Spilling the (Green Oolong) Tea: what's in our Maldives blend?
Our Maldives blend may be inspired by the relaxing tropical vibes of that archipelagic state, and feature pineapple and coconut pieces, but the key tea leaf that brings that blend together, and marries together those pina colada inspired elements with a creamy, floral taste is Tie Guan Yin. Small rolled and curled balls of army-green leaves also known as Iron Goddess of Mercy, that unfurl when the tea is brewed. It's not black tea, it's not green tea, so... what is it?
Tie Guan Yin is known as a green oolong- in that category of teas known as Oolong. Different categories, or types of tea, are determined by how they are processed and Oolongs sit somewhere between a black and green tea in terms of their level of oxidation. Whereas green teas undergo no oxidation and black teas undergo long oxidation, Oolongs are partially oxidised in an art-form like tea creation process whereby the tea master determines oxidisation to be anywhere from 10-80%. There can be both Dark Oolongs where the leaves look almost black, all the way through to Jade Oolongs that may be only 20-30% oxidised and remain very green. Then there are also baked (amber oolongs) that may undergo a secondary baking/roasting process.
Oolongs have long been popular in China and Taiwan, traditionally of the darker and shaped by rolling with long curvy leaves but the more contemporary style of wrap curling, with leaves that are less oxidised has created a more gentle, floral and aromatic tea- and it is this style of tea, the Tie Guan Yin that continues to be sourced from Fujian in China, that is used in our Maldives blend.
Balled oolongs like Tie Guan Yin offer a uniquely delicious floral sweetness that hints at spring flowers such as orchids, hyacinth and lilies of the valley. Breathe in a waft of Maldives, and the top notes that hit you initially will be the tart sweetness of pineapple and milky coconut; but the green oolong tea provides a floral mellowness, gently buttery to pick up on the creaminess in the coconut pieces and with a slightly roasted nutty base.
Visually, the weight of size of the balled leaves also holds up well against the pineapple and apple pieces of this blend- but the Tie Guan Yin we use is also reminiscent in colour, of the green shades of palm trees leaves that are such a key part of any image one has when dreaming of the Maldives.
It was also important that the tea leaf we used for Maldives suited cold brewing as ice tea- because what would wanderlusting about the Maldives be, without a refreshing tropical cocktail. Tie Guan Yin is fantastic cold brewed; it is also a leaf that holds up wonderfully well upon multiple steepings, and very much enjoyable both hot or cold brewed. In fact, my favourite way of enjoying Maldives whether or hot or cold brewed, is on that second steeping- there is a happy marriage of the fruity and the floral flavours that makes for easy sipping, and it's also a generous blend that is hard to over steep - rarely "bitter," though has just enough of that "green tea astringency" to keep my particular tea taste buds happy. If it ever verges that way, it is easy and delicious to add ice and fruit (if having cold) or a little extra hot water if drunk warm.
The only thing to remember?a little goes a long way. Maldives is a "heavy" blend given the pineapple and apple pieces, and remember that the Tie Guan Yin tea leaves are curled and rolled- so what seems like a little will take up more space as things unfurl! This is also why a test tube or canister of this blend contains more than lighter or bigger tea leaf blends like Shanghai. The liquid may also appear cloudy with the shredded coconut, but it is nothing to worry about and generally dissipates in later steepings.