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In this week's box is the tea Canton Tea Co was founded on. Barney Allen explains why.

The Pouchong that began Canton Tea

by on October 11th, 2012

Canton Tea Club Week 2: ‘That Pouchong…’

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…’

Do you think Pouchong is a green or oolong tea? Once you've voted, let us know why below.

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61 comments
AndreaChierici
AndreaChierici

I'm trying this one Gong Fu style and it's delicius. Maybe my favourite tea of the club 

f h murphy
f h murphy

I'll have all the US Customs officials "detained" for questioning.

sparrisupdate
sparrisupdate

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!

AC Cargill
AC Cargill

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).

f h murphy
f h murphy

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.

ccc3579
ccc3579

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!

sfugarino
sfugarino

I think I'm the victum of the Tea Nazi...

 

"No tea for you!"

leafjoy
leafjoy

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. 

ch3rryprinc3ss
ch3rryprinc3ss

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.

 

TeaMoment
TeaMoment

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.

AC Cargill
AC Cargill

Haven't received this tea yet. Maybe weekly tastings is a bit optimistic, given that some of the recipients are not in the UK.

barney1
barney1

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.

lazy_literatus
lazy_literatus

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.

f h murphy
f h murphy

Try it yourself.  You be the judge.

AndreaChierici
AndreaChierici

Someone tried it with gaiwan? what's  the difference?

f h murphy
f h murphy

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.  

f h murphy
f h murphy

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. 

f h murphy
f h murphy

Yes, we colonists will just have to wait, for once.

sfugarino
sfugarino

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.

sfugarino
sfugarino

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.

DuncanLockerbie
DuncanLockerbie

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.

AndreaChierici
AndreaChierici

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. 

KristiCoveney
KristiCoveney

Really beautiful flavour, and definitely an oolong. I think that it was the only thing that I drank yesterday :)

ThomasShu
ThomasShu

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...

 

AC Cargill
AC Cargill

 @f h murphy

 Great point. Harvest year is very helpful. I am assuming (perhaps erroneously) that it was from this year.

AC Cargill
AC Cargill

 @sfugarino

 Nah, I think US Customs is the culprit here. Sigh! Got my package a couple days ago.

AC Cargill
AC Cargill

 @leafjoy

 Hubby and I agree - a floral oolong. See my comments above.

TeaMoment
TeaMoment

 @TeaMoment

 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.

EdgarThoemmes
EdgarThoemmes

@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.

EdgarThoemmes
EdgarThoemmes

 @AC Cargill @AC Cargill @sfugarino 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 for improvement

 

lazy_literatus
lazy_literatus

 @AndreaChierici I found that drinking it gaiwan gives it a gentler flavor. It's extremely toasty when done western-style.

sfugarino
sfugarino

 @f h murphy

Sorry for the comments, I'm a little impatient.  I hope it comes tommorrow.

tandaylor
tandaylor

@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.

cantonteaco
cantonteaco

 @AC Cargill  @f h murphy Thanks for the suggestion. Yes the Pouchong is Spring 2012 and we will endeavour to include harvest year from now on 

cantonteaco
cantonteaco

 @AC Cargill  @sfugarino We think it is customs too. Week 5 has already been posted mega early and we really hope it gets to you US folks in time!

sfugarino
sfugarino

 @EdgarThoemmes  @AC

 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
AC Cargill

 @EdgarThoemmes  @sfugarino  @AC

 Weekly feedback is needed? Ok. Maybe there is a better way to send out the samples, then. We can't give you any feedback if there is no tea here to try. Want to help you all we can, but...

EdgarThoemmes
EdgarThoemmes

 @sfugarino  @f h murphy Hi Sam, We're still refining the way the tea club works and value your feedback. Can other USA based customers let us know when you're receiving your boxes? We could potentially send boxes out a few days earlier so you receive before the weekend.

EdgarThoemmes
EdgarThoemmes

@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
AC Cargill

 @EdgarThoemmes  @sfugarino  @AC

 Thanks, Edgar, for the reply. I had emailed yesterday and not gotten a response. Will let you know when samples arrived. The big issue is not being able to give you timely feedback. Will try to fit the tea into my schedule as soon as it arrives.

EdgarThoemmes
EdgarThoemmes

 @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

EdgarThoemmes
EdgarThoemmes

 @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.

lazy_literatus
lazy_literatus

 @sfugarino I meant no offense. I was just responding to @EdgarThoemmes 's question regarding when our packages arrived. Me and one other West Coaster received ours around the same time. That's all I was going off of. I'm sorry yours hasn't arrived yet.

sfugarino
sfugarino

 @lazy_literatus  @EdgarThoemmes  @f h murphy

 Lazy,

 

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.

sfugarino
sfugarino

 @lazy_literatus  @EdgarThoemmes  @f h murphy

 Checked my Paypal and bank records, I was billed for the tea.

 

Oct 3, 2012

CANTON TEA CO LT IAT PAYPAL ***********UBB6

($13.26)

 

Sep 26, 2012

CANTON TEA CO LT IAT PAYPAL ***********NHUQ

($13.33)

lazy_literatus
lazy_literatus

 @EdgarThoemmes Packages for U.S. deliveries to arrive by the end of the week - I've found. It may result in delayed feedback from the U.S. leg of the Tea Club, but they do arrive in a timely manner. And I'm at the far end of the country. @sfugarino  @f h murphy 

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