Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Wu Yi tasting

Below are my tasting notes for 6 samples Blake from Yahoo!'s Tea-Disc has sent me (and 14 other participants). The 5 Wu Yi and 1 Taiwan Shui Xian samples all come from American retailers. I will keep their names quiet, because I don't want you to think I'm doing this just to criticize potential competitors. (For the curious, you can check Kim's and Kevin's tasting notes to compare with mine -and get the vendors' names). The teas are displayed in order from A to F from left to right:

Let's first start with the tools and method:

1. Warming of the competition tasting cup and bowl
2. Tea: 2-3 grams (I put one thin layer in the cup, using my sight to make the weight even)
3. Shortly boiled Volvic water in my iron tetsubin to brew all teas at the same time for 2 minutes.
4. I also use a Chinese soup spoon (plunged in hot water) to smell the tea (on the back of the spoon) and to drink a sip.
5. The dry leaves that remain come on the round white porcelain plate to be smelled.

Below a view from F, in front to A, behind.

A. Taiwan Shui Xian
Dry leaves:Rolled. Smell like fish, seaweed.
Spoon and cover smells:classic, roasted Taiwan oolong, nicely sweet
Tea soup clarity:OK
Taste:Warm, the mellow is stronger than the astringency. But a little dull.
Wet leaves:Huge hand harvested leaves. Such big leaves without buds show that these are older, lower quality leaves.
The roasting was OK and got the most out of these leaves. I almost liked it, probably because this Taiwan Oolong does taste more familiar than the Wu Yis I rarely drink.

B. Organic Wu Yi
Dry leaves:Long, but many are broken. Smell like honey, interesting complexity.
Spoon and cover smells:Pepper, astringency, reminds me of cheap raw puerh. Excessive or bad roasting
Tea soup clarity:Good: it's a little shiny
Taste:A little like red tea, sweet/sour. The tea is quite complex and tastes almost good.
Wet leaves:Machine cut. After a second brew, the leaves would disintegrate between my fingers: real organic leaves are usually stronger as only the strong leaves survive.
This tea is the only one I felt like brewing a second time (2 minutes again). The first brews had these back and forth between acidity, sweetness, fruit and honey that made it a little interesting. But there was not much more to get in the second brew.

C. Da Hong Pao

Dry leaves:Dark to green, long unbroken leaves. Light honey
Spoon and cover smells:Light honey and light sweetness
Tea soup clarity:Average
Taste:Few defects, but nothing outstanding either. There is a faint charming note of sweet honey.
Wet leaves:Uneven oxidation of the leaves. Some are red, some are green. Machine cut.
A tree that doesn't live up to its name.

D. Traditional Da Hong Pao
Dry leaves:Dark to red, long unbroken leaves. Burnt licorice
Spoon and cover smells:Pepper and cigarette butt. Charcoaled rubber. I start to feel bad already.
Tea soup clarity:Average
Taste:Horrible cigarette butt. I can feel how it irritates my stomach.
Wet leaves:Long whole leaves. I doubt they are from spring. Probably summer to be so bad.
On a positive note, you could use this tea if you have trouble digesting and are constipated. I had a nice sh.. after that. You could also prepare a cup to your best foe in the office just before his annual evaluation meeting!

E. Rou Gui

Dry leaves:open, short leaves. (Can't read my handwriting)
Spoon and cover smells:Smell like low quality lightly roasted Baozhong
Tea soup clarity:Below average
Taste:A hint of fresh oolong, not too much astringency.
Wet leaves:Machine cut. Mostly green and a little red.
Reminds me of the cheapest Dong Ding Oolong from a famous tea shop in Taipei.

F. Tieh Luo Han

Dry leaves:Smaller open leaves. Pepper smell.
Spoon and cover smells:Some sweetness. OK.
Tea soup clarity:OK
Taste:Very much like a red tea. Sweet and sour.
Wet leaves:Green and red broken leaves
This is way below Oriental Beauty/Bai Hao Oolong in terms of strength, finesse or complexity. Not bad, but really nothing to get excited about.

I didn't drink tea on Monday, so I was really thirsty for tea today (despite the 31 degrees Celcius in my living room). So, to close this tasting on a nicer note, I remembered that I have a Wu Yi Shui Xian in my selection. I tend to forget it, since it's also one that few people order. I even wonder if it's because it's so cheap (less than 0,1 USD per gram). So, I put a few gram in a competition cup and used the same water and the same brewing parameters.
The difference was striking! That's what I call roasting! A very full roast, not something that leaves the tea between two worlds green and dark. And I also realize that there is an adjective I didn't use for the 6 samples: long! This tea has a long and sweet aftertaste. Humm.
My Shui Xian is not a complex, delicate kind of tea. I would lie if I implied that. But it has strength and delivers a warm, mellow cup of honey, nuts and ripe fruit.
I was even able to make a second (equally good) and third brew (starting to fade) with 2 and 3 minutes additional brewing times.

Further, I think it's also a good time to announce that I have decided to add the tea competition accessory (1 cup with cover, 1 cup to put the tea and the display plate) in my selection. I think it's a great tool to evaluate the quality of tea and look for defects. If you have a gaiwan, you may not absolutely need it, but if you want to evaluate several teas side by side, then the best is to use the same standard tool as professionals.
It's price: 9 Euros or 10,95 USD, without transportation.


Anonymous said...

It's funny that everything you don't sell you will trash as crap. It's so predictable.

Anonymous said...

I love how you say, "I don't want you to think I'm doing this just to criticize potential competitors." Then you go on to trash all the Wuyi teas from the tasting, and rant about how fantastic your own shui xian is. Ummm, what was that about not criticizing competitors?

Stephane, will you PLEASE stop pretending that your blog is anything but a promotional device for your own tea? I don't really care for myself, but newbies may be taken in by the info you provide, and may inadvertantly wind up thinking you're an unbiased source of information.

If you want to promote your own tea, fine. Just stop this crap about, "I don't want you to think I'm doing this just to criticize potential competitors." Man, what a crock.

TeaMasters said...

Hi Anonymous,

Did you participate in the tasting? General consensus among the participants was that "the samples were subpar". It's the organizer, not me, who said this on Tea-Disc.

Please send me your address and I'll give you what I have left over from those samples and my Shui Xian and then you can taste for yourself.
What's really biased here are your comments: you criticize my opinions and integrity without knowledge of the specific teas I'm talking about.

Anonymous said...

I have tasted some of Stephane's tea, and they are of high standard, one you don't find easily out of China and Taiwan...
Moreover, if you looked a bit back in the blog, you would see that when encountering tea from that quality (those from M3T in France for example), Stephane does acknowledge the quality of it.

Anonymous said...

Now I know what to do on those days when indigestion lurks at the corner...I'll have a cup of traditional toasted rubber. As long as it's not used rubbers...

Aside from quality, I guess the question is also about the price being charged for these teas and whether or not they're being presented as premium products.

Anonymous said...

I concur with what Sebastien says: the teas Stéphane is able to get in Taiwan are well above anything available in the western world, unless you are lucky enough to live in Paris and are able to access the high-end wonders of La Maison des Trois Thés. I have ordered from Stéphane a number of times and have always been very satisfied; and I personally find the information on this blog to be exhaustive and clear. Bravo Stéphane!!