan lid. So buttery
Great point. Harvest year is very helpful. I am assuming (perhaps erroneously) that it was from this year.
Nah, I think US Customs is the culprit here. Sigh! Got my package a couple days ago.
Hubby and I agree - a floral oolong. See my comments above.
Alright. I have to amend my previous statement. After resteeping these leaves a few times, I'm getting that floral tone that I so insisted it didn't have. So, now I'm having an internal debate. I'll say this: it starts off as having more of the qualities of a green. After multiple steepings, its oolong tendencies begin to appear. @lazy_literatus - I believe your "Groolong" label is most appropriate.
@AC Cargill We've just launched and still learning. Weekly deliveries and tasting is very important to us and we'll get on top of it eventually. Please keep your feedback coming and we'll keep you informed about our plans.
@AndreaChierici I found that drinking it gaiwan gives it a gentler flavor. It's extremely toasty when done western-style.
Sorry for the comments, I'm a little impatient. I hope it comes tommorrow.
@ThomasShu the aroma is amazing. Buttery and somehow smelling feintly like home baked biscuits too...but more complex. Quite tricky to explain a smell in words i think.
I chose to pay using the Paypal subscription. Paypal bills weekly.whether or not the tea of the week has shipped or the previous week's tea has been received. Nevertheless, I really like the idea behind the tea club, so please don't let my delivery problems keep others from enjoying your service.I am very pleased with your responses and the response I received from Ruth. I realize you are putting a lot of effort.
@AC Cargill @sfugarino @AC Kate's off this week hence the slight delay in responding to your email. Sure normal service will resume next week :)
@AC Cargill @sfugarino @AC Yes, weekly tasting/feedback is what we're trying to achieve here. We're looking at a number of different options to ensure USA boxes are delivered on time. Next week's boxes posted today so will see what difference that makes. Please let me know next week when your boxes arrive so we can fine tune the delivery
@sfugarino @lazy_literatus @EdgarThoemmes @f h murphy Hi Sam, That looks right to me, you should be billed £8GBP on the weekly anniversary of when you signed up. Paypal uses the current exchange rate from USD which accounts for the slight difference in USD amounts. We may at some point look to charge in USD but this is a little tricky to implement at the moment.
Just because you got your package doesn't mean "Packages for U.S. deliveries to arrive by the end of the week". Mine hasn't arrived. I live in Atlanta, not on the west coast, but I'm not sure what that has to do with anything. We sre dealing with USPS.