Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Wenshan Baozhong in the Wenshan forest

When I take tea friends to an outdoor spot in the south of Taipei, I always treat them to a brew of Wenshan Baozhong (here, the subtropical forest of spring 2019). The number 1 reason is that when you are outdoors there, you can smell the same air, experience the same environment as the Baozhong leaves. And when they release their flavors, you realize that these flavors are like a mirror of the surroundings here! That's how you connect your tea experience with nature! The explanation is that tea leaves are so sensitive that they absorb many scents that surround them.
There's a second reason why Wenshan Baozhong is such an important tea in Taiwan and it has to do with history. Wenshan Baozhong existed long before the rise of Dong Ding Oolong (the competition only started in 1976) or High Mountain Oolongs (in the early 1990s). Baozhong dates back to the end of the Qing dynasty, end of the 19th century, even before the Japanese occupation of Taiwan (1895-1945). Baozhong started in the Nangang mountains, east of Taipei, then spread all around the city and then to Shiding and Pinglin. There was easier to move the tea to DaDaoCheng (the former name of Taipei) for roasting and then to the port of Tamshui and later Keelung for export. And when the Taipei Tea Merchants Association showcased its 'Formosa Oolong Tea' at various international exhibitions (Paris, Milan) in the first part of the 20th century, it is Baozhong that the people tasted and that collected first prizes!
Baozhong tea used to be processed very much like WuYi Yan Cha. We can still partly see this from the twisted shape of the dry leaves. What has changed, though, is the roasting level. Most modern Baozhongs are not roasted, but simply dried.
And I could verify on my German friends that the fresh, unroasted Baozhong pleased my younger guest the best, while the older guest preferred the roasted version! In any case, they enjoyed drinking tea in this outdoor mountain restaurant both before and after lunch! First to open up the appetite and later to help digest the meal!
Accessories: Yixing zhuni teapot, celadon singing cup, late Qing dynasty qinghua tea boat, Michel François jar and bowl, green variation Chabu, Japanese Chatuo.

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