I was first contacted by Temple Road Tea back in late-March. They were a relatively new outfit specializing in Taiwanese high mountain oolongs. The foremost oolong they wanted me to yack about was their Tiger Monk Roasted Oolong. My first inclination was to decline because…roasted oolongs weren’t really my thing. That and I really didn’t have anything specific to talk about regarding them.
However, the description of this particular oolong caught my eye. As per the product notes, they said the name was inspired by the Warrior Tiger Monks of millennia old martial arts traditions. Frankly, I’d never heard of Warrior Tiger Monks before. The only thing I knew about tiger-related martial arts were what I learned from Kung Fu Panda.
In other words, not much.
All I knew is that I started picturing myself as a warrior monk in tiger-skin robes – leaping from tree to tree – felling enemies with my deadly claw-slings! Okay, those probably weren’t actual weapons back then, but I saw something similar in Kung Pow: Enter the Fist…so, it’s totally relevant.
That aside, the fact that this was a triple-roasted, medium-oxidized oolong really sold it. I was in – hook, line, and cupper. A week or so later, I received it.
The package was already made of WIN. The oolong was vacuum-sealed in gold foil with a golden label. If anything could bring out my inner Charlie Bucket – besides being poor – that was it.
The leaves were the standard brown, ball-fisted oolong fair, but with an aroma of hickory, charcoal and chocolate. It honestly reminded me of a medium-roast Dong Ding on first impression. The nuttiness toward the end of the whiff also added to that. It was a very pleasant, warming smell.
Temple Road Tea recommended brewing 3 grams of leaves (roughly a teaspoon) in a 200ml pot of boiled water. I was a little dicey with this, so I opted for a gongfu-ish approach instead. Thirty-to-forty-second infusions each.
The liquor for the gongfu approach came out green on all three steeps I tried for. The roastiness was also similar with each infusion. They only differed in intensity. Subsequent steeps developed more depth in flavor – more toasted nut notes further down the line. All very Dong Ding-ish, save for a creamy texture on the finish.
After (not much) inner deliberation, I finally decided to chance the six-minute steep on another go-around with fresh leaves. I dipped a teaspoon of leaves in boiled water in a gaiwan…and waited. Kinda prayed that I hadn’t blown it, too.
The results were…
The liquor brewed a lovely, bold amber with a requisite roasty aroma that wafted from the cup in plumes. Taste-wise, it was like buckwheat, Ali Shan and a Buddhist prayer all rolled into one. Seriously, I hadn’t quite experienced that effect with a roasted oolong before. Tea drunkenness hit after one sip. Imagine how I looked after five.
Later on that day – for monks and giggles – I took the spent leaves from both brew attempts, and stuck ‘em in a pot. I was almost ready to take a nap and needed an evening upper. I boiled some fresh water and poured it over the already-used leaves. Both rounds still had plenty of flavors to grant. Roasted stubbornness personified.
Charlie Sheen, I think I found your tiger’s blood source.
I don’t care how dated that pop-culture reference is. Totally relevant here.