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Tea Review: Secret Orchid Oolong

February 16, 2007

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Secret Orchid Oolong

Against a very sensible earlier policy of not ordering tea online, I ordered two ounces of Secret Orchid Oolong from Mitea Rare Teas in December.

This is Mitea’s description:
Secret Orchid Oolong is a wonderful, hand picked orchid scented oolong. It has a light ‘airy’ character with heavenly floral notes reminiscent of orchids, providing for a true sensory experience only found in these rare secret tea bushes.

It arrived as expected, in two one-ounce packages. One of the packages appeared vacuum sealed; the other did not. I opened the one that did not appear as well sealed first and it smelled a lot like nothing, but with a hint of bad. I tried not to draw any conclusions about it based on scent alone and brewed some, using the traditional gongfu method. The aroma was very light and pretty unpleasant. I took a couple of sips of the first infusion and tossed out the rest. It was bitter, and not terribly interesting. I would not describe it as floral in any sense. The only orchids it might have any sort of relation to would be dusty silk artificial ones.

I figured that the first package was probably just stale, so I opened the second, better sealed one. Smelling it I could tell that this batch was vastly fresher, but it still did not smell good, just stronger. The smell of the dry tea is sort of like what I would imagine dry stale seaweed to smell like. I tried brewing some of it and again was so put off by the taste I was unable to put it through the complete cycle of infusions and tastings.

Giving this relatively expensive tea some additional opportunities to redeem itself, I took it to work and brewed it in the standard method of infusion in a ceramic cup. It was bearable, but only just barely. It tasted like cut grass, but not like fresh cut green grass on a summer day, more like cut grass after about a week when your father starts yelling at you to finish the damned yard work. The aftertaste of this tea is not bad – a mild, warm flavor, more enjoyable than the taste of drinking the tea itself. A second infusion of the same leaves resulted in pretty much more of the same, but slightly fainter and more bitter. It is not awful, but I feel no need to drink it again since I am surrounded by so many more wonderful alternatives.

I would not use this one tea to condemn the entire company, but I would be very hesitant to order from them again. This particular tea is not one I would ever have purchased if there had been an opportunity to smell it beforehand. It is possible that this is just a variety of tea that I dislike personally, although I was not alone during the initial gongfu experiments with it and the other person disliked it as emphatically as I did. And the one package of it was definitely well beyond salvageable in its dried out and stale condition.

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