Friday, September 25, 2009

Wenshan Baozhong of 1983

Cultivar: luanze (qingxin) Oolong
Harvest: 1983
Origin: Pinglin, Wenshan (Taiwan)
Storage: by a traditional merchant who also roasts his teas. The tea was stored in bags, not in a ceramic jar. Last roasted in early 2008.

These dark brown and black Baozhong leaves smell sweet and a little sour, like old wood and plum. These scents seem to be fading and don't have the directness of fresh fragrances.

The brew is clear and transparent. The color a dark brownish orange.

The taste is sweet and just a hint of sourness. And in the later brews, it turns more alive and fresh. The aftertaste is low key, persistant but more like an echo dying away.

The overall feeling is mellow. It's a tea that warms up and calms down. It smells of old wood, but ends up tasting fresh.

The Qing dynasty cup stands on a 'flower' Bei Dian made of old Japanese fabric. They are a nice match with my quarter century old Baozhong. My mind travels in time with this Cha Xi.

The yellow oncidium orchids are so bright! For whatever reason (contrast, color, size) they bring life to this composition. The old comes alive again. And indeed, I touch and play and drink from these cups!

The mandarins were inspired by the tea they drank and wrote poems. I am not that gifted with words. But I also feel the need to capture this wonderful moment with my camera. Maybe it's a way to give back to the world the happiness I felt?

The spent leaves have opened up. They may be just a little bit hard due to the roastings they endured. The color isn't just black anymore and is turning slightly to dark green now.

It's important for an old tea that some freshness is still preserved under the layers of roasting and post-fermentation. This tea has lost a lot of energy over the years. Some loss is unavoidable and translates into this rounder and balanced feel. But for most teas stored in bulk, the causes are also an imperfect storage that necessitates too many roastings.

With this tea, we are lucky. It has lost some strength, but the overall characteristics of an old Wenshan Baozhong are still there. But it's only a fraction of what one can get with a top tea that was properly stored (see my 1990 San Hsia Hung Shui Oolong as an example of a perfectly aged Oolong).

Another pleasure that comes with such a tea: it is so easy to brew! With a small quantity of leaves, I could go 10, 15 minutes without bitterness. The only difficulty is to resist the urge to put to many leaves. Half as many as with regular Baozhong is enough. Then, as each brew takes several minutes, one really has plenty of time to enjoy watching the Cha Xi!


8 comments:

Nerval said...

Yes, little leaf, long infusions. It reminds me of your 1976 Baozhong I've enjoyed (and blogged on) recently. Brewed gongfu style it was a little simple. With a single long infusion even on 1g of leaf, it is such a rich tea with plenty of complexity. Thank you for unearthing those rare old teas for us!

Celina said...

This is very informative post on tea brewing which I am trying to develop more with time.
Very beautiful orchids on the background.

Hélène said...

Hum !! J'en ai le thé à la bouche !

Es-tu proche d'un fleuriste ? ...
Tes présentations sont très chaleureuses, annoncent l'automne ici et vivantes, soutenues par les belles plantes que tu nous offres au regard.

Jennifer said...

lovely photos, stephane....
Also, can you tell me when is the best time to go to Taiwan this year to experience the Autumn tea harvest? Is late October/early November about the right time this year?

Stephane said...

Thanks Nerval and Celina!

Hélène,
il y a une fleuriste dans le marché traditionnel (en plein air) près de chez moi. Et comme j'y vais au moins une fois par semaine faire les courses...

Jennifer,
The 'autumn' harvest is more mid September. However, the time you mentioned is a very good time to catch the 'winter' harvest in Taiwan.
Have a nice time!

Sebastien said...

Hello, we probably will not have the chance to drink such a tea, but we can imagine what it could be. I just wanted to tell you that I prefer this way to present your tea. There is a lot of objects/graphic stuf but the composition is clear. Most of the time I found your compositions very symetrical with a strong emphasis on the centre. Here, in this composition, we can breath.

Jason Witt said...

I like reading about aged Oolongs like this just to learn more about it. This tea lost some energy? Is that about how it feels spiritually to drink it? Because that's what I seek out with aged teas--the spiritual feeling. --Teaternity

Julien ÉLIE said...

An interesting old wulong. The first two brews are a bit unbalanced (maybe because of a defect during its storage or roasting). I appreciate more the last brews. Oily and relaxing. Sometimes a bit of freshness. Impressive!