The changing face of Ito En’s Golden Oolong

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There are a few places around town that sell Ito En’s bottled teas. So occasionally, amid shelves full of horrid syrrupy-sweet, fruity flavored drinks with a bit of tea in them, I can find a product I’m willing to drink. These particular Ito-en teas are unsweetened, either just tea, or just tea with one additional plant ingredient, like jasmine or lemon grass. So they taste good – they taste like tea.

But one thing that I have noticed is that at least one of these cold bottled teas comes in two completely different types of packaging. Depending where I see it offered for sale, “Golden Oolong” comes in either of these two bottles. The tea inside the two bottles is identical, but the way they appear on the market shelf is not. In fact they look so different I suspect many people would assume they’re a different drink. (Or more likely they wouldn’t encounter the variations at all. I can’t imagine the same store carrying both of them.)

The version sold in upscale, trendy or “natural food” type markets is branded “Teas’ Tea” and the back of the bottle has text about health benefits, specifically anti-oxidants, catechins, theanine and caffeine content. As you can see in the photograph, the labels are primarily blue, yellow and green. The bottles sold in Asian markets are bright orange, yellow, red, and gold, with half the text in Chinese. The back says:

The tea leaves used for this Golden Oolong are flowery, fragrant Huan jin guei “Golden Cinnamon”, and hearty and ripe Tieguanyin “Iron Goddess”. Oolong tea is semi oxidized, making it unique from green and black teas. Enjoy its robust and clean taste.

Since so much of the text is in English I assume this packaging also made specifically for the American market, but it might not be. I checked Ito En’s website and could only find information on the other one.

Aside from its chameleon-like properties, the Golden Oolong tastes quite good. Cold, out of a plastic bottle is definitely not my preferred way to consume tea, but under the right circumstances it’s a pretty pleasant drink.

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4 Comments

  1. That’s some savvy marketing, at any rate. The Asian markets around here (the north of the South) just have standard-issue Japanese imports with an English nutrition label slapped on. I’ll have to check these out– the few bottled oolongs I’ve had usually taste like dirt. Which isn’t all that bad on a sweltering August day…

  2. I’ll look for these at my neighborhood groceries.

  3. Teas’ Tea is indeed Ito En’s American product line. It should be noted that while the Golden Oolong is the same, other products in each line can differ. For instance, Teas’ Tea Pure Green differs in taste from the Japanese version, Oi Ocha (both are delicious in their own right). There is also a bolder flavor called Oi Ocha Dark that has no Teas’ Tea equivalent.

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