Tea Reviews

The Many Oolongs of Four Seasons Tea Co.

A liquid tour of Taiwan's mountains

Four Seasons Tea is a small Canadian company run by Jeff Kovacs. They are dedicated to bringing rare and high-quality Chinese and Taiwanese teas to tea enthusiasts.

In short — It’s Jeff’s job to spoil tea freaks like me.

About the Four Seasons Tea founder

I’ve never met someone as passionate and excited about sharing Chinese tea with westerners as Jeff is. He’s spent years traveling in Asia, is fluent in Mandarin and studied tea under a master in Sichuan, China.

If you’re wondering why I’m so impressed, it’s this — Many tea importers have never been to the farms their tea comes from. Think about that for a sec.

The fact that Jeff maintains in-person relationships with the farms his artisan tea comes from is a huge reason why I like his company. Not just for his tea, but because of his study of arts and culture in China and his decision to keep up relationships with the farmers he works with. Tea is a huge industry, and I value people who value people.

Here he is at a tea farm in the Wuyi Mountains in China, explaining how they make their tea.

Oolong-athon

Jeff sent me five oolongs from different seasons and mountains in Taiwan. I put my tea sommelier hat on for this one.

Oolong teas are semi-oxidized tea. You can think of them as the step between green tea and black tea, although with oolong there are more steps needed, so they’re often thought of as a tea requiring more mastery, and thus rare ones are highly prized. It also means you can get a lot of variation in flavour, from honey to floral to malty to fruity.

For steeping, I recommend using a gaiwan and about 6 grams of tea. Start with a short steep, 8 seconds, then 10, 12, 15, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50 seconds.

Alternatively, use a tea pot with about 3 grams. Infuse for 3-5 minutes.

Dong Ding Winter Oolong

The dry tea leaves were very sweet. Opening the vacuum-sealed packet was like opening a jar of honey. The smell in the cup after steeping reminded me of rhubarb. There was almost a slight tartness to it and it had a corn maltyness, like bourbon. It had a dark amber liquor and full body that coated the mouth. You can buy it here.

*Dong Ding means ‘Frozen Summit’. This tea is grown at 800+ metres.

Dong Ding Spring Oolong

The dry leaves smelled like hay. Still sweet, like sugarcane. It was a bit lighter than the winter version. For some reason I was still catching a hint of that rhubarb, and malt. You can buy it here.

*Dong Ding means ‘Frozen Summit’. This tea is grown at 800+ metres.

Qing Xiang Spring Oolong

Greener than the first two, tastes like a lighter oxidation, but still sweet in that honey way that hits you in the back of the tongue. Hints of floral and asparagus. Very smooth and silky. You can buy it here.

Ali Shan Winter Oolong

Sweet hay like walking into a barn during winter and lying in a bale of hay. The vegetal characteristics reminded me of string beans. A brighter liquor that I could taste it in the side of my cheeks and lingered after tasting. Not astringent. Very smooth and creamy. You can buy it here.

*This Ali Mountain tea was grown at 800+ metres.

Shan Lin Xi Winter Oolong

The dry leaves were light. Just a drizzle of honey, and spinach. The floral characteristics really stand out and stay on the roof on your mouth so you can taste them when you exhale through your nose. In the mouth is reminiscent of sweet summer corn. Smelling the steeped leaves recalls walking into a humid greenhouse full of flowers. Very smooth and leaves a sweet taste in your mouth. You can buy it here.

*Grown at 1700+ metres.

My Favourite

It was actually quite fortunate that Jeff sent me all Taiwanese oolongs. I’ve had a soft spot for them since first trying a frozen summit at the Chinese Gardens in Portland, Oregon a couple of years ago.

Of the five I tasted, my favourite was the Shan Lin Xi Winter Oolong. It was just so silky and drinkable and I felt like it embodied everything I wanted from a high mountain Taiwanese oolong without the heaviness in the mouth. Because it was so light I felt like I could just keep refilling my gaiwan and re-steeping the leaves forever. The smoothness really let the flavours stand out. Would drink again and again and again.

Well, I think I’ve had my fill of oolongs for today, although happily. Have you tried oolong before? Did you taste rhubarb, honey, asparagus, corn? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Use the comments below!

If you’d like to read more about Four Seasons and their green tea, you can check out my review here.

I received the tea mentioned above for free from Four Seasons Tea. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

About

Mel Hattie is an award-winning photographer and travel journalist based in Halifax. She's completing her MJ in New Ventures at the University of King's College. She appreciates a good cup of tea and extra legroom on long flights.

3 comments on “The Many Oolongs of Four Seasons Tea Co.

  1. Terry Forget

    Hi Mel, I came to your blog via Jeff’s Four Seasons Tea Co. Funny thing, I met him the same way: TEA-101 las fall and saw him at Toronto’s 5th Tea Festival!! What a laugh on two counts!! LOVE your blog articles. (enough with the !!s) Portland, Russian Tea Room. Fascinating. This summer I’m going to Salem Oregon to visit Minto Island Tea Growers.The “only tea plantation in the U.S.”. Maybe you can check it out too? I look forward to more from your blog and travels.

    • That’s awesome! Jeff was a great Tea 101 teacher. You’re so lucky you got to go to the Toronto Tea Festival! I plan to go next year. What was your favourite part? I didn’t know about Minto Island and am excited you mentioned it! I’m adding it to my weird tea spots to visit. As for being the only one, I know the Charleston Tea Plantation in South Carolina is pretty well-established, but American-grown tea is definitely not common. I hope you have a great time! I’d love to hear how it is after you visit.

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