Eco-Cha is a Taiwanese tea company that I've been wanting to explore since hearing about them. They're cut from the same cloth as other tea companies that follow a farm-to-table approach; find tea farmers making superior tea and work with them to open their product to the larger world. This is certainly the approach that appeals the largest to consumers who have ethical questions about how their food, clothes, beverages, electronics - everything - is produced. Although I do consider myself in this group, there's one thing that I truly treasure - a good product.
Eco-Cha is also very engaged online, by posting in the /r/tea subreddit, and by doing an ongoing Q&A video series. I had asked about how to identify dry & steeped leaf quality, and if there is an ideal stem-to-leaf ratio. They were kind enough to send a response (and $5 off my order)! With the summer heat I thought a nice Jin Xuan would be perfect, and I figured that they would be a terrific source.
Jin Xuan is an interesting tea. Called "Milk Tea" (although the actual translation is "Golden Daylily") Jin Xuan is an unroasted oolong from the Tai Cha #12 cultivar. I urge you to check out this terrific TeaDB article on the genesis of Taiwanese tea cultivars, really interesting how recent they came about. Jin Xuan is one of the main Taiwanese oolong varietals that you'll find. Now with the name "Milk Oolong" there is a lot of superstition about whether or not it's "real" or "unflavored." There are lots of warnings online about some companies steaming their leaves over actual milk or adding condensed milk powder to create an even creamier product. I only poked around a bit online, but I could not find an actual example of this.
As someone who has been drinking Dong Ding, a heavier roasted Oolong tea, religiously I was interested to see how an unroasted tea would suit me. Enough chitchat, let's have a cuppa!
The tea looked fantastic. It smelled a lot like Pi Lo Chun, sort of like dried seaweed.
Temperature: 185F, with a few second rinse to open up the leaves. The infusion time was also just a few seconds. The flavor of this tea is strong and doesn't require a long steep. I'd also recommend turning down the temperature after the leaves open up.
Steep 1: Distinctively smooth. The slight seaweed that I smelled was also present in taste.
Steep 2: Fuller body and more of a grassy taste. Here is where the "cream taste" becomes apparent.
Steep 3: Melted butter coats your mouth and teeth. Not exactly milk in a cow's milk sense, but more like milkweed.
Steeps 4-6: The tea holds up in much the same but much less intense than 2 & 3.
It was very interesting to see how much different the Jin Xuan was compared to my daily drinker of Dong Ding. The lack of roasted taste really accentuated the butter and grass. Dong Ding has a heavy marijuana smell - pungent and really fills up the room. The Jin Xuan produces a great cup for hot days and could even be enjoyed at a lower temperature with a slightly longer steep time. Thanks Eco-Cha!