Tasting several teas at the same time requires a certain preparation: setting up the cups, weighing each tea, heating a big kettle of water, preparing to take notes... The pictures may look stylish, but the experience itself is rather stressful and opposite to my idea of enjoying tea. The stress comes from using a watch to time the 5 minutes long infusion and in comparing many teas at the same time (while they are getting cold...). Comparing teas side by side makes it much easier to say which one is better (or one prefers) when there are big differences. However, tasting several teas at the same time also means that some tastes are overlapping, since (good) teas have long aftertastes. So, you still have tea A's effects in your mouth while you start tasting tea B. This means that this kind of tasting is not going to give us a lot of details about a tea, but just the main characteristics. That's OK for today's post, because this is exactly what I had in mind.
I want to show an overview of Wenshan Baozhong and how roasting and age is affecting it. For this, I have grabbed the following 6 Wenshan Baozhongs (all luanze/qingxin Oolong cultivar) from my selection (from left to right):
1. Top grade Lily flower Baozhong of Spring 2007, a very lightly oxidized and not roasted Baozhong,
2. Qizhong Oolong of Spring 2006, a 30% roasted top grade 'subtropical forest' Baozhong (which is also a little more oxidized than no. 1)
3. Shou Cha of Spring 2006, a 50% roasted top grade 'subtropical forest' Baozhong (which is the maximum roast this farmer performs for new Baozhong)
4. Mid 1970s high grade Baozhong,
5. 1960s top grade Baozhong
6. 1960s old medium grade Baozhong
All teas have been brewed with 3 grams for 5 minutes.The result are colors matching the degree of roasting of each Baozhong. They really speak for themselves. We can also see that past a certain age (and roasting level) the color is pretty much the same.
The 'Lily flower' Baozhong has a clear and light color. It smells of flowers and fresh grass. The taste is smooth and soft. It brings a fresh a feeling of lightness and spring.
The Qizhong Oolong has a clear orange color. The scents are closer to light fruits, like apples or sweets. The mouthfeel starts to be rougher, more interesting and carrying heavier aftertastes.
The Shou Cha is clear light brown. I smell heavier fragrances like caramel or even Cognac. The taste is stronger and sweeter. The aftertaste lasts longer, but still carries a note of freshness.
The 1976 Baozhong is dark brown, a little unclear. There are strange Chinese medicine/wine smells. It is quite round and has more depth and complexity than the younger Baozhongs.
The 1960s top grade Baozhong is clear dark brown. It smells of old wood and old flowers. The taste is a little sour.
The 1960s Baozhong (this one is the oldest of the lot) is clear and darkest. It smells of old wood and tar. The taste is very sour, a sign that it has picked up too much humidity this summer (that bag was not sealed well enough). -Since I have very little left, I won't try to have it reroasted. I will just give free samples to let those interested understand what old Baozhong that has turned sour tastes like.-
Conclusion: Modern Baozhongs are mostly very green and smell like spring flowers. But Baozhong can be much more than that. Thanks to different degrees of roasting and aging, Wenshan Baozhong can gain new, stronger smells and longer lasting aftertaste. These roasted Baozhong are also better fits for the cold autumn and winter seasons.
Shou Cha leaves