Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Alishan high mountain Jinxuan Oolong on the lawn

Or how to seek a refreshing tea during summer in Europe.

The easy way to have tea in the garden is to brew a huge 1 liter teapot in your kitchen and take it to the garden!

Here, instead, I have set up a complete Chaxi. I am using a plank of wood on which I put a blue fabric. On it, we find:
- my kettle ceramic kettle on a stand with an alcohol burner under it,
- a celadon ever to add fresh water to the kettle,
- a small display plate for the dry tea,
- a bamboo mat in the center,
- a celadon 'lotus' teaboat by David Louveau and his matching bowl.
- an Yixing teapot made of dicaoqing clay,
- Dehua 'dragon' cups on top of handmade quilted 'flower' chatuo.
With this setup, I feel so much at ease that I sit down in the grass, because in my tearoom in Taiwan I also sit down on the floor most of the time. Here, there's the joy of touching the grass, smelling the flowers and all the vegetation around me. On a warm summer day, those scents can be pretty strong and will mix with the tea's scents. Some will compete and some will blend harmoniously with the tea, depending on which you choose. That's why I recommend to use more leaves when you are outdoors, so that the tea will be more expressive. I also think that since it's more difficult to get the details of the flavor, the overall character of the tea matters more. This isn't really the place for your most delicate Da Yu Ling Oolong: I'd have trouble distinguishing it from a good Shan Lin Shi here. But if it's hot, then a high mountain Oolong can indeed be very refreshing.

That's why I chose my Alishan Jinxuan Oolong for this brew. I used the winter version, but the spring version would have been a good fit as well. The creamy fresh green vegetation aroma of Jinxuan combined with the high mountain energy both waken up and cool down.

When pairing wine and food, a wine can taste great on its own, but may appear bland, insipid, if the food is too strong. Then, a cheaper, less subtle wine can be a better fit. A similar logic applies here.

Tea is best tasted without food. The pairing is more intimate for tea: the brew will interact with your mood and your surroundings (the weather, the season, the place, the guests...)

Preparation and reflection are the keys of success. Planning ahead of time what you want to brew, what you will need to brew will help bring the most out of your leaves.
Having everything I need next to me let me settle down -literally- and focus on my brewing. Starting with lighting the fire under the kettle is a good idea, because it will take at least 10 minutes for the water to boil. Then, in the meantime, you can arrange your setup in a way that everything is within the reach of your arms and so that it looks pleasing to see.
The size of these big and large leaves of Jinxuan Oolong indicates their high mountain origin. The leaves are thick, but still flexible. A menthol cooling taste lingers on the tongue when I breath in with my mouth. The freshness and vibrancy of a Taiwanese high mountain Oolong feels like a cool breeze this summer.
David Louveau's latest lotus bowl shines its quiet beauty on my Chaxi.

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