A new tea space opened in Kensington Market, Toronto beginning of February this year. High Mountain Tea began as an online tea company and grew to a retail location because owner, Conor Murphy, wanted the opportunity to connect with fellow tea drinkers, share his knowledge and steeps in person. After a visit to Taiwan and his tea experiences there, he started sharing his passion for the beverage with those around him. The name for the new tea company originates from Conor’s love for Taiwan’s beautiful mountains.
While I have not visited the physical location yet, I was able to experience High Mountain Tea a bit with their A Taste of Taiwan tea collection. Consisting of three small batch teas (40 grams each), 1 black tea and 2 oolong teas, Conor selected these teas because they represented the taste and terroir of the Island the best. Following the gong fu style brewing instructions on their website, here are my notes on each tea.
Oriental Beauty Oolong
Season: Summer | Cultivar: Qing Xin Da Pan | Oxidation Level: Mid Heavy – 70% | Processing: Loosely Twisted | Elevation: 300m
Thanks to some great suggestions on my Instagram, I started A Taste of Taiwan with the Oriental Beauty. Within the first few sips, I was thrilled I steeped this tea first because it started the tasting off right. There are Darjeeling qualities throughout this tea and regular readers of this blog know Darjeeling teas are a special favourite of mine so that also explains my love for Oriental Beauty. These are probably one of my most favourite leaves to admire with the mix of nature’s colours and fuzzy white tips. The leaves’ aroma is slightly fruity and when steeped the liquor is a wonderful shade of gold with a ting of red as the infusions increase. With no astringency, the tea’s distinctive muscatel flavour compliments the thick honey notes and apple undertones. As the steeps went on, there were even some hints of spice. I’ll definitely be making a point to enjoy this tea more often.
Ruby Red Tea
Season: Summer | Cultivar: Hong Yu #18 | Oxidation Level: Heavy | Processing: Twisted Leaf | Elevation: 1200m
Up next was this Ruby Red beauty. My first impression of this tea was the strong aroma that reminded me of cinnamon hearts candies. When steeped it is a lovely red liquor which produced a stronger cinnamon taste (maybe even a bit of cloves) and a gentle sweetness of dried fruit like figs and dates. There’s a woodiness that’s there but I find that it quickly switches back to the original flavours I experienced. As the number of infusions progressed, more toasted caramel notes become present along with a cool minty aftertaste. I was able to get at least 6 infusions (I didn’t keep track after that).
Four Seasons Oolong Tea
Season: Spring | Cultivar: Si Ji Chun | Oxidation Level: Light – 30% | Processing: Ball Rolled | Elevation: 500m
Lastly, it was time to watch this tightly rolled oolong unfurl. I could watch leaves like these unfurl forever. Seriously. The orchid-like aroma from this Four Seasons oolong was quite pleasant. As for the taste, there was a floral introduction that resembles spring nicely (think jasmine and, again, orchids) and later evolved into a creamy bite. Sweet honey was a common occurrence throughout the steeps. With the creamy texture, this tea kind of reminded me of a light vanilla custard dessert. It was a beautiful, well balanced tea and I got about 7 infusions from it.
Overall, I really enjoyed connecting with each leaf from this tea collection. Ironically, the order in which I drank the teas ended up being the order of my favourites, too. A Taste of Taiwan is available in High Mountain Tea’s retail space or online here for $60.00 CDN (which is a bit cheaper than buying all three teas individually) This collection comes packaged nicely with care, too. If this tea collection was any indication of how the retail location is, I can not wait to visit and experience it and the rest of the teas they carry. Be sure to stop by next time you’re in Toronto!
What tea from this collection would you be most interested in trying? Let me know in the comments below!