This wonderful oolong takes its name from Yang Gui Fei, a concubine of the Chinese emperor during the Tang Dynasty who was known for her extraordinary beauty. Although the origin of the tea’s name goes back a long way, this is in fact a relatively new type of tea that first came about after an earthquake forced tea farmers to evacuate the village of Feng Huang, Hsinchu County (Nantou) in 1999. When the farmers returned to the village they noticed that green leaf hoppers (tiny jassids, “Jacobiasca Formosana Paoli”) had bitten into the leaves and stems of the tea plants. Rather than lose the whole crop they processed the least damaged leaves and noticed that the tea tasted completely different – with an intense sweetness they had never known before.
As is the case in Oriental Beauty (Bai Hao / Dongfang Meiren), Concubine oolong is therefore a jassid-bitten oolong. Oriental Beauty is also made from tea leaves that have been bitten by jassids and, according to legend, was also created “accidentally” when a tea farmer decided to produce tea from jassid bitten leaves rather than discard his crop.
The similarity between Concubine Oolong and Oriental Beauty ends there though. This tea, 40-50 % oxidized and grown on Mount Lin Xi at 1500 meters, has tightly rolled leaves, is from different cultivar (Qing Xin) and has been roasted, which means it will keep well and even develop more interesting flavours with time.
Drunk young this tea is clean and fresh, with no bitterness at all. Aromatic and bright, the liquor is lovely dark amber colour and is fruity and sweet. With plum and even guava notes, the body is smooth and of medium strength. With light floral undertones that linger in the mouth this is a fantastic example of a concubine oolong. More intense than Oriental Beauty it makes a nice contrast to the less oxidized oolongs and would be a great introduction to stronger, roasted oolongs.
While this tea can of course be prepared “western style” in a teapot using ca. 6g tea for 500ml of water and making 1 – 4 infusions of 2 – 3 minutes each, we strongly recommend brewing it gong fu style so that you can fully appreciate how the tightly rolled leaves unfold to reveal their beautiful scent and complex flavour notes. If you do this, use the same amount of tea (ca. 6g) for 120ml of water, make a first infusion of 15 – 20 seconds, then add 5 seconds for each subsequent infusion. This should allow you to make approximately 5 – 6 infusions during which you will experience how the aroma and flavours develop with each steeping.