Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Summer High Mountain Oolong - Shan Lin Shi 2008

Can you spot which is the summer and which is the spring Shan Lin Shi Oolong?
The most sought after seasons for Taiwan's High Mountain Oolong are spring (around early May) and winter (around early November). This is the time when the days are warm enough for the leaves to grow and the nights cold so that the fragrance will be crisp, floral and fresh. Therefore, 99% of all High Mountain Oolongs sold in Taiwan are either spring or winter Oolongs.

However, tea leaves grow most in summer and they also need to be harvested to prepare the tea trees for the next season. And it's not likely that tea farmers will throw away these leaves, especially when they had to be harvested by hand. So, they mostly end up being sold as spring or winter Oolongs at lower prices.

Therefore, if you're a tea fan or tea taster, it is important to learn to recognize a summer Oolong. The best way to learn is to brew the same tea from the same plantation, but a different harvest time.

Here, the first Oolong (above on the left) is my Spring Shan Lin Shi from Long Feng Xia (1650 meters). It was harvested on April 30, 2008.
The second Oolong is from the same plantation, but its harvest date is July 2nd 2008.

Both have been brewed with 3 grams for 6 minutes (tea competition standard).

Visual differences:
- The darker brew doesn't necessarily means it's summer. Here, my spring Oolong is the darker one, because the oxidation was a little stronger than the summer Oolong.

- The size of the leaves is not necessarily a good indicator either. When the leaves come from the top of the pack (here summer) they are longer than those from the bottom (spring).

- The color of the open leaves: the spring leaves appear greener (despite a slightly stronger oxidation). The hot summer climate tends to make the leaves yellow!

Taste differences:
Summer Oolongs have a reputation of being harsh and bitter. This Summer Shan Lin Shi must be an exception! It is almost as mellow and smooth as its spring version. But instead of being light, it is full body.

Smell differences:
This is, in my opinion, the best way to tell that an Oolong is from summer. Due to the higher temperatures, the fragrances are not light and floral, but tend to be like wheat and ripe fruit.

Conclusion: I'm adding this Summer 2008 Shan Lin Shi Oolong to my selection. Not only is it a very nice High Mountain Oolong that brings a lot of sun and warmth in your cup, but it is also a useful tea to learn about the characteristics of summer Oolongs.

5 comments:

Salsero said...

Thanks for including a sample of this Summer Shan Lin Shi. The second infusion was a revelation, so aromatic and just as you say different from the Spring teas. It is not a pale reflection of the Spring tea, but a wonderful tea in its own right.

Anonymous said...

I'm curious about the competition standard of 3 gms for 6 mins. 1) How much water is sued? 2) Isn't 6 mins a long time to brew green tea?

Stephane said...

Thanks for your feedback, Salsero. This tea was a pleasant surprise for me.

Anonymous, the competition set cup has a volume of 12,5 cl and is used in all Oolong tea competitions in Taiwan. 6 minutes is long, but the point is to brew the leaves under tough conditions to see if it has defects. And also to brew all teas in a consistent way to compare them.

Soïwatter said...

Ça y est, après plusieurs mois où je me suis plus penché sur les Dan Cong, les Wuyi Yancha et les pu ehr cuit, j'ai enfin fait une dégustation comparée de cette petite merveille...

Je l'avais déjà goûté plusieurs fois et je l'avais trouvé délicieux, très coloré et chaud... Mais la semaine dernière, j'ai voulu vraiment voir ce qu'il avait dans le ventre et je l'ai comparé à mon SLS d'hiver 2007 (ça faisait un petit moment qu'un fond de paquet attendait dans mon armoire et dans ma tête, il s'était transformé en printemps... Étonnant, non?)

Tu as eu bien raison de le rajouter à ta sélection: ce n'est pas une pâle copie d'un printemps ou d'un hiver, c'est un thé avec une vrai énergie et une philosophie propre: un grand thé que j'ai la chance d'avoir goûté et pas seulement à titre de comparaison... Encore une fois merci!

En parlant du SLS Hivers 2007, j'ai à cette occasion redécouvert ce thé. Pour moi, c'était il y a six mois un thé avec un beau corps mais très fleuri et frais. Après ces quelques mois, j'ai l'impression qu'il a changé. Il a vieilli certes et pris un peu de sécheresse, mais la torréfaction semble avoir mûri et m'a donné des goûts plus chauds, plus capiteux et plus mielleux, beaucoup plus proche d'un Dong Ding... Cette dégustation comparée a donc été l'occasion de deux redécouvertes...

Stephane said...

Merci pour ton compte-rendu comparatif de ce thé sur ton blog, Soiwatter.