Friday, June 15, 2018

De la hi-fi pour mon Gao Shan Oolong

Oolong de Tian Chi du printemps 2018
Le rayon de soleil qui illumine le Chaxi met la pureté du thé et des accessoires à nu. Cette lumière resplendissante des premières heures de la journée exerce une fascination raisonnée et apaisante. Le cerveau cherche l'éveil, la clarté. Il est loin de vouloir s'enivrer, divaguer à la lueur tamisée d'une faible lumière artificielle avant de trouver le sommeil. Au contraire, le soleil des matins de juin éveille nos sens en les affutant, en les rendant sensibles aux couleurs vives et intenses. Dans l'ombre, tout est plus ou moins gris, indistinct ; cela fait appel à notre imagination pour compléter les informations qui nous manquent. La lumière révelle la vérité avec la plus haute fidélité! Elle est aux couleurs ce qu'un bon système audio est à la musique.
La pureté des Oolongs de haute montagne se marie parfaitement avec cet atmosphère ensoleillée. Leurs saveurs fraiches, limpides et pleines d'énergie correspondent si bien à ces rayons envoyés par l'astre céleste comme promesse de l'aube!
Cet Oolong de haute montagne provient justement de Tian Chi, lac du ciel, situé non loin de Fushou Shan, à 2260 m d'altitude. Chaque lever de soleil y est une symphonie pastorale où perce l'hymne à la joie! La beauté de ce Gao Shan Cha, nourri de rayons de soleil matudinaux, est qu'il restitue ce chant de montagne avec haute fidélité.
La porcelaine claire permet d'exprimer ces saveurs sans filtre. Et ce thé n'en a pas besoin, car sa première qualité est sa pureté éblouissante!

Monday, June 11, 2018

Brewing outdoors in Norway and elsewhere

Hakon from Norway sent me this picture and wrote the following note:
"Dear Stéphane,

Earlier today I sat outside reading your well-written newsletter for Spring 2018 and it inspired me to brew one of the teas I've bought from you earlier. It became an incredible tea moment and it felt almost magical when the rain started pouring down, which it hasn't for many weeks now. I thought I would like to share this with you and thank you for your inspiration. I included a picture to better share the moment.
Your teas have been greatly enjoyed. I'm also really happy with the classic teacups I got from you." 
Thanks a lot for sharing your positive experience with me and my readers via my blog. Brewing tea outdoors is something that I enjoy a lot and I am glad to see that I'm inspiring other tea lovers to give it a try. Here, a balcony is a first good step, since it means you're still reasonably close to a source of boiling water in your home! In your garden, you could use an electrical extension cord to boil water in an electric kettle.
When you're in a remote location, you can use the most traditional water boiling accessory in gongfucha: the Nilu. Or you can use a gas stove for camping.

A small kettle then makes a lot of sense with a gongfucha set: the water heats up quickly in a small kettle. (I remember one of my first outdoor Chaxi in a public park in Paris in 2009: the water in a big kettle was heated by an alcohol lamp and it took forever to come to a boil!)
Drinking tea outdoors is fun because it changes the way the tea is experienced and even how it tastes! Outside, the mind receives a lot more stimuli than in a room. There's more to see, the sounds of nature are much louder, there might be some wind, the temperature can vary greatly and there are plenty of scents emanating from the surroundings. If you brew your tea lightly, it is likely to feel subdued, because you can't notice its intricacies. Brewing tea outdoors, therefore, often means to brew your tea rather strong. 
 It's always a challenge and a balancing act to find the strength fitting your circumstances and the tea you're brewing. Some teas will feel more in harmony with your surroundings than others. I've shared my experiences with you in the past, but the best is that you find out by yourself which teas resonate most for you in a particular spot.
 Summer is quickly approaching, so I post these sunset Chaxi pictures from the beach in Kenting. They show that it's even possible to brew tea on a white sand beach. Bring extra cups, because tea isn't only connecting you to nature but will also help you make new tea friends!

Thursday, June 07, 2018

The good morning Oolong

When you have a large selection of teas in your collection, it's always a challenge to decide which tea to brew. This week, I had a top mountain Oolong every morning and it made so much sense! The month of May/June is called the 'Plum rain' season in Taiwan. Strong afternoon showers are quite frequent, even though, this year, these rains came rather late in the season. These rains have an impact on tea harvests. Since the mornings are sunny and the afternoons rainy, the pickers start their work early in the high mountains. That's why high mountain Oolongs are mostly picked in the morning under a clear blue sky!
A sunny spring morning on Lishan is a spectacular event. The colors are vivid, the air is crisp and nature seems to glow with pleasure under the first rays of sunshine. And it's that same feeling I get at 6:30 AM on my Chaxi this week.
On Monday, my bliss came from this spring's Lishan Oolong, harvested on May 15th 2018! Its elegant sweetness and thick aftertaste are so pure...

Tuesday morning, the sun was slightly veiled by high altitude clouds. That's when I chose to brew this spring's president tea (next to the white house on the picture!) It's the tea from Fushou Shan, the plantation with KMT connections and supplied to Taiwan's presidency. Its reputation crosses party lines in Taiwan and if the current president Tsai wants to gift some tea to an important emissary, there are good chances that it would come from plantation!
This Chabu lets the mind travel to a high Chinese mountain surrounded by water. The blue colors fit well with the pure feeling I wish to recreate. It's as if there were 3 suns, one in each cup!
This spring's Fushou shan has produced another impressive high mountain Oolong!

On Wednesday morning, my daily dose of tea came from DaYuLing 93K. Méav's beautiful and pure voice accompanied this moment thanks to her first Celtic album. To emphasize the purity and lightness of this tea, I was brewing it with my silver dragon and phoenix teapot. The first 2 brews were almost magical.

These 3 Oolongs come from elevations above 2000 meters. They share a lot of similarities, since they were harvested mid May, just a couple of days apart. Their aftertaste is particularly thick and their energy powerful. This is this year's attribute for this type of top altitude Oolongs.
But no matter if you use an Yixing zhuni, a porcelain gaiwan or a silver teapot, it's possible to enjoy their fine aromas! What doesn't change is the necessity for a preheating the tea vessel well, because the the large rolled Oolong leaves need energy and heat to unfurl, especially on the first brew.
It's a wave of freshness that comes from Da Yu Ling! (The Fuji mountain on this Chabu is also a little reminder that Taiwan used to be Japanese from 1895 to 1945.)
Majestic cedar and pine trees are growing around the Da Yu Ling tea plantations. Their long shade reach down to my high mountain Oolong Chaxi!
When a cup is a trip to a sunny morning peak...