I am a die hard fan of black tea and black tea blends. This is no secret. And over the past year, my new friends in the tea community have helped me to open my eyes and palate to other teas, much to my delight. My newest tea exploration is into the world of Oolong. I was unwittingly plunged into this adventure by Naivetea – a new face in the tea world, who has already made quite an entrance by not only launching the Oolong-focused brand at the 2009 World Tea Expo in Las Vegas, but also winning first place in the Blended/Flavored Oolong category for their Lychee Green Oolong. (You can read my ‘Moment’ with this award winner here.)
In order to truly immerse myself in the world of Oolong, I chatted with the founder, Lawrence Lai, to learn as much as I could about his fascination with this particular type of tea. His easy, comfortable manner made me like him immediately. No pretention here! He shared about his early love for the tea during his childhood in Taiwan, watching his parents and uncles drinking Oolong, something Taiwan is known for.
Now having lived in the United States for many years, he and his friend, Tony Wu (who still lives in Taiwan), began discussing how they could introduce this tea they enjoyed so much to a wider U.S. audience. After working with some choice facilities in Taiwan, with an eye for the highest quality and practices as well as best flavors, Naivetea was born.
Their infused teas, in particular, are enchanting. As Lawrence said, “Infused Oolong is a good way to introduce people to Oolong. They are very friendly and can be enjoyed hot or cold.” He especially loves seeing the surprised faces of first-time Oolong drinkers. They typically have no idea they will enjoy the flavors so much.
I can say I am among those who approached Oolong with skepticism. And as has happened frequently in my explorations this year, I am happy to say I was so, so wrong. Oolong. Where have you been all my life?
This photo showcases the US corporate team. As Lawrence introduced them, the two little ones, Chloe and Egan, are the supreme executives, Ann is the lovely spokesperson, and Lawrence himself is proud to have been named employee of the month 8 times in a row!
Lawrence noticed I was still getting over a bit of flu when we visited, so he recommended drinking the Osmanthus Oolong, a high altitude Oolong infused with natural osmanthus. Osmanthus has a refined, floral fragrance, that is not over powering or overly grandmother-y. Don’t be fooled by its medium golden color. This Oolong is smooth and full of body. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I could even see myself having this in the morning to start my day! It is considered to have great healing effect in Chinese medicine. Even without the health benefits, this smooth and buttery tea is now a must-have for my tea cupboard.
I asked Lawrence what was his favorite Oolong this week (you can’t possibly expect anyone to have a one-time favorite! With so many options, a favorite tea is a moving target!), and he laughed and said he was currently really enjoying the Mint Oolong. For him, the mint and sweet finish seems to go with the holidays. I savored this tea and agree it goes very nicely with the holiday season – a light gold liquid, minty fresh and fragrant, this one will invigorate you as you finish your shopping, baking or decorating! For green tea lovers especially, you must try.
But my very favorite is the Rose Violet Calendula Oolong, a high altitude Oolong infused with natural rose, violet, calendula and jasmine. I’m typically not drawn to overly floral tea blends, but this was such a subtle bouquet of light, sweet scents, I was not overpowered by any of these potentially bold flowers. Not only was the fragrance an aperatif for my nose, the slowly unfurling leaves and bursts of violet blossoms in my steeping cup plunged me into a visual feast as well. Oh, the first sip. Glorious. Smooth, with the slightest whisper of sweetness, this tea took me to my happy place immediately. Serve it at a bridal shower, a baby shower, or during tea for two between you and a closest friend, and I guarantee the world will seem shinier and happier, if only for the hour. Or on my own, reading a favorite book… this new friend is sure to be a life-long companion.
Thank you to my Oolong mentor, Lawrence, and both the US and Taiwan corporate teams! America, it’s time to welcome a whole new world of Oolong with open arms!