Jin Xuan (金萱) is a type of oolong tea that was developed in Taiwan in 1980. It’s also known as “Golden Daylily” and is sometimes called “Milk Oolong” due to its light, creamy, and flowery taste that’s sometimes compared to milk. This tea is popular among tea farmers in Taiwan and Thailand because it can be grown at higher altitudes and has a higher yield compared to traditional tea varieties.
Some people believe that the characteristic buttery taste of Jin Xuan tea is obtained through steeping or steaming the leaves in milk before roasting, but this is a myth. The flavor enhancement is actually produced by extra oxidization, as the quality is inherent to the tea variety. However, some producers add artificial flavors to the tea, which masks the natural tea flavor significantly.
It’s important to note that reputable dealers usually declare whether the Jin Xuan tea is natural or flavored. This can be recognized before steeping the tea, as added flavors can significantly alter the tea’s taste.
Exploring the Flavor Profile of Jin Xuan Tea
Jin Xuan tea, also known as Milk Oolong, is a mildly oxidized oolong tea with a delightful floral flavor that offers a full mouthfeel with rich creaminess, a milky flavor, and a floral aroma. Despite its name, this tea does not contain any milk, and its milky flavor and aroma can be attributed to the way the tea is cultivated and produced.
Cultivation of Jin Xuan Tea
While most oolong teas, like Tieguanyin, come from the Fujian and Anxi provinces of China, Jin Xuan tea traces its origins to Taiwan. It is mainly grown in the Zhushan region at 2,000 feet above sea level and in Alishan at 4,000 feet above sea level, just outside Nantou County. It is also cultivated to a smaller degree in Thailand, where it is grown at several tea estates in the higher elevations, including in Chiang Rai province.
The tea leaves are gently plucked by hand and allowed to wither before the oxidation process begins. The leaves are gently bruised, which allows enzymes in the leaves to react with oxygen in the air. This oxidation process causes the leaves to turn a brown or black hue and develops the buttery milk flavor the tea is famous for. Once the leaves reach the desired oxidation point, the process ends by heating the tea leaves. The leaves are then rolled or shaped and packaged for sale.
Finding the Best Milk Oolong Tea
Like most types of tea, not all tea leaves offer the same quality when it comes to flavor and aroma. Therefore, it is essential to look for high-quality loose-leaf milk oolong tea. Tea bags typically contain lower quality flavor since the bags are usually filled with broken leaves and fragments. If you must use tea bags, look for large pyramid-shaped tea bags that feature larger leaves and allow enough room for the leaves to expand and infuse flavor.
It’s also important to note that authentic milk oolong tea doesn’t contain any milk or added flavors. Some producers create artificial milk oolong through additives, but reputable dealers will usually declare whether it is a natural or flavored oolong. A flavored Jin Xuan can be recognized before the tea is steeped, as the added flavors will mask the natural tea flavor significantly. Therefore, it is essential to do your research when purchasing to ensure that you get your hands on high-quality authentic milk oolong tea.
Brewing Jin Xuan Oolong Tea
To enjoy the perfect cup of Jin Xuan oolong tea, preheat your teacup or traditional gaiwan by rinsing it with hot water. Add 1.5 tablespoons of Milk Oolong to a tea strainer or ingenuitea. Bring water to 190-200 degrees Fahrenheit (88-93 degrees Celsius) using a temperature-controlled teapot or kettle and pour it into your cup. Add the tea leaves and steep for 3 to 5 minutes. The longer the steeping time, the bolder the flavors will become. Remove the tea strainer and enjoy!
Jin Xuan tea is a Taiwanese milk oolong that offers a rich, buttery feel and hints of milk blended with vegetal undertones similar to those found in green tea. Depending on the varietal, it can offer more grassy notes or floral hints due to a range of oxidation levels. It’s the perfect cup of tea to enjoy during all four seasons as it can be brewed as a hot tea or an iced tea.