Monday, October 27, 2008

Sunday Cha Xi

For this Cha Xi, I have chosen my 'subtropical forest' Wenshan Baozhong from spring 2008. I chose my ivory white porcelain gaiwan to brew it. Its thin walls help to underline the light fragrance. I'm using a tea quilt that my mother gave me. The inside stitching are Japanese patterns that look like waves. The jar and the used water bowl come from Michel. Tea and accessories complement each other harmoniously.

Using a gaiwan makes it easy to see the fresh leaves open up. It's also easy to smell under the lid and smell the wet, hot leaves. We can learn a lot from these smells. What do you learn when the lid smells bad and the leaves smell good (or vice versa)? And is it a problem if spent Oolong leaves smell nice (after you have removed them from the gaiwan and you're about to throw them away)? I now let you post your thoughts and will answer these questions in a day or 2.
UPDATE. Here comes the answer: One interesting observation is that the lid and the leaves smell differently most of the time. (This is especially striking with roasted Oolongs, old puerh. With fresh, little processed leaves, the smells are more similar). The smell of the lid gives us a good snapshot of how the brewed tea smells in the cup. Therefore, a lid that smells good is an indication of a good tea and/or good brewing. If at the same time the wet, hot leaves don't smell that good, it's no problem: the brewing was successful at keeping those bad smells in the leaves.

An unsuccessful brewing would be when the leaves smell good and the lid (= tea in your cup) smells bad! The bad came out of the leaves and the good remained inside. Luckily, this is something that has never happened to Youlong! Congratulations. This was the best answer.

15 comments:

Laurie E. Miller said...

For the teas I've been drinking, the leaves always still smell good when I throw them away. Since I'm so new to tea, I just assumed that was part of the fun of studying the opened leaves.

Anonymous said...

Hi Stéphane,

I would suggest if the lid smells bad but leaves smell good the tea could have some unpleasant highly volatile notes OR the brewing temperature could be too high for that particular tea. If it is vice versa it would be worse case for us as the tea is probably bad. Good tea is supposed to smell nice or at least neutral no matter what.

If spent leaves still smell good they have probably still some power to be steeped. We should play a little bit with steeping water temperature or time for next brewing session OR go for next brewing round....

Laurie E. Miller said...

That's certainly an interesting thought, that if the leaves still smell good the temperature of steeping is worth investigating further.

For the greens I've been drinking (I know little of oolongs yet and nothing of pu ers), good-smelling leaves doesn't indicate more infusions; I'm very fond of the more delicate notes that come out in later infusions and tend to keep going until there's nothing left, and yet the leaves still smell good. I'll keep that in mind for oolongs though, that if the leaves smell good try another infusion to see.

This is a wild guess, since the teas I do know always smell good in both the leaves and the scent of the gaiwan lid, but if the lid scent were unpleasant in an aged tea, it might indicate something that happened in the aging? Perhaps a poor storage environment exposed to odors might be most easily detected this way?

Elton said...

The teas I buy from you always smell good, even after being put in the organic waste bucket for a week! I think if the smell under the lid is bad, it could be the water was too hot for steeping and the leaves have been stewed. Perhaps the timing of lifting the lid would tell something as well, whether you lift the lid at the beginning of the infusion or towards the end? Interesting question.

youlong said...

I have never experienced bad smelling lid with good smelling tea leaves. However, I almost always encounter a good smelling lid with relatively bad/sour smelling tea leaves. I don't take this a defect since it is almost always the case.

Anonymous said...

herr erler,

i really like your mother's quilt, the repetitive wave pattern is quite hypnotic. a splendid combo, good tea and a feeling of being in a state of oneness.

namaste!

Cecil Hill said...

Thanks for the tea information. I am a little saddened, though, that I did not learn French very well eventhough my mother was a French teacher. Saddened because I am unable to read many of your inputs. You are one of the sites I keep a close eye on. I am new to tea (I used to think Lipton was tea) and my wife and I are now very much into the tea culture here in China.

Thanks again for your outstanding blog and inputs.

Stephane said...

I read lots of interesting answers already.
Laurie already learned that if the leaves still have smell, there is still more that one can extract from them.
I will post my answer in 1 day.
I hope you like my new banner! It is a picture taken in Yiwu (Yunnan) by my friend Philippe Coste.

Karen said...

Your timing is perfect, Stéphane; Amy and I were enjoying a virtual tea session just the other day and I suggested that she sniff the lid of her gaiwan.
Incidentally, everyone to whom I serve it loves your Oriental Beauty! I'm happy to have it on hand. And as per one of your other readers, I now always soak my used leaves overnight in a covered container in the fridge for next-day iced tea. Today's selection was yesterday's semi-wild baozhong. :)

Soïwatter said...

Stephane, your new banner is simply wonderful. But what is written on the red seal?

Karen, I also tried this summer overnight cold steeping of "worn out" leaves (And when I say worn out, it is not an euphemism after a dozen of brew...) This led to perfect results with Stephan's Feng Huang Dong Ding or Guei Fei Cha. With Baozhong (Lily flower), I found it a little oversteeped, with traces of harshness and too spicy, but flowery flavour had disappeared (due to the many brew).

Stephane said...

Soiwatter,
The seal on the banner is 'Cha zhi Le', which means Tea Happiness (le bonheur est dans le thé). It's kind of my slogan and a play on words with the translation of my family name in Chinese: Erler became Le, happiness. So it could also mean Mr. Erler's tea!

ginkgo said...

quel changement avec cette magnifique photo et ton logo ! splendide...tout un monde de sensibilité, de beauté, entre l'eau qui s'évapore et la terre qui nourrit les plantations. cela rend hommage aux thés que tu vends et à ton blog ! bravo.

Laurie E. Miller said...

The new banner is breathtaking.

My latest thought on scents: If the leaves in the gaiwan smell significantly richer than the lid scent, I probably haven't hit the right brew parameters yet.

I'm typing this as I do my first experiment with the spring 2008 lily flower baozhong -- I keep coming up with lily-flavored water, while the leaves smell much more complex than that.

Audrey said...

That's one thing I've been wondering for a while : how can "Erler" translate into "Le" ?? I tried translating my name once(www.chinese-tools.com/names) but I don't understand that either.

J'adore la nouvelle bannière en passant : la simplicité, les contraste, le placement du nom et la seule touche de couleur apportée par le très joli sceau. Superbe !

Stephane said...

Audrey,
The translation happens often in a 2 steps process:
1. Chinese family names are 99.9% only 1 character. So first I had to reduce the name Erler to 1 significant syllable that can be spoken in Chinese. 'R' is a sound that isn't easy to pronounce here. So, I reduced Erler to Le.
2. Pick a name with a good meaning and that can be used as a family name. Happiness, pronounced 'Le' was perfect. (If you can't find a good, pleasant name, go back to step 1 and try something else!).

Thanks for the praise!