San Francisco | Red Blossom Tea Company | Dong Pian

Oolong for this rainy, rainy Tuesday morning.

When we visited San Francisco in October, we made sure to stop by Red Blossom Tea Company to try out a few new teas.
It’s a family business – the father and mother sell ginseng in the back of the store, and the son and daughter do the teas. Their oolong selection is impressive and I wish they would open a second in NYC. We need more tea shops in the city…I’d trade in all our coffee places and cocktail bars for one truly amazing tea spot. 
After looking through (and sniffing) all the oolongs, we settled on our and sat down for a cupping session. This was Pierre’s first real cupping, so he was pretty excited hehe. 
My favorite of the bunch was Dong Pian (冬片,杉林溪烏龍茶), a formosa oolong.

The specific batch we purchased was the 2012 winter sprout. Pricey at $248/pound but worth every penny. Remember how much I love milk oolongs? I eventually learned that there’s no such thing as an actual milk oolong.* You can find oolongs that come close in taste to the maple-sweetness we associate with milk oolongs, but most teas labeled “milk oolong” have been washed and flavored. You’d think there would be better regulation on this – flavored is fine (natural is best, but I’m not going to shun all flavored teas), but it should be disclosed. 

But that’s why I loved this Dong Pian so much…it’s unusually sweet and creamy, just like a milk oolong but completely natural. You can even smell the subtle sugar cane, maple-esque flavors of the the leaves, and the flavors are even more intense and clear when you do a cold brew. Look how they open up after the first round. Beautiful :) 

*If you want a “real” milk oolong, don’t ask for a tea with the name milk oolong. Go to a reputable tea shop and ask the people there for a natural oolong that is most akin to the flavors of milk oolong. It’s definitely won’t be named “milk oolong.” 
  • anonymous
    November 27, 2012

    Thank you for the tip. I have fallen in love with "milk" oolong and am having trouble finding a good one.

  • Kathy YL Chan
    November 27, 2012

    No problem – glad I could be helpful :)

  • emilio
    February 11, 2014

    The tea that is often referred to as "milk oolong" is Jin Xuan, from Taiwan. Jin Xuan has a natural creamy, milky, buttery taste. Its true that "milk oolong" teas you come across may have added flavorings. I don’t recommend those. Try a vendor that specializes in Taiwanese teas, they’ll often sell Jin Xuan. I’m betting that the "milk oolong" you’ve fallen in love with is Jin Xuan.

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