Tea Review: Secret Orchid Oolong

Secret Orchid Oolong

Against a very sensible earlier policy of not ordering tea online, I ordered two ounces of Secret Orchid Oolong from Mitea Rare Teas in December.

This is Mitea’s description:
Secret Orchid Oolong is a wonderful, hand picked orchid scented oolong. It has a light ‘airy’ character with heavenly floral notes reminiscent of orchids, providing for a true sensory experience only found in these rare secret tea bushes.

It arrived as expected, in two one-ounce packages. One of the packages appeared vacuum sealed; the other did not. I opened the one that did not appear as well sealed first and it smelled a lot like nothing, but with a hint of bad. I tried not to draw any conclusions about it based on scent alone and brewed some, using the traditional gongfu method. The aroma was very light and pretty unpleasant. I took a couple of sips of the first infusion and tossed out the rest. It was bitter, and not terribly interesting. I would not describe it as floral in any sense. The only orchids it might have any sort of relation to would be dusty silk artificial ones.

I figured that the first package was probably just stale, so I opened the second, better sealed one. Smelling it I could tell that this batch was vastly fresher, but it still did not smell good, just stronger. The smell of the dry tea is sort of like what I would imagine dry stale seaweed to smell like. I tried brewing some of it and again was so put off by the taste I was unable to put it through the complete cycle of infusions and tastings.

Giving this relatively expensive tea some additional opportunities to redeem itself, I took it to work and brewed it in the standard method of infusion in a ceramic cup. It was bearable, but only just barely. It tasted like cut grass, but not like fresh cut green grass on a summer day, more like cut grass after about a week when your father starts yelling at you to finish the damned yard work. The aftertaste of this tea is not bad – a mild, warm flavor, more enjoyable than the taste of drinking the tea itself. A second infusion of the same leaves resulted in pretty much more of the same, but slightly fainter and more bitter. It is not awful, but I feel no need to drink it again since I am surrounded by so many more wonderful alternatives.

I would not use this one tea to condemn the entire company, but I would be very hesitant to order from them again. This particular tea is not one I would ever have purchased if there had been an opportunity to smell it beforehand. It is possible that this is just a variety of tea that I dislike personally, although I was not alone during the initial gongfu experiments with it and the other person disliked it as emphatically as I did. And the one package of it was definitely well beyond salvageable in its dried out and stale condition.

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4 Comments

  1. [Sorry it took so long to respond to this. Your reply was trapped in our spam filter unaccountably.]

    Thank you for the reference to the other discussions regarding Mitea. They may very well be the most elite fabulous tea retailer around, but they don’t seem too trustworthy to me. I think that it’s a worthwhile experiment to mail order something on the basis of a description that sounds so great, but it is always a risk without the opportunity to see and smell the leaves before purchase.

  2. I’m convinced these people are frauds. The “1978” and “1982” puerhs they sell are readily available in Beijing for basically nothing.. a few dollars a brick. The tea they sold you (if it looks anything like the picture) should be a dancong from Guangdong province. The aroma should be intense, very floral, and not anything like what you described.

  3. Mitea is terrible. Mitea has NO customer service. I placed a $635 order recently – I ordered a pound of white tea ($250) and received only 1 ounce ($25); I ordered a quarter pound of another tea and again received only an ounce and the tea pot I ordered was missing three pieces. I have called the company over 10 times and sent 3 emails and no one has bothered to respond. I have mailed everything back and gone through my credit card company to dispute the charges. I have found all the items I ordered on other websites for less. It’s too bad as I’d had a good experience with their tea at the Park Hyatt in DC but ordering from Mitea has been a nightmare.

  4. That’s really awful. I can’t imagine how they can stay in business with such awful service and quality, but perhaps they are sustained by the high-end hotel business and the retail business is unimportant to them.