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Gui Fei Oolong Tea

Translation: Imperial concubine
Alternative name: Zhuo Yan Cha
Production area: Nantou, at an altitude of 1,500 to 2,300 feet (450 to 700 m)
Harvest season: June and September
Cultivar: Qing Xin

This tea appeared quite recently and in the most unlikely circumstances. Following the devastating earthquake of 1999, many plantations in the Nantou region were temporarily abandoned. Untended, the gardens fell prey to the invasion of numerous parasites. One of these, Jacobiasca formosana, is a tiny insect that is one reason for the renown of the Bai Hao tea grown in the northwest of the island. When the growers realized the insects affected how the leaves taste, they decided to process the leaves that had been bitten by the insects, The leaves are rolled tightly, in accordance with the style of the region, and 30 percent to 40 percent oxidized, which brings out the distinctive character of the bitten leaves. Gui Fei tea thereby combines in a highly original way two great classic Taiwanese teas: Bai Hao and Dong Ding. As well as creating a new style of tea, the growers were looking for a way to take advantage of the summer harvests, when the level of oxidation is lower, and the teas are often less interesting.

Tasting notes: The leaves are rolled into beads that have a prettily marbled green-and-copper appearance. The infusion releases aromas of cinnamon, flowers and oxidized apple to form an attractive bouquet topped off by a powerful fragrance of roses. The luminous golden liquid offers the nose delicious notes of honey and muscat grape. The texture is smooth and round in the mouth, opening onto a delicate fruity note. The light finish extends into a base of almond paste and honey.

Recommended Infusion method and accessory: The gong fu cha technique and a zhong or Japanese teapot.