Tea tree kind: luanze (qingxin) Oolong
Harvest: Spring 2006
Origin: Wenshan, Northern Taiwan
Roasting: Spring 2008, medium strength
Semi-oxidized tea in the Wenshan area looks like Fujian's WuYi YanCha. The dry leaves are open, slightly bent. But while WuYi teas are still mostly roasted, Baozhong has followed the taste of Taiwan Gao Shan Oolong and is essentially sold unroasted (or just quickly dried). This explains why roasting skills are better in WuYi than in Wenshan.
Last winter, I gave a sample of excellent, roasted WuYi Rou Guei YanCha to my Baozhong supplier. He wanted to know how such tea should taste like. He loved that tea. Usually he's rather cool and doesn't show his emotions. But his face lightened up when he talked how good that tea was, how the strength of the fire was well balanced with the taste. He told me he was so impressed, that he changed the way he roasts his Baozhongs after this. Before, he would push the roasting higher and higher as the leaves got used to the high temperature. This time, he said he reduced the temperature at the end of the roast.
He must have done something right, because it does taste much calmer and sweeter than the previous Qizhong Oolong I had.
The color of the brew is a clear, light yellow gold. This Oolong is very interesting also, because it starts with roasted, sweet, nutty notes and finishes with a green fresh taste. This finish is very tannic. My mouth wants to salivate, but feels a little dry. This feeling lasts quite long. Then it slowly recedes and I reach for more. After several brews, the finish is almost like a raw vegetable. It still has a little bitterness (ku). Brewing this tea is like peeling the roasting away. The tea seems to rejuvenate after each infusion. (It reminds me a little bit of Ai Jiao Oolong.)
I have tasted this tea competition style, in a gaiwan and in a flat, small Yixing zisha teapot (see below). I liked every cup. The gaiwan made it lighter, more fruity and green, while the teapot made it rounder, deeper.
Each vessel underlines a different character of this tea. The way you brew the leaves can also contribute to highlight this:
- To bring out its 'fruity' side in the gaiwan, you can brew it lighter (a little less leaves and much shorter brewing times). The water needs to be very close to boiling (because porcelain cools down faster) and pouring of the tea needs to be fast (adjust the lid so that you get a big enough opening). Try to find extra thin cups.
- To bring out its 'mellow and rich' side in the Yixing teapot, you can brew it stronger. The water must have boiled and show sign of steam, but it doesn't have to be as hot. Pour the tea slowly after a longer brew. You can use cups that are a little thicker.
A flat type Yixing zisha teapot is a good fit for Baozhong and all Oolongs that are not rolled. The one I used weighs 93 grams for 10 cl and has a ball shaped inside filter. (When the leaves are big and whole -like for this Qizhong Oolong- an inside filter is not necessary.)