Formosa Oolong Fine Grade (TT15)
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From Upton Tea
This is one of the many grades of basic Taiwanese Oolong tea offered by Upton. Counting the fannings grade, this is the third-cheapest. The leaves are actually quite a bit more broken than the "standard" grade, which is interesting. Visually, you can distinguish the leaves of the two grades fairly easily.
The brewed tea does have considerably more complexity than the standard grade. It is also considerably less bitter. The aroma is earthy with hints of spice. There's also a bit of the bold, rose-like floral tones characteristic of some black teas. These tones are completely absent from the two lower grades I have sampled from Upton, but in this tea, they are not particularly dominant; they emerge and then quickly vanish. The aftertaste is very earthy and very plain, even bland. This tea also seems to have a bit more astringency than the standard grade and much more than the fannings grade.
Upton recommends to brew 3-4 min. at 190 degrees. I found this to be good advice. I was also easily able to get a second cup, brewing for a slightly longer time. The second cup was earthy and fairly flavorful, but lacked the floral tones in the first cup.
Bottom line? In my opinion, this is barely distinguishable from the standard grade. It is only a bit more expensive. I haven't been particularly impressed with any of the three lowest grades, as far as value is concerned, but I think this does offer better value than the fannings grade because it can be brewed twice. But there are chinese Oolongs of comparable or even lower price that are truly exquisite. These are mediocre teas and seem overpriced to me.