Friday, October 12, 2012

Oriental Beauty Quest Finale (Part 4)

Oriental Beauty plantation in Hsin Chu county
After part 1, part 2 and part 3 of my quest, let's have an epic battle between two winning Oriental Beauties: the one that shone brightest among the 11 samples I tasted in this quest vs. the one that I selected this summer!

The top sample had been the Bai Lu cultivar (see part 1). It's a new cultivar (No 17), created by Taiwan's Tea Research and Extension Station. It beat all other cultivars, including the traditional Da Pang cultivar (which is often used by Oriental Beauty farmers). But the reason the Da Pang performed badly was probably a defect (burned) during the process.
The second OB is the one I selected this summer. And it's a Da Pang cultivar! So, this will be a kind of second chance or rematch for this cultivar. Who will perform better? The new scientifically developed cultivar, or the traditional leaves?  Wenshan area or Hsin Chu county?

Bai Lu Oriental Beauty
1. On my left, the Bai Lu cultivar from summer 2010 in Wenshan.

The dry aspect shows 'fat', thick leaves. Their colors are varied and quite red.

The scent is very elegant and perfume like. Inside the preheated cup, it is the most intense.
Da Pang Oriental Beauty


2. On my right, the Da Pang Oriental Beauty from Hsin Chu County.
Hand harvested on June 15, 2012.

The dry leaves appear thin and lighter in color overall. I also notice considerably more 'hao' (hair) on the plate after putting the leaves in the cup.

The dry fragrances are somewhat more muted and remind me of milk chocolate and red fruits.

For this duel, I'm (again) using competition parameters: 3 grams, boiling water and 6 minutes of brewing.

Both brews come out very clear and transparent. The Bai Lu is a little bit more red, while the Da Pang has a slight greenish note (see the big cups below for best comparison).
Bai Lu vs Da Pang
Fragrances: the Bai Lu confirms its more intense and higher pitched scents. The Da Pang smells more like primary smell: red fruits and the OB plantation in summer. I find the same scents as what I smelled when visiting the tea fields and tea farm. These are very natural and pleasant scents, but they are less astonishing as perfume.

Taste: compared one against the other, the Bai Lu OB has an astringent taste and it feels much less sweet than the Da Pang OB. The Da Pang OB absolutely shines with its pure, clean and mellow taste and long aftertaste. It's like the caress of fine silk!    

My personal preference is the long pleasure I get from the taste and aftertaste with a nice smell. A more intense scent mixed with an astringent taste creates an imbalance between both senses. You are frustrated that you can't taste what you smell! In that regard, the Da Pang Oriental Beauty is more refined and harmonious. And, if you age it long enough, I'm quite sure that the fragrances will continue to (slowly) evolve towards more secondary and tertiary scents. In the meantime, it feels like a stroll in a low elevation tea plantation in summer!
Oriental Beauty plantation in Hsin Chu county

4 comments:

M. Handler said...

Forgive the off-topic comment, but I enjoy the large ginger jars in your tea room very much. I have been considering buying some for myself, to store the tea.

Is the seal airtight? If not airtight, what tea can you store in them.

Thank you for sharing the thoughts, and inspirational tea room.

Stephane said...

The seal doesn't have to be 100% airtight. I simply put a cup on many of my jars and it's enough. Of course, you don't want to store them in a place with a lot of airflow... If you're really concerned about the air, you can wrap the jar in a piece of fabric.
Thanks for your interest and kind words.

jellybaby said...

If this thread is still alive perhaps you could inform me what 'da pang' translates as?
I understand that there is a lot of Qing Xin variety tea grown in Taiwan, and that, typically, Bai Hao (OB) is made from Qing Xin Da Pang but I can't find what Da Pang means.
Thank you.
Nick.

Stephane said...

Hello Nick,

Qingxin DaPa is written "青心大冇" in Chinese characters.
There are several pronouciations for 大冇:
- Damo or damao in mandarin where mo means 'there isn't'
- Dapang, dapan or dapa in the hakka dialect. That's how farmers around Hsinchun talk, since they are of hakka descent.