Floating Leaves Tea Home ---Shiuwen's Blog!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Jin Xuan - Milk Oolong

Many people have asked me about Milk Oolong (AKA Jin Xuan oolong). The Jin Xuan varietal of tea plants has been said to carry a natural milk flavor. At least 15 years ago (or longer), I had my first taste of Milk Oolong in Taiwan. I remember it was special and that I liked it.

A tea friend told me that there was one year that Milk Oolong won a very special and highly-regarded prize in a Taiwanese tea competition, after which, more and more people asked for this kind of tea. Some dishonest merchants and farmers saw that they could make a lot of money by blending some milk flavoring with the tea. Newspapers and the TV news reported on the many fake Milk Oolong teas and over time, people forgot about this tea.

Nowadays in Taiwan, I rarely hear people talking about Milk Oolong, and when I do, it is usually not a local resident that is looking for this tea. I have asked many tea farmers and tea people why Jin Xuan can't produce the natural milk flavor anymore. No one seems to know the answer to this question.

In the past two years, some customers have brought over various Milk Oolongs for me to try. It has been very disappointing to find such strong milk additives in those tea samples. I am not trying to prove that all Milk Oolong is bad, since I did have some good experiences with it in the past. Before you purchase one, you might want to ask the tea merchant if it's a blended one, and if she is honest, she will tell also teach you how to tell the difference between a genuine Milk Oolong and a fake one with milk flavoring.


Soïwatter said...

Hi Shiuwen!

It has been the second time that I heard this story this year. The first time, it was one of my regular tea merchant (with whom I've very friendly relation). It seems that this sad reality is seldom unveiled... unless in closed circles...

Just as his new spring batches of Taiwanese oolongs arrived, he showed me his new Jin Xuan, and let me compare it with the batches of "fake" ones he received to test, as he wasn't able to return to Taiwan during the springtime.

No possible confusion, you can at first smell define whether there was milk additives and when those were added:
- the powerfull milk smell of oolongs with additives after fabrication, with nothing in the harsh liquor (it was moreover a poor quality of leaves).
- the cooking milk smell of oolongs with additives during fabrication, with acrid aftersmell, and aftertaste.
- Only the real one from its already known producer had a smell of "reality": normal oolong leaves smell releasing some butter and milk smells when breathing on it, and a milky interesting liquor with flowery tastes...

Indeed I like good true Jin Xuan, as they are good everyday teas, and sometimes more...

And all these "fakes" are somethis common in oolong world (fake gao shan cha, dong fang mei ren, generic dong ding from everywhere in Taiwan and Mainland...) I think it's linked to taiwanese craze for punctual fashions... some lasting...

Anonymous said...

hi shuiwen,

can you tell us how to tell the difference?


Shiuwen said...

To Soiwatter,

Thank you for sharing your experience!
It looks like you have a very good tea merchant to share tea with you!

Shiuwen said...

To Rob,

You got to taste the teas. Do you have a tea merchant near you that you can trust? It's very hard to teach this kind of things "on paper". If you live at Seattle region, write me an email and I can arrange a time to sample those teas with you.