This week, one of my tea highlights was brewing this 1979 Hung Shui Oolong from Dong Ding (available here). Tasting an aged Oolong is always a special moment, but it's also a challenge to brew it well. Hungshui Oolongs need more attention and practice than other teas.
Oolong leaves that have patiently waited for 35 years have a lot to tell. I feel they are meant for a beautiful Chaxi. Without checking how I prepared them last time, I opted for the same old duanni teapot!
I am very pleased with the pictures I obtained. They reflect very well the clarity and shine of the tea. The first brew is very dark and full of flavors, but at the same time it manages to stay very smooth with a typical Wuyi suan (acidity) that turns into sweetness.
A perfect cup of tea requires an alignment of all the elements that go into a tea. There's always a weak link somewhere. For some, it may be the quality of the leaves. Or it's the tea ware that is not a good fit. Or water that is too heavy... Very often, though, the problem is the brewing itself. That's why tea drinkers will find that they obtain different results with the same tea and everything else the same. (If you're in a tea class, this is one of the most interesting finding: when everybody brews the same tea, it tastes differently!)
For this article, I made an experience, brewing these leaves with my silver teapot. In theory, an Oolong with a strong roast shouldn't be brewed with a silver teapot, because the fiery taste won't be mellowed down by the silver. On the contrary, the high heat conductivity will magnify this taste. So, in order to avoid this defect I used fewer leaves than with the duanni and I poured the boiling water very slowly in the teapot. These changes helped to make the brew well balanced. It wasn't perfect, but it's still very, very enjoyable.
My point is not that I am a perfect brewer. If I continue to take classes, it's because I feel there's still much for me to learn and improve. What's fun is to be able to feel the progress!
Pure, sweet, lively. The characteristics of a good cup are easy to summarize and so hard to obtain! But sometimes you do...
I live in Taiwan since 1996 and have been studying tea with Teaparker. He's a worldwide tea expert and author of over 30 tea books. The study of tea isn't just theoretical, but it's also rooted in daily practice. It's a path of continuous improvement. As my brewing technique improves I get access to better teas and better accessories. These things go hand in hand. My blog documents my learning since 2004. And I have set up an online tea boutique with my selection of top quality teas, accessories and tea culture.