Sunday, June 12, 2011

Zealong Pure

I have seen this tea at the World Tea Expo.
I have seen this tea on many blogs.
I have seen this tea on youtube.
I have seen this tea in the press.
I have seen this tea reviewed; both praised and criticized.

It was time for me to experience this tea for myself and come up with my own conclusions.
Thanks to the Teatrade marketplace (special thanks to Rachel Carter) and the Chicago Tea Garden, I was finally able to pick some up at a reasonable price, and in a nice sample pack.

The dry leaf smells of sweet corn, cabbage, sugar cane and mountain air.
There is some aroma in this tea that reminds one of a creek running through a lush forest. It does smell pure; fresh.

The tea is steeped.
The tea is poured.
The tea is sniffed.

Grass and mild cereal (grain) aromas come to mind. The liquor is clear and almost has the color of a light sencha. Though, the aroma reminds me of an Alishan. Being that the cultivar used to make the tea is Taiwanese in origin, this comes as no surprise. I suspected there to be a strong resemblance to Taiwanese made teas.

As the tea is sipped, there is a refreshing lime quality about it. The texture is mildly brothy and leaves behind a light marine taste.
The tea is grown and processed on an island off the coast of New Zealand, so taking in sea like qualities would not be unheard of.

In the second cup, the tea seems flat; lifeless. It is not bad, there is just no complexity or depth.

The third cup reveals a more balanced taste of lime and floral notes; lavender comes to mind.

The forth cup brings sweet water and ghostly vegetal tastes that drift off just as fast as they presented themselves.

This tea feels hollow.
This tea is, if I do say so, too "pure."

I enjoy a tea that has some roughness to it. This tea is too clean.

I feel that the tea lacks a unique character. It is trying to be something that it is not. It is made as a copy of its predecessors in Taiwan, but is lacking that character.
It is not individual, as it should be. There is promise for New Zealand to produce fine tea, but only if the tea is allowed to take in the character and qualities of the land.
Every tea needs a name, and this one has no basis for identity.
It is shallow.

The one thing that this tea brings with it that stays with me for a long while is the unique Cha qi. It is cooling in nature, and moves one's mind into a state of tranquility and relaxation. Minor perspiration and the sensation of being lightheaded is calming and almost puts me to sleep.

This tea is not by any means bad, it is just overpriced and lacking uniqueness.
One cannot become something which one cannot be.

Matt's review here.



  1. It seems as though you may have had an old harvest. Was this the 2011 harvest? I have tried the 2011 and t has come a heck of a long way and the price is more in line with the product.

  2. Zai,

    There was no year specified but I assume that it is from the 2010 harvest. It is interesting that you say it "has come a long way." I may have to investigate!

  3. I think probably you will like zealong aromatic better, since you have a broad taste of oolong and I guess zealong pure is more on the greener end of the spectrum.

    I got some zealong aromatic and think it's seriously good! I haven't tasted it for many times yet (as I too think it's quite expensive and I am trying to be thrifty), but so far I absolutely love it.

    I have only one sample of zealong pure and haven't tried it yet. But after tasting the aromatic, I've been longing for some zealong dark!

    Zai Rai, where did you get your 2011 zealong? I guess zealong aromatic and zealong dark are the types of oolong that may get even better after resting for a year. But zealong pure may have a shorter life.

  4. Gingko,

    I believe I will as well. I was most looking forward to the dark! I am going to post my notes of the aromatic and the dark within the next couple of days, so you will see what I think I guess! Haha.
    I do think that the resting period of the pure may have skewed the tastes a bit, although I have some year old alishan that is still wonderfully complex, and that is quite green! So I am not sure...but thank you for your opinions of the Aromatic! Looking forward to it!

  5. Dear William,

    Nothing beats the original to the copy!

    Cha Qi apparently have you liked and relaxed.

    It's funny your descrption makes me think of a Fo Shou Taiwan and its leaves gigantestesques, pure lemon flavor a nice minerality;however the aftertaste is not so long and somewhat complex.

    But this Fo Shou it created such relaxing in the body and a detachment, that I would continue to enjoy it simply. In total tranquility...


    . PHILIPPE .

  6. These leaves look exceptionally large and whole. It's so striking that when I saw the picture, I immediately thought of a Camellia plant (not a tea plant) that I walked by the other day in Philadelphia.

    One thing that fascinates me about traditionally-processed tea and artisan tea is that I feel it more strongly evokes its natural origins, both in appearance and aroma. I find it interesting that even though you were not crazy about this tea, that nearly all the descriptors you used for it were things from the natural world.

  7. Philippe,

    Indeed! It is impossible to beat an original!
    And I could see the resemblance to a Fo Shou (Buddha's Hand). The citrus and floral aspects are similar! This tea is definitely one to enjoy simply!


    The leaves are stellar! I only had about three leaves that had any sign of damage. This tea was meticulously hand produced and it is very evident!
    What you say about the natural aspects is interesting. I guess that what comes from the earth (and has little human tampering) will represent the earth.
    Thank you for your input!

  8. I was wondering how come I bought pure and aromatic but not dark! Then today I realized I did get dark (brain aging, memory loss... haha). It will be fun to comparing tasting notes! I haven't seen many tasting notes on zealong aromatic and dark!

    About copy and original, I have to say, 90% or more teas were copies of some other teas from the beginning. Some copies obviously have beaten the original, otherwise we would have only had tea from Yunnan and Sichuan, or at the most a few provinces in China but not beyond :-p

  9. Gingko,

    You do raise quite a good point! I suppose that is correct! Although, why would you want to copy another tea from another country? Zealong is meant to be an exact version of a Taiwan oolong. Why would you not want to bring out what the land has to offer? Look at what the tea gardens in Hawaii are doing; they are marketing the flavors and aromas unique to Hawaii and it is starting to catch on! I just must be so much of a purist and an individualist when it comes to tea production haha.