My Life as A Tea Leaf

Monday, July 10, 2006

Blake's Wuyi Oolong Tasting 2006

This evening before dinner we managed to work through the samples of Wuyi oolong that Blake has shared with us generously. Thank you Blake, for giving us this opportunity to sample a wide range of oolongs. I have to apologise here that my digital camera is flat on the battery, and my son has gallantly offered to take the pictures – as long as he didn’t have to taste the tea – with his Nokia n80, a new toy we recently bought for him and which we realized now that we have a narcissistic photographer at home. The pictures I’m afraid, are not well taken too.
I sampled B through F and then went on to A, for the reason that I don’t consider it to be a Wuyi oolong. At the end of the tasting, I felt that there are more teas that are not Wuyi oolong, and here is what I personally think of these samples.

Sample A. Fragrance of the leaves in a warmed vessel: fruity, like ripe fruit, not characteristically Wuyi oolong. The leaves are rolled into balls, which Wuyi oolong isn’t. Brewed liquor: tannic and pucky, the fruitiness is gone, replaced with a slightly astringent flavour like burnt rubber. There’s no Hui Gan, no flavours that roll back into the mouth, just a dry feeling at the back of the throat. The leaves: This is not Wuyi leaves, but Taiwan soft-stem oolong, machine cut, heavily rolled in the Anxi style, and not processed thoroughly, leaving some water still in the leaves.

Sample B. Fragrance of the leaves in a warmed vessel: Toasty and fruity. Pleasant. When it is brewed, there is a toast and fruity fragrance that are carried throughout the room. There’s a bite in this tea, with the saliva flowing and a strong Hui Gan. But it isn’t Wuyi oolong either, the leaves are Anxi oolong type, the tea is what I was accustomed as a kid – the old heavily roasted oolong. It is a good thirst-quenching tea which I kind of enjoyed, this is the type of oolong (in can form) available in Japanese grocery stores.

Sample C. This is not a Wuyi oolong as well, but another familiar tea – a Dancong, specifically I think, the Mi Lan Xiang Dancong, or the Guo Bin Dancong. The tea – I suspect - has been left out for a while, and then re-roasted to give off that fragrance of roast, but the base is unmistakably a Dancong. If you let the brewed leaves cool off and then sniff in deeply, you will get the fragrance of the Dancong clearly. I had 2 cups of this tea…

Sample D. Of all the samples, I personally feel this to be the poorest. The fragrance of the warmed dry leaves has an acetone (?), over-toasty smell that’s pungent to the nose. The tea itself, other than the intrusive fragrance, has no taste; the tea is drying as it dries out my entire mouth. I checked out the leaves, and they tear and broke easily without any resistance. I suspect this tea has been left out for too long, lost its flavours, and re-roast and done poorly. The tea-scum that gathers around the edge of the cup seemed to confirm my suspicion.

Sample E. This tea resembles the new age Wuyi oolong. I call it new age because in the need to win over a younger generation of tea-drinkers, tea makers are abandoning the older methods of tea making and creating new highly floral fragrant teas. This seems to be one of them. The oxidation is light, and the roasting is also not too heavily done. It is a Shuixian varietal, well suited for the job. The taste is light, with a floral fragrance that fills the cavity of the mouth, not overpowering; but the downside of this tea is that, like a light toilette water, it doesn’t last. The hui gan is weak and short. Suitable for beginner, but the seasoned drinker would want more character in the brew.

Sample F. This is similar to sample E, with a heavier roast note, though not that well done. Under the light floral note is a burnt flavour that dries the throat slightly, and no hui gan; after the liquor, the floral note and burnt flavour, nothing.

The brewing parameters for the above teas are simple: 2 minutes brew in the tasting cup, with Volvic water fresh off the boil. Thank you for reading; my apologies once again, if you find it boring…I can’t wait to read the more interesting accounts! Rgrds.


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