Thursday, September 20, 2007

Hsin Chu county Oriental Beauty

The following is a translation of recent important articles on Oriental Beauty. My apologies for using the same pictures again.

To understand why I chose to select an Oriental Beauty from the Hsin Chu county, you may want to read my Study of Oriental Beauty. Over the years, I had the chance to try Oriental Beauties from Wenshan, Nantou, Hsin Chu county and even China. I came to the conclusion that the best, most authentic Oriental Beauty Oolong comes from Hsin Chu County. This doesn't mean that they are all good in Hsin Chu. Bai Hao Oolong comes in many grade levels and a high grade Wenshan OB is most likely to smell better than a lower grade Hsin Chu OB. But at similar levels, I find the Hsin Chu Pong Fong Cha has its own character (the others often smell like imitations) and a wonderful balance between a sweet, fruity fragrance and a smooth and long aftertaste.
Above are a few pictures from a small town in the county where Dong Fang Mei Ren comes from.
This is the tea with the many names:
- Oriental Beauty, the name given by the queen of England
- Dong Fang Mei Ren, the translation back into Chinese,
- Bai Hao Oolong, Oolong with white hair/fur because of the white hairy tips of the dry leaves,
- Wu Si Cha, 5 colors tea, another reference to the many colors of the dry leaves,
- Pong Fong Cha, braggart's tea, because the first farmer who sold his 'damaged' tea leaves got such a high price for them that people back home said he was bragging.

Description of this Oriental Beauty:
This plantation uses the Oolong Da Pa tree, harvests the leaves manually in June, the best time for this tea. This Oolong is semi-oxidized, over 50%. But it has also been roasted mildly. This way it can be stored easier and longer.
Standard brew: 3 grams for 5 minutes in a white competition tasting set with just boiled water.

The color of the tea brew is a dark gold/orange. It has a nice transparency and shine. This is the mark of a well done tea. Fragrances: Fruity, sweet and honey. Besides, they are very pure and natural. There are no off or 'funny' smells. This is indeed the kind of beautiful classic Oriental Beauty I was after. (There's much more to say beyond these obvious observations. But I want to give everybody the chance to make his own discoveries).
Taste: A good balance and a hint of acidity. It's mellow and just a litlle astringency on the tongue. It slips very well down the throat. And then, this little astringency on the tongue seems to help retain the fragrances so that the aftertaste is long like a Marathon. The open leaves show the degree of their semi-oxidation Below, the arrows show where the leaves have been bitten by the tea jassids. This bites start the oxidation of the leaf and give Oriental Beauty its special fragrance.

This June, I had the chance to see the harvest on this plantation. The following pictures were taken back then:

These leaves have been damaged by the jassids. We can see it at the brown marks and by the shape of the leaves. Most tea farmers would be furious and use pesticides. But for Oriental Beauty, the farmers need the insects to achieve their distinctive, natural flavor. That's why they don't use any pesticides here. Usually, you need 3 elements to make tea: heaven (weather), earth (soil) and men (skilled farmers). This is not sufficient for Oriental Beauty. We also need the Jacobiasca formosana Paoli for their precious bites! That's also what makes this tea more special (and more expensive) than most other teas. These insects are (luckily) quite common during the warm months of summer. Insects like the warm and humid climate. That's why you find many more of them in the plains than in the (Wenshan) mountain or at high altitude. And that's probably the reason why Hsin Chu Oriental Beauty is the best.

(On the picture below, you can see 2 such tea jassids)

Despite a flat plantation, the harvests for this tea are made by hand, not mechanically. This is better for the taste of the tea and lets the farmer select the grade of leaves he wants to harvest.

Beautiful skilled hands in action!

These women on the fields are almost all over 50 years old. With their smiles, they are the other Oriental Beauties we need to make this tea!

This moment of rest is well deserved.

Remark: For your orders, this Oriental Beauty is packaged and priced the same way as the Spring 2007 luanze Oolong from Shan Lin Shi.

If you are still reading this long article, I will now consider that you are indeed very patient and interested in understanding and appreciating Oriental Beauty. I think you deserve to read and see this following Oriental Beauty, which I call 'perfect'.
These few leaves are the best Oolong I have in my selection. They come from the same plantation, the same trees and the same time as above. The tea in the cup is of a light golden color. The fragrance is so pure and concentrated that I prefer to brew it very light, using just a few grams and minute(s) long infusions. The result is this light and transparent color. The fragrance is beyond flowers or fruits: we enter the realm of perfume! And the taste is so sweet and mellow that all I start making the same noises as Meg Ryan in this scene of 'When Harry met Sally'. Humm, hummm, hummmm...
To understand why this Oriental Beauty is of such exceptional quality, you have to look at the open leaves: it includes only the most tender buds that have been bitten by the Jacobiasca formosana Paoli, the tea jassid. The touch of these leaves is so strong and elastic.

Such an incredible tea is not made by chance. This tea comes from a 3 jin (4 pounds only!) batch where only the best leaves on the field were selected. That's why the cost making this tea is so high. Only this kind of leaves were picked:
When the farmer showed me this tea and told me its (high) price, it was more to show me what he is capable of and make me tea happy than for business. With such confidential volumes, this is the essence of guanxi cha, a tea that you share with people close to you. So, he was really surprised when I told him I wanted to buy all of it! He looked at me with a concern he had trouble to articulate. Embarassed, he used a very polite and soft voice to ask if it were OK if I left him with 150 grams of this tea. Otherwise, he wouldn't be able to drink such a beautiful Oriental Beauty until next summer! Of course, I said!

This is really the kind of tea that one should save for a special occasion (birthday, Chrismas...) So, to give more people a chance to drink it, I have decided to package it using only 12 grams per pack. It is a good way to encounter tea excellence and have a glimpse at what angels must be drinking...


bejita said...

voici une partie d'un article de mon blog parlant de ce thé ( j'ai la flemme de réecrire un commentaire :-D)

"" 7 min dans un zhong de 10 cl .
on voit pourquoi on appelle ce thé thés aux 5 couleurs : les feuilles sèches sont magnifiques

durant l'infusion je me suis mis au dessus du zhong , et la j'ai senti .
j'ai sentit des arômes subtiles qui m'ont fait penser à une infusion de tilleul le soir , puis des notes de raisin blanc italien , et enfin vers la fin de l'infusion des notes de châtaignes ....
en sentant le couvercle du zhong pareil , avec une pointe de litchi entremêlée au raisin .
les feuilles après infusion sont belles avec des couleurs chatoyantes

la liqueur quand à elle est dorée , ambrée, telle une feuille entrant en période automnale

en bouche on retrouve en entrant en bouche ce parfum fugace de tilleul , puis le raisin et le litchi ( qui apporte une très légère amertume qui donne du " peps "au thé ) pour un finale de châtaigne et un goût epicé de type poivre qui n'en finit plus .
ce final est prolongé par une petite astringence ( pas une amertume ) qui laisse la langue légèrement râpeuse et qui " accroche bien les parfums du thé en bouche .
le nombre d'infusion , malgré la faible grammage , est hallucinant. Elle s'enchaîne avec une facilité et une constance étonnante .
après les infusion en regardant les feuilles on voit de petite boursouflures , des petites cloques qui ont du être provoquées par les piqûres des paoli .

ce thé , par ses couleurs de feuilles ( sèchent , puis humides ) , de liqueur , et par son goût me fait penser à la fin de l'été quand on entre doucement en automne . c'est un thé qui réconforte et qui apporte de baume au coeur en ce changement de saison ...

un thé que je vous conseille vivement .
Merci Stéphane pour cet échantillon qui m' a fait changé d'avis sur ce type de thé . ""

Ido said...

I can hardly wait to get my lips on this.

Its a great article


exstns said...

Less than 2 hours have passed since I received Mr. Erler's package and I am ready to place another order... I guess after finishing a cup of Bai Hao Oriental Beauty sample I simply can't imagine how the "perfect" Oriental Beauty can be much better. I'll just have to see and taste it for myself!

Sandra said...

Finally, a site that gives unbelievable information on tea and not a bunch of hype. I have recently began research on teas and their health benefits, but I have found a lot of commercialism and hype. Very well written post and I plan to follow your blog for more research. I'll be posting a write up of what I find here soon on my wu-yi tea

ronan.kerleo said...

Quelle découverte! Merci Stéphane.

Ce thé est une merveille de douceur. La subtilité des arômes ne s'éteint que trés doucement avec les infusions. Je trouve une grande constance dans le goût aprés 4-5 infusions. On peut même laissé durer l'infusion sans aucunes astringences ou autres amertumes.

Je l'infuse en zhong car je trouve que mes autres théières l'éteignent.
Quelle type de théière peut-on utiliser pour un Oriental beauty?

Stephane said...


Bonne observation. Ce thé (proche des thés rouges) s'infuse mieux en porcelaine qu'en glaise zisha. Utiliser une théière en porcelaine ou bien une glaise très dure comme la zhuni.

jeancarmet said...

En théière taïwanaise.
Une vraie corne d'abondance : ce thé tient les infusions d'une manière rare et sans baisse de régime. De plus aucun problèmes pour les pousser loin, très loin : l'absence d'astringence ou de dureté permet de s'afranchir des contraintes liées aux thés de qualités inférieures qui développent une certaine dureté lorsqu'on les poussent dans leur retranchement.
6g depuis ce matin 11h30...
Bravo belle trouvaille Stéphane. N'hésite pas à nous dégoter des produits rares il y aura toujours des clients pour l'exceptionnel !

Jacie said...

Je confirme ce que tous disent plus haut ; ce thé est inusable !
Je suis montée jusqu'à plus de dix infusions, et y'en avait encore. Et même une fois rincé par les nombreuses infusions successives, la poignée de feuilles a terminé sa carrière dans une grande carafe d'eau pure à tremper toute la nuit, donnant le lendemain une boisson très agréable. En quelque sorte, une belle façon de terminer cette dégustation inoubliable.

Car ce thé, je le confirme aussi, est vraiment exceptionnel ! C'est bien simple : d'ordinaire je ne suis pas fan de ce type de thé malgré les quelques expériences que j'ai eues avec des BO. Là j'ai vraiment apprécié. Fait en zhong, of course.
Comme beaucoup, j'y ai trouvé certaines notes fruitées (raisin notamment, mucat, chataigne...) mais ce que j'y ai trouvé - et c'est un ressenti très personnel - ce sont des notes finement chocolatée. Une sorte de saveur délicate, un peu poudrée mais du genre de ces chocolats surfins qu'on s'offre pour Noël.

Le raffinement et la qualité de ce thé m'ont laissée sans voix à part prononcer des "mmhhhh" admiratifs pendant toute la durée de ma dégustation. Et lorsque il n'y a eu pratiquement plus rien à tirer des feuilles, j'ai eu alors l'impression magnifique de m'être tapée toute une boîte de ces chocolats de fête, cette sensation de bonheur indescriptible qui accompagne la sentation de "repu" lorsqu'on a consommé quelque chose de très très bon.

Une autre caractéristique de ce thé : impossible de le rater ! Même en poussant les infusions on a aucune amertume, ni de note désagréble survenant, et juste ce qu'il faut de tanique pour velouter l'infusion.

Merci Stéphane, de nous avoir fait connaître ce bonheur. Comme tu le dit si bien "what angels must be drinking", ce thé nous a ouvert quelques instants les portes du paradis...

Karen said...

Stéphane was kind enough to provide a sample of this (the "non-perfect") in my porcelain tea box; this was my first time experiencing Oriental Beauty. I had a hunch this might be better brewed in my new gaiwan rather than my zhuni pot (which has thick walls), so I went with that. It's delicious and previous comments are spot-on--it just keeps giving, even after many infusions. Lovely fragrance with too many flavors for this rookie palate to identify as of this posting. The previous comment about soaking the used leaves overnight seems to me a good one, so I'm going to try it, too.