Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Winter/Spring 2011 Shan Lin Shi Hung Shui Oolong

One of the difficulty in understanding tea is that there are so many parameters that vary from tea to tea. A good learning method is to compare 2 similar teas where only 1 parameter is different. Like this, most of the differences will be due to that parameter. For instance, to learn about the taste of winter and spring, we can compare these 2 Hung Shui Oolong from Shan Lin from this year:

1. Winter (left)
Cultivar: Luanze (qingxin) Oolong
Harvested by hand on November 10, 2011
Origin: Yang Keng (Shan Lin Shi)
Elevation: 1500 meters
Process: rolled Oolong with slow, medium roasting

Visually, what is typical to winter leaves are the white tips surfacing from the side of the rolled leaves. The colors are more vivid and varied.

2. Spring (right)

Cultivar: Luanze (qingxin) Oolong
Harvested by hand on April 25, 2011
Origin: Yang Keng (Shan Lin Shi)
Elevation: 1500 meters
Process: rolled Oolong with slow, medium roasting

The color is a more unified, yellowish green.  No white tips.

The lighter roast smell (milk chocolate!) of this spring Oolong seems to indicate that the winter version is more roasted, but the color of the spring brew is slightly darker. So, this is due to the fact that the spring Shan Lin Shi was roasted several months ago and the leaves had time to loose the superficial layer of roasting scent.

Winter leaves with tips between leaves
The fragrances of the spring brew are very intense and more flowery. The winter brew's fragrances are less exuberant, more forest and nuts.

The spring taste is light with a mild, sweet aftertaste. The tea flows easily and smoothly.

The winter taste has more tannins and body. It's sweetness has a darker character (sugar cane, brown sugar). The salivation induced by drinking this tea is stronger. The aftertaste is stronger and well balanced.

Such a comparison between these 2 Oolongs helps to clarify how the season impacts the tea. By focusing on this one aspect, we can go beyond simply saying which tea we like best. We achieve a clearer understanding of how the season impacts the growth of the leaves, their color, scents, taste...

2 comments:

Julien ÉLIE said...

A good learning method is to compare 2 similar teas where only 1 parameter is different.

How can you be certain there is no skew triggered by tea aging?
Here, you compare Spring 2011 and Winter 2011 in Winter 2011. Would the results me similar if you compare Spring 2011 and Winter 2010 in Winter 2011? or Spring 2012 and Winter 2011 in Spring 2012?

Winter roasting could mellow when aging. Spring lightness could be less pronounced in Spring.

Besides, one should note that our body also does not expect the same things in Spring and Winter. Our feelings could be skewed and more sensitive to one aspect when drinking in Spring, Summer, Autumn or Winter…


Anyway, such experiments are very good to do and promote. Thanks, Stéphane.
Happy brews and delights!

Stephane said...

Thanks for your comments, Julien,

You are right that there will be some skew due to aging. To minimize this impact, I used leaves from 2 vacuum sealed packs. With little air, the aging is slowed down.

I would get similar results with a winter 2010 vs spring 2011, I believe. However, I don't have a Shan Lin Shi from winter 2010.

I agree that no 2 teas are alike, even from the same season and plantation. That's why I wrote that 'most of the differences' will be due to the changed parameter. I didn't write 'all the differences'.

Thanks again and enjoy good Hung Shui Oolong!