Review of Wenshan Baochung Oolong from Tea Ave + Tea Travel Adventures in Pinglin, Taiwan

Baozhong (AKA baochong, baochung or pouchong) is one of the staple Taiwanese oolongs. I must admit that I’m not generally a huge fan of this style of oolong. Baozhong is usually a little light and subtle for my palate. However, this sample from Tea Ave smelled so incredible that I couldn’t wait to dive in.

Baozhong (包種茶) translates to the “the wrapped kind.” This name comes from the production process, in which the leaves are wrapped in paper during drying. Baozhong style teas tend to be very floral and fragrant, with a mild taste. Some of the baozhongs I have tasted had a very notable fruity and grassy character as well.

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Drinking baozhong oolong brings back a lot of good memories for me. Baozhong tea is almost exclusively grown in a small region called Pinglin, about an hour and a half outside of Taipei, Taiwan. I visited Pinglin in January, hoping that my trip to the world’s largest tea museum would be one of the major highlights of my adventures in Taiwan. Alas, my enthusiasm was crushed when I noticed that the tea museum was closed for reconstruction.

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Luckily, I was joined by my travel buddy Ben, the eternal optimist and baozhong enthusiast. Ben made sure that we still had a fun time wandering around the tea fields and taking photos with the tea themed statues. Busloads of travelers from Mainland China and Korea dominated the landscape, just like everywhere else in Taiwan. We saw some old Chinese ladies picking tea off the bushes and putting them into hot water to make fresh tea. I wish I had thought of that!

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We managed to taste a lot of lovely teas in Pinglin. Each shop offered several grades of baozhong to try. We sat down and had tea at a few different shops. This place also served some nice baozhong flavored mochi!

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The little downtown of Pinglin is full of shops and restaurants serving tea related foods. We got some delicious food at a restaurant that only used oolong tea seed oil in the kitchen. The oolong oil gave all of the food an herbal, grassy kick. I really enjoyed it, but I can certainly imagine that some people might find the flavor overpowering.

If you follow the online tea nerd world (presumably you do, since you’re here), you’ve seen the much-acclaimed Tea Ave sampler. It really was the greatest sampler I’ve ever received. My package included samples of Ali Shan Jin Xuan, Li Shan, and the Wenshan Bouchung.

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Tea Ave is a Taiwanese oolong specialty shop run by a brother and sister team in Vancouver (Best city ever! The real world utopia/Shangri-La). Their website and general design is perhaps the best of any company I’ve seen.  You should definitely check out their website and drool over the beautiful packaging. Perhaps I am a bit biased, since I have an unnatural love for sky blue.

Teaware

I brewed this tea using a standard gaiwan. Nothing too exciting this week.

Dry Leaf

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These leaves looked wonderful, just like the highest quality baozhong oolongs you can find in Taiwan. I was very impressed with the aroma. I could smell the leaves through the sealed bag! The aroma was incredibly floral and had a slight caramelized note, which is a bit unusual for a baozhong, but still very lovely! There was a mixture of dark grey-green leaves and light greenish-yellow leaves, with the characteristic long, twisted shape that all baozhong oolongs have. Between the amazing appearance and smell, I was super impressed by Tea Ave’s sample!

Brewed Tea

I brewed this tea using a gaiwan and 8 grams of leaves.

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I started with a quick five second rinse just to open up the leaves and warm up my gaiwan. I tasted the rinse water, as I always do (don’t judge me). It was very floral and flavorful, even though it had only steeped for a few seconds.

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The first steep came out a light golden-yellow color. The taste is very light and subtle, but definitely more complex than a run-of-the-mill baozhong oolong. This baozhong is a lot more “herby” tasting than most baozhongs I have tasted. The tea also has a very grassy character, which might lead some people to classify this as a green tea. The characteristic floral taste is certainly there as well.

The aftertaste is nice and vegetal, like raw spinach. I love teas that taste like spinach, so that is a good thing in my book.

This tea has a very smooth mouthfeel, and even has a touch of the creaminess that tea drinkers tend to associate with the high mountain Taiwanese oolongs.

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By the six or seventh steep, the tea was starting to lose a bit of its strength. Oddly enough, the color did not change much.

I enjoyed my session with this tea. It was very thirst quenching, which was a nice change compared to all of the dehydrating puerh I’ve been drinking lately.

Finished Leaf

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This tea was very durable. I got about 9 steeps out these leaves, which is pretty impressive for a baozhong. The dry tea unfurled into giant army green leaves with very dominant veins. The leaves had no holes or tears.

Conclusion

This tea is undoubtedly one of the best baozhong style oolongs I have ever had. In fact, I would probably say that it is the best baozhong I have tasted. With that said, this tea is certainly not cheap. At about $11 per ounce, this tea is a bit out of my usual price range. I would certainly consider buying some oolong from Tea Ave if they had a good sale going. If you are a fan of baozhong or other lighter oolongs, then you should definitely try this…and leave more Li Shan and Ali Shan for me!

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