Dong Fang Mei Ren (also called Bai Hao) is a Taiwanese oolong unlike any other. Its English name, Oriental Beauty, was given by Queen Elizabeth II in the early 20th century when she tasted this tea for the first time. The tea is hand-harvested and crafted by a tea master in Taiwan using two leaves and a bud. Enzymes change the color of the leaf edges to a deep red, and cause the plant to give off the aroma of honey and fruit, and an unusually sweet flavor.
Oriental Beauty is named for the unique appearance of its tea leaves, which are mostly dark in color with the very best and rarest distinguished by silvery tips. The leaves are naturally oxidized by leaf hoppers that chew on the leaf edges while still growing on the tea bushes. As such, it is harvested only in the early summer. It yields a rich, strong honeyed liquor which produces a sweet tasting bright-reddish orange tea liquor without any astringency or bitterness.
The best Oriental Beauty is made from a cultivar called Qing Xin Da Mao. Teas produced using this cultivar have an incredible cooling sensation on the palate, and when layered on top of the sweet aroma and smooth taste produced by the response to leaf hoppers, it produces an incredibly balanced and complex cup of tea.
The top grade of organic Oriental Beauty we tasted and evaluated comes from where it was originally produced in Taiwan. It had both wonderfully complex aromas (peach, orange, pineapple…), and also a sweet, round mouth-feel and aftertaste. Although we steeped it in a Yixing teapot for only two minutes at 170 ○ F, it can brew longer without turning astringent, a trait of the very best teas. We were delighted to experience one teaspoon (2.5g) of Oriental Beauty producing six wonderful infusions of tea.
Oriental Beauty is one of the most precious oolongs to come from Taiwan, a superb example of one of the world’s most extraordinary teas. Truly a “beauty” not to be missed.
Oriental Beauty available online from: Adagio Teas $49.00 for 2 oz.