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Gui Fei Royal

This leaf-bitten tea varietal takes on a profile that is extremely rich, exuberant, and playful.  There is a sweetness like spiced honey and plum.

Notes of spiced clover honey, roses, plum, and toast.

Another name for Gui Fei Mei Ren is Royal Concubine, and we use this honorary to differentiate this Gui Fei Royal from Gui Fei Red.  We didn’t plan to stock two Gui Fei oolongs, but when I came across Gui Fei Royal we couldn’t resist.  It has richness that is hard to come by, and its sticky honey texture in the mouth is outstanding.  Both teas are excellent, but I think that Gui Fei Royal has an elegance that is very rare.

Gui Fei Royal is from a category of tea referred to as leaf-bitten oolong, and it has a dynamic profile that pairs a mild charcoal roast to fully maintained bouquet of honeyed flowers. 

Leaf-bitten teas deserve to be in a category of their own.  There are several stories about how Gui Fei’s preparation method came to pass, and it appears that the most reliable story is that in 1999 there was an earthquake in central Taiwan and the tea farmers of Fenghuang village were forced to evacuate.  Upon returning the farmers noticed that the tea plants had been overrun with cicadas that had nibbled on the leaves and stems.  They processed the least damaged leaves and found that an almost magical transformation had occurred.  Tea tasted completely different with an intense sweetness.

Shortly after the cicadas had bitten the leaves the plant created more sugars to heal itself.  In addition, the leaves began to oxidize while still living on the bush, as opposed to the post-harvest human-assisted oxidation that commonly happens by tossing and rolling the leaves.

To this day same Fenghuang farmers near the Phoenix Mountain range in Taiwan encourage the little “leaf-hoppers” as they call them to nibble on the leaves to create this Gui Fei.  There is now a beautiful, mutually beneficial 4-way symbiotic relationship between the cicada, the tea plant, the farmer, and the tea drinker.

Gui Fei has a tendency to be tricky to brew.  It’s best to get to know this tea with shorter infusions.  We use 200 degree water with 30 second infusions.   The first infusion before the leaves open fully will be a delicate preview of the fireworks to come.  Latter infusions have a profile that is a lot like a robust Oriental Beauty with extra sweetness.  As the mouth-feel fades after the 4th infusion, the nose continues to bloom like a lively rose garden.


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