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The Commander is our latest example of the Wuyi Oolong, and has been a long time coming. One of our original teas in our stock, when we started back in 2010, was a wuyi oolong, a take on a Da Hong Pao, which are traditionally very dark roasted, heavy teas. But due to a wave of popularity brought on by television "doctors" pushing it for its "metabolic benefits" purporting it to help with weight loss, it quickly became hard to find. Because the traditional Da Hong Paos are made in smaller gardens, comparatively, with the demand so high, the price went up. Eventually, this price went high enough, year after year, consistently, that all of our vendors stopped buying it entirely, finding the price to no longer be worth it.

 

For years, we struggled with a proper Wuyi oolong, one dark enough to punch you in the gut, to taste like a borderline roasted black tea, just a heavy-duty oolong that doesn't mess around. We bounced between oolongs for years, unsatisfied, but saying "good enough" because we needed at least one. But finally, our teamaster Gwen found the perfect one, buying it from a small independent cooperative in China. Here, we present, The Commander.

 

A quick word about the Wuyi Mountains: they're an indescribable beauty, and host to not only an incredible protected biodiversity of flora and fauna (an estimated 5000+ species of reptile, amphibian, and insects, a large portion of which are unique to the area). It's registered as a biodiversity conservation zone, and is one of the world's finest, intact, subtropical forests. The Nine Bend River flows through the various valleys of the mountain region, which combined with the heights of the mountains makes the region itself humid and warm, since the cool air is unable to enter the valleys. These facts combined make Da Hong Pao, along with Shui Xian and Rou Gui, some of the world's finest, most unique varieties of tea.

 

Da Hong Pao itself is made with a fine, ancient cultivar preserved in the Wuyi Mountains for centuries. It's picked carefully, commonly with scissors, leaf-by-leaf, by hand, and left to partially oxidize while they pick, and afterwards, in the open humid air. This makes the edges of the leaf brown while the core stays bright green, giving it a delicate fade still visible on some leaves. After a partial oxidation, it is loaded into large bamboo woven baskets over charcoal fires to roast dry.

 

While many other areas will use electric heat to bring it up to a killgreen temperature (to stop oxidation), the charcoal roasting is imperative to the Da Hong Pao's flavor. It imparts a rich toasty flavor without A: becoming smoky like the region's famous "Lapsang Souchong" smoked black teas, since the charcoal burns low and doesn't smoke anywhere near as much as straight wood, and B: bringing it up to temp slowly, allowing for just a tiny touch more oxidation and a gentle preservation of the leaf's internal flavor. Just like slow-cooking gets you a fuller, richer flavor with reduced burning risk, so goes for tea.

 

The result? A beautiful, spectacular tea revered the world over as one of China's finest arts. The top-notes are of vegetal earth, like any oolong, combined with a dark, rich toasty nutty kind of flavor which twists the oolong flavor in delightful ways. The further notes are the signature notes of Fujian tea: stone-fruit. Undertones of apricot run through the tea visible if you look carefully for them, with a sweet, toasty finish. The flavor stays strong the entire way through, making for a smooth entry, a heavy sticking flavor, and a lasting essence that leaves you appreciating the flavor of the tea long after you've swallowed the sip. That combined with the pleasant caffeination of the drink make it a perfect tea to start your day, to kickstart you in the mid-day slump, or to revive you after a long day's work for afternoon activities. It is truly one of our finest offerings.


Gwen's Suggestion

Straight. Hot. No sugar. No milk. Please, dear lord, drink it straight. I'm no pretentious purist, I'm not one for "traditional is the only way to drink it," and hell, I blend with this tea. But you've got to drink this one straight-up, no additions, just hot and fresh. Multiple steeps. To appreciate and enjoy the natural flavor. Then do as you will with it. But it's one of China's greatest gifts to the world, and it deserves to be drank straight with your full attention, at least once.


The Name

I dubbed this one "The Commander" because it's one of the most domineering, present, powerful teas I've had in a long, long time. This is a tea you can trust to take you