Wednesday, February 19, 2014

1979 Dong Ding Oolong

Cultivar: Luanze (Qingxin) Oolong
Origin: Dong Ding area
Harvested in 1979!
Process: Strongly roasted Oolong leaves when the tea was young. Not roasted recently.
Aging: by the tea farmer who had forgotten about this tea.

1. Dry leaves
Usually, Dong Ding Oolong leaves are tightly rolled. However, over the course of 35 years, the leaves will unfurl little by little. They feel very light.

These leaves are a little bit like the 20 years older version of my 1999 Nantou high roasted Oolong. The color isn't as dark anymore. The scents are also less powerful, more refined. Dark dry wood, Chinese medicinal herbs... And there are still some roasted scents similar to my high roasted Anxi Tie Guan Yin. Overall, these fragrances are dark, sweet, warm and soft.
I should also mention that these dry leaves look and smell so clean that I don't rinse them.
2. Brew
Very good transparency (lack of turbidity) and shine. The color is rather brown and will turn lighter as the brews progress. 
3. Taste
When tasted in competition mode (3 grams for 6 minutes in a white porcelain set), the major defect that appeared is a 'Wuyi sour' note. It is typical for aged roasted Oolongs, and this expression was first coined in Wuyi (Fujian) about Yancha. This sour note will disappear after a while and be absorbed by the overall sweet notes of this tea. The aftertaste is long and mild. It leads to a comfortable warm feeling in belly.
When brewed with skill in a gaiwan or in my duanni teapot, the harmony of the taste improves, sometimes dramatically. The sour and mellow notes mix and melt on the tongue.
On a cold winter day, this is a wonderful tea to warm up. As I long for a summer feeling, I contemplate this Shan Shui landscape by Liu Songnian (劉松年, ca.1155-1224) on my Chaxi. This picture is the summer painting that is part of his Landscapes of four Seasons. This scenery is so warm, that the man finds refuge in the shade of trees near his house. He faces a lake and we can see mountains both in the foreground on the left and in the background on the right. These three layers are a classic Shan Shui composition.

The man, in his white dress, looks so small and insignificant in this vast nature... But he finds beauty and energy from the presence of both the tall mountains and the water. 

The cup on the copper chatuo almost looks like a boat floating on this peaceful lake. 

What's special about such old Oolong is how warm and relaxed it makes you feel. I had one of my best naps just after tasting this tea!
Some of the wet leaves open up very well and turn even slightly green again! It's interesting to see that 35 years ago, the Dong Ding leaves would be rather small and single leaf with fewer stems, compared to today's leaves.

As tea ages for such a long time, it's a normal part of the process that it should loose some of its original strength and substance. That's why it's important to select a great, powerful tea to age.
800 years later, a Sung dynasty masterpiece continues to please our eyes and soul with its beauty. When the quality is right, we are coming close to a timeless, eternal feeling.

That's the inspiration for this Chaxi: old accessories like my Yixing duanni, my plates, the Anping jar transform the tasting of this 1979 Dong Ding in an experience of timeless elegance and pleasure.


Steph said...

Question about you drink the tea in the photos, or does it get too cold? Sometimes when I'm taking photos, my tea cools too much. I need to learn to be faster. I don't want to waste tea and I don't like cold tea. ;-)

Stephane said...

I always drink the tea in the photos! It rarely gets cold. I take the pictures while the tea cools from too hot to good to drink. I don't take all the pictures for my article at once, but over the course of several brews.
Also, I take pictures when the teapot is warming up and there is no tea yet. This allows me to make my adjustments and know what I want to obtain. Then, once there's tea, it's faster to take the pictures.

Steph said...

Thank you!