Tuesday, October 13, 2009

1990 Spring Hung Shui Oolong from San Hsia

In order to study the characteristics and evolution of Hung Shui Oolong, I have brewed this 1990 Spring San Hsia Oolong (luanze Oolong cultivar, 2.5 gr) in the zhuni teapot and the 2009 Fall Feng Huang Hung Shui Oolong (same cultivar, 3 gr) in the competition set.

Hung Shui Oolong is the traditional process for Taiwanese Oolongs in the past. The oxidation level was a little higher than for today's mountain Oolongs (but much less than for Oriental Beauty). And the leaves were then charcoal roasted at low temperatures for a long time. The goal was to dry the leaves without burning them and while still preserving their freshness.

The dry leaves are not as tightly rolled as for a young Oolong. Over time, the leaves tend to unfold a little.
Their color is not black or dark brown, but dark green and grey with reddish stems.

The smell is intense and intoxicating. It has a deep, ripe raspberry fragrance at the center of more complex tertiary, post fermentation, flavors (river in the forest, wood...).

The color is dark orange, very clear and bright.

The taste starts pure and soft. It has completely mellowed down. The edges have been broken down and it glides, flows unhinged down the throat. The body reaction is positive and asks for more. Then comes freshness in the mouth and a very peaceful, relaxing Cha Qi. The aftertaste lingers with grace.

I let each brew go on for several minutes and what I get is always fine, sweet and delicious. This is a sign of perfection: being able to brew leaves as long as one wishes and still obtain a wonderful cup. It's also the kind of tea that I don't hesitate to brew for several hours (or a full night) at the end of my session, because even the last drops are an improvement over water.

On the left: the 2009 fall Hung Shui Oolong from Feng Huang.
The color of the brew is much lighter with yellow tones. The smell of the dry leaves is sweet and ripe from the charcoal roasting.
The dry leaves open up completely. They are very soft and are still green inside. But it's not a fresh green like it would be for a high mountain Oolong. This green has yellow tones more in line with its higher oxidation level.
This farmer has expert roasting skills!!

On the right, the 1990 San Hsia Hung Shui Oolong leaves also opened up completely. During the first brews, they appear dark brown/red, but they will slowly let appear a green color at the end of the session.

A close-up of both teas' leaves shows their similarities:

The 1990 Spring San Hsia Oolong is a good learning tea for advanced tea brewers to get an idea of how good Hung Shui Oolong can become after 20 years. It helps to understand what qualities can be enjoyed (purity, tertiary flavors, calm energy and returning freshness). But these characteristics don't appear by magic over time. To obtain a good aged Hung Shui Oolong, you need to select a young Hung Shui Oolong that was roasted, not burnt, so that it kept its freshness and life.

I will post more on the subject of aging Hung Shui Oolong. Please leave me your questions and I will try my best to answer them.


Anonymous said...

Merci Stéphane pour cette série d'articles sur les Hung Shui oolongs, âgés ou non...Mes questions :
- Le terme 'hung shui oolong' est mentionné dans le nom du thé ou un Dong Ding vendu comme tel peut être traité à la maniere 'hung shui' ?
- Les choses se passent de la même manière dans le vieillissement d'un pu er et d'un oolong ? (microorganismes, même conditions requises ?)


TeaMasters said...

Dans le temps, la grande partie des Dong Ding était faits à la façon 'Hung Shui'. Mais ce n'est plus le cas de nos jours. En plus, de nos jours, de nombreux marchands et vendeurs ne savent plus exactement quel goût le 'hung shui' doit avoir.

Le vieillissement est différent. Pour le puerh, l'air, la chaleur et l'humidité ne sont pas un problème, mais le sont pour l'Oolong. Le puerh est transformé par l'action de micro-organismes. Chez le Oolong, il s'agit d'une post-oxydation, une oxydation très lente qui se fait avec très peu d'air et d'humidité.

Karen said...

Oh, my.
I hosted an informal tea tasting at school for five colleagues on Wednesday, two of whom invited themselves along for the ride. The 2009 Autumn Hung Shui oolong was SUBLIME. My first-ever autumn oolong has, perhaps unfortunately, set the bar awfully high for future samplings. It blew everyone away.

Evan Meagher said...

I agree with Karen. I just picked up some of this year's Autumn Hong Shui today and enjoyed around 10 steepings this evening. A wonderful tea.

Anonymous said...

I'm one of the few these days who likes a heavier-roasted tea. I like oriental beauty more than any green Oolong, and I also don't mind a Formosa Fancy.

Karen said...

Evan, my experience was similar: it just keeps performing. This tea has incredible heart, if you will. A real standout.

Anonymous said...

A marvellous wulong. Pure and relaxing. Time is stopped when we drink it.