Gui Fei Competition ‘Fine Grade’ Oolong (貴妃烏龍茶) is a top grade beauty oolong from the famous Lugu Township (鹿谷鄉) tea growing area of Nantou Province in Taiwan. Made from hand picked leaves of Jin Xuan ‘Golden Daylily’ (金萱) TRES #12 cultivar, this tea has been specifically selected for a pronounced and distinctive ‘bug-bitten’ mi xian beauty flavour. It has wonderful, complex notes of acacia honey and red fruits with a balanced tangy aftertaste. This spring 2019 batch was awarded a ‘Fine Grade’ status at the 2019 Competition.
Gui Fei Oolong is classed as a ‘beauty tea’, which is an unusual class of tea that is affected by the presence of little green leaf hoppers. The leaf hoppers (Jacobiasca formosana) nibble the tea leaves during growth so the tea plants react to this attack by producing more polyphenols. During tea processing this produces a unique ‘beauty tea’ flavour (known as mi xian) that is usually described as having a honey-like taste and aroma. Oriental Beauty Oolong is perhaps the most well-known example of a beauty tea.
We were lucky this year to acquire a small amount of this Gui Fei Competition Fine Grade Oolong with the help of a tea master in Taiwan. Every year in Taiwan, local competitions are held to determine the best teas of that season. This particular tea is from spring 2019 crops and was entered into a competition that took place earlier in 2019. The competition is held only once a year by the Lugu Dong Ding Tea Production Cooperative (凍頂生產合作社). This is a ‘Fine Grade’ tea, which means that it was awarded a grade in the competition but it was not one of the very top teas. In total 160 teas participated in the 2019 competition, with 1 tea being designated the Champion. Further 12 Gold medals and 30 Silver medals were awarded and 94 teas were graded ‘Fine Grade’. This means that the tea is an entry-level, albeit still a competition grade, tea.
Taiwan tea competitions work somewhat differently to many others. When a farmer submits a tea for competition, 22 jin of tea is submitted for judging; one jin being equal to just over 600 grams. From that, 1 jin is used specifically for judging and 1 jin is used for sampling. Upon presenting the awards, the remaining 20 jin, or 12 kilograms of tea, of all awarded teas are sealed with competition seals signifying the competition and the grade achieved. This labelling makes sure that there is no possible counterfeiting or reselling of inferior tea as ‘competition’ tea. The 12 kilograms of each graded tea is then auctioned off. The best grades of tea do resell for astronomical prices. In many cases the best graded teas are bought by very wealthy individuals or large corporates seeking free publicity from paying exorbitant sums of money for the top teas of the year.
This Gui Fei Competition Fine Grade Oolong has dark leaves that have a light mi xian aroma of red fruits and honey typical of oriental beauty style of teas. It is also possible to detect a toasted aroma from the baking or roasting that this tea underwent. The liquor produced has an amber colour and is highly aromatic, with heady, sweet notes of fruits and honey. The flavours are complex and multilayered, with notes of boiled sweets, acacia honey and aniseed on the aftertaste. The tasting of this tea starts on a strong, perfumed ‘bug-bitten’ honey flavour that is followed closely by notes of sugared red fruits. It transforms into a sweet, lightly roasted flavour in the middle and is finally finished with a lightly tangy, long-lasting aftertaste that features more wild honey notes.
It is best brewed at 90°C for 3-4 minutes according to your taste and should be brewed multiple times, increasing steeping time with each brew if desired. For best results, we recommend good quality filtered water and gong fu brewing method.