Monday, November 19, 2018

Wojciech Bońkowski, Polish wine taster

Wojciech Bońkowski is a professional wine taster from Poland who has a strong interest for tea. We've been in contact for a decade before we finally met last week!

For our first meeting, we went to a traditional tea house and tasted the most complex type of teas: roasted Oolongs. Oolong tea involves the most skill, because its oxidation level and its roasting level both vary. (For green and red teas, the oxidation is either nil or 100%, and the roasting is mostly light). The other complexity of tea vs wine comes from the fact that tea must be brewed, while wine just needs to be cooled to the proper temperature and served in suitable glasses (and sometimes it also must be decanted). To do a professional and meaningful tasting, I used a porcelain gaiwan most of the time, but I also brought a zhuni teapot to show the impact of the Yixing clay on the taste of the tea.
 After tasting a Wuyi Yan Cha, the ancestor of Oolong, we explored its Taiwanese cousin: Hung Shui Oolong from Dong Ding. We had the winter 2017 version and then the spring 1999 version in order to discover the impact of aging on Dong Ding Oolong. The aromas were very much transformed. They had much more fruit and less roasting scents. However, the structure of the taste, of the mouthfeel remained very similar.
Next, we had my summer 2018 imperial Oriental Beauty from Hsin Chu. It's a great tea on its own, but it was too different from the previous Hung Shui to teach us much. In retrospect, I should have brewed the summer 2018 zhuo yan Oolong from Dong Ding. This would have shown how jassid bites in summer impact the aromas of a roasted Dong Ding Oolong. We would have stayed much closer to our subject and would have explored the Dong Ding terroir from another interesting angle.
Tea plantation in Wenshan
 The next day we were very lucky: it was the nicest day of the week and I showed Wojciech the most scenic spots around Pinglin.
Tea plantation in Wenshan
 He was pleasantly surprised by the small size of the tea plantations and the fact that the forest covers most of these hills. There's no intensive agriculture in the Wenshan area, because the river behind us is the source of one of Taipei's water reservoirs.
 We move aside to give you a look at one of the best photographic spot:
 There's a saying in Taiwan: good water from the mountain makes good tea.
Wenshan Baozhong doesn't grow at a high altitude, but the plantations can have steep slopes nonetheless!
Wojciech is enjoying the view.
  Let's also notice that there are barely any fall colors in Taiwan. Mid November, the forests are still completely green.
 In the tea bushes, however, we notice a great amount of tea flowers.
 Their petals don't stay fresh very long.
 Despite the magnificent weather, we couldn't see any harvesting or tea processing. So, we turned to plan B, a tasting of some of the best teas from my selection surrounded by tea!
 We started with the excellent semi-wild Wenshan Baozhong in order to connect the tea with our surroundings.
 We brewed mostly with this ivory white porcelain gaiwan.
 This was a good opportunity for Wojciech to experience my brewing method. But I also let him practice and saw that he has a very sure hand!
 Next, we went straight to the top, to my preferred high mountain Oolong, from Tian Chi.
 It has very delicate and fresh aromas. The taste is sweet and elegant. The brew is light gold and wonderfully transparent.
 How can you unpack even more qi from tea leaves after that?
 The answer is these few leaves of my 2017 gushu puerh, brewed in a silver teapot!
 The brew's color, clarity and shine says it all:
 It has an amazing sweet taste with very little bitterness or astringency. So much purity and power is so rare in a puerh.
 A great tea that is shared with a connoisseur who can appreciate it on such a day. Can you imagine how much bliss we felt?!
 The beauty of the silver teapot and kettle finds an echo in nature.
 We go back to the gaiwan for the happy end.
 The early 1990s Luyin puerh.
 Again, the color is wonderful again. The hue is much darker, but not black!
 It lightens up for the third brew.
 The impact of so many good teas on the mood is summarized by this photo!
 We finished our long day with this bottle of Alsace Riesling from Domaine Ostertag. After showing Wojciech around in the world of Chinese teas, he gave me a taste of my home region.
With tea and wine, our taste buds traveled around the world! Merci!


Anonymous said...

Hi Stéphane and Wojciech,

Happy that you finally do a tasting together in a so beautiful places :)
Yes Wine and tea :)
After that, you need to compare a Oriental Beauty Imperial that you tast and a great aszu wine like Barta 2013/2016 or Hetszolo Nagyszolo 6p 2013 for example :)
Cheers !

TeaMasters said...

Thank you Olivier!
Wine and tea speak the same language, indeed.
Thanks also for your tip for pairing Oriental Beauty with an aszu wine. They are not so easy to find in Taiwan, but I'll try it when I get the opportunity!

JR Vitug said...

great blog!