Last Saturday, I went to Pinglin, the tea capital of Northern Taiwan, also called the Wen Shan region. Pinglin is now the main production area for Baozhong teas. It's also home to a nice tea museum.
SO, I stopped in the store of a local tea producer, Mr. Feng (with his wife on the picture). They are friends of Teaparker and remembered that I came last year. I stayed over 2 hours trying their spring 2006 teas. I only chose the best (and most expensive, competition teas' aside). These ones were all picked either on April 21st or 22nd, just before the week of rain, which started on April 24. Here they are (from left to right):
1. 'Lily flower': this baozhong is very lightly oxidized, even less than usual. The goal is to come close to the smell and taste of high mountain oolong. These are the currently 'in' flavors. So it's with this type of baozhong that Mr. Feng participates in tea competitions. (This year, some of his batches got second and third place in Pinglin's competition)
2. 'Subtropical Forest': This baozhong is more oxidized than the first and reveals smells more typical of the mountain forrest of Wen Shan. It's a more traditional baozhong. It is a little acid and will make you salivate. Another difference with the other baozhongs here: the final selection for the highest grade of leaves was done by computer instead of by hand. Thus, it's leaves are a little smaller and the same weight will hold in a smaller volume. You have to tae this into account if you use your dight to determine how many leaves you put in your gaiwan.
3. 'Honey' is based on a traditional baozhong that Mr. Feng has slightly roasted (10%). This baozhong remains very light, but it's taste is sweeter and warmer.
4. 'Qi zhong oolong': Master Feng roasted this baozhong at 30%. The color starts to turn orange and the flower smells are replaced with fruit (melon, peach) smells.
5. 'Shou Cha': using a 50% roasting, we have now a ripe oolong. It's a little nervous, because the roasting happened very recently, but it's more mellow and full bodied in the mounth. Also, this kind of oolong is more easy on your stomach.
All these 5 teas come based on the same oolong tree: Qingxin oolong. This selection shows the range of variation in smell and taste you can obtain using different oxidation and roasting levels.
It was very hard for me to pick a favorite to add in my selection. So, instead, I decided to buy some of all.
Update: after tasting the teas at home, I have selected the 'Subtropical forest' as my top quality baozhong. It's the one that smells and tastes closest to its roots, the forest of Wen Shan.
I also select the 'lilly flower' baozhong of superior quality as an value alternative to the always expensive high mountain oolongs.