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I embarked on my tea journey when I studied abroad in China in 2008 and traveled around Taiwan that summer. I'm here to share my experiences and offer my own opinion, advice, and comments on tea.

Friday, January 8, 2010

2009 Fall Hong Shui (Tea Masters)

From reading my choice of topic for the past month or so you would think that all I drink these days is pu-erh. Well, I would that you're ... partially right. I've been analyzing my Tao Bao purchase, and I've narrowed it down to two tuos that I might "invest" in for storage. I've actually been revisiting some neglected teas, including Dan Cong and various Taiwanese teas I have lying around. Now, I don't take my Taiwanese tea seriously ... since it's often readily available to me freely and in high quality, I've actually never had to buy it before. I don't really analyze or take good tea notes, because Taiwanese tea is something I drink when I want something comforting. It's my macaroni and cheese for all intensive purposes.

But I recently sat down to some tea from Stephane over at Tea Masters, and I've been very impressed with the one offering of his that I've tried so far: the 2009 Fall Hong Shui Oolong. I don't have much experience with Hong Shui Oolong, and the other one I've tried was Floating Leave's Spring 2009 version. There were some general similarities, but I found Stephane's Hong Shui to be more to my liking. They both have higher oxidation, with a light roasting. The oxidation in Stephane's Hong Shui seemed more "in-your-face." It reminded me a lot of my 1996 Jin Xuan, which also has fairly high oxidation.

One of biggest criteria for any tea is good mouth feel and lasting aftertaste. This tea fulfills both requirements. Thick and lush in the mouth, the after taste lingered for almost forever even after my session was done. Durability was pretty good, and it extending upwards to 10 infusions before giving up completely. There was a ripe fruitiness in the brew, but it was more mellow and "tamed" compared to the one Floating Leaves offers. Whereas Floating Leave's Hong Shui seemed more refined and elegant, Stephane's version seemed a little more brash and masculine, richer in flavor, which is the kind of thing I like.


Stephane said...

I'm glad you liked this tea. I think that what you felt with the exuberance of this tea, the fruitiness and more masculine character has a lot to do with the season it was harvested, autumn.

However, I don't understand exactly how a tea that you find more 'tamed' and mellow would feel less refined and elegant? I think I have an idea, but maybe you want to elaborate on that first.

Bret said...

Hi Maitre, Nice post. I keep forgeting to tell you my impressions of the 1996 Jin Xuan, exellent! I remember that it had been a long time since having a really good Taiwan Oolong and that really sparked my interest again. What suprised me was how the tea had reatained it,s fresh flavor. The first infusions are just teasers for whats to come in the later infusions with that tea, very durable. None of the undesirable flavors that are often found in aged oolongs. You wanna sell some of this? If so, let me know.

Maitre_Tea said...

the tamed and mellow applied only to the ripe fruitiness in your Hong Shui in contrast to the one from Floating Leaves. I refer to the tea as brash and masculine because the mouth feel and flavor seemed stronger and more potent.

I hope this might clear up any misunderstandings. I enjoyed the tea very much, and I find it difficult to analyze a tea's parts sometimes. Just enjoy it!


I'm afraid that the amount remaining (about 300 grams) is going into storage to be aged. I'll send you a sample in a few years or so. I think the fresh flavor was probably retained with the help of a vacuum sealed bag.

Bret said...

Thats cool. Have you ever aged your own teas before? Ive thought about aging some of my own but was reluctant to try it. I know that you have to start out with really good quality tea, keep it in an air tight container, but vacuum sealed bags are not air tight. However nitro flushed bags are. I am afraid that I would ruin what was some really nice tea. Ive read Guangs instructions for doing this but according to him they need to be either re-dryed or re-roasted from time to time, thats the scarry part for me. Lacking any experience with tea aging every step of the process I would just be guessing at all the when and how long and when to stop issues.

Maitre_Tea said...

technically no, since I've only just started them. I think you want it air tight but not vacuum sealed tight though...those ceramic jars you see on Yunnan Sourcing and such should do the trick. Concerning re-roasting I just use the "keep warm" function on a slow cooker, which is what I did with the sample I gave you (I did give you a kinda roasted version, right?)

I think you need to look for a tea with a strong tea base, and good enough oxidation/roast. The jin xuan was fairly oxidized but low/no roast, so I gave it a slight roast to give it some legs. In addition to the jin xuan I'm also trying to age some cheap (but damn good) high roasted TGY.

I'm just doing this just to see, and I think it's important not to start with anything too expensive, at least until have enough experience. Sometimes "aging" a tea may mean letting a high roasted TGY rest for a while to recover from the roast. Some teas can take years (!) to mellow out, so if you have any harsh high roasted oolongs they may benefit from mellowing out.

Bret said...

I didnt detect any signs of being roasted. It smelled and tasted like fresh green oolong. This might be something I,ll try myself someday. Uptons usually has some good but affordable oolongs, that would be a good trial and error way to learn. Ive also bought some Taiwan oolongs from a local store that is supisingly tasty for the price. Both Li Shan and Dong Ding that sell for $9.95 for 100 gm. vacuum sealed bag. How long did you let the tea roast in the slow cooker? What criteria did you use to know when to stop roasting?

Maitre_Tea said...

I must have given you a greener version than. For roasting I put the slow cooker on the "keep warm" function and covered the top with sheets of clean, non-lined, paper. I played around a bit, putting it on a higher setting for a hour or so.

Don't be too greedy, which ended in a big big of burnt Dong Ding for my first try. Smell the leaf, look at the color, and do small batches at a time until you know what you're doing. Taste the tea in comparison to an un-roasted version to see the effect of what you're doing. Don't forget to stir the tea every once in a while. I think Rich from My Tea Stories has a few entries on roasting that are helpful, and I think so does Imen.

Personally, I think a Dong Ding would work better than the Li Shan, but you can experiment with both. I live in a pretty dry environment so aging oolongs is actually better for me than aging pu-erh.