Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Spring 2009 Wenshan Baozhongs

Before I introduce the 3 new Spring Wenshan Baozhongs I selected, let me first give some perspective on this spring season.

Tea is amazing: it's not just that every season is different, even every day is different. The smallest changes of weather and/or process have big impacts on the taste and smell. This was especially true this year. The early spring started very cold and dry for longer than usual. Then we had several days of big rain. Since then, the weather has shown all possible conditions: hot and sunny, cold and windy, cloudy, rainy again... Unstable and changing would be the best way to describe the conditions tea farmers faced in the North of Taiwan this spring. That's probably why I felt that the quality of this spring's harvests varied even more than usual from batch to batch. 

Below, I brewed the 3 Baozhongs together: 3 grams for 6 minutes, competition style, to test their limits. The color of the brew is a good indication of the oxidation degree. The cultivar of all 3 Baozhongs is luanze (qingxin) Oolong.
From right to left:
1. 'Lily Flower' Baozhong. Hand harvested on April 4.

Light oxidation. Light floral and buttery fragrance. The taste shows a slight astringency, but also a lot of nice length. 

The leaves have been picked on a partial cloudy day. But you almost wouldn't notice it, because of the high quality of the making process. The leaves contains many buds. They are small and beautiful.

The result is very delicate, flowery and with a long aftertaste.

It is best brewed in a gaiwan (or zhuni teapot) with thin walls.

2. 'Young tree' Baozhong. Harvested on April 15.

Oxidation is the lightest of the three. Light floral fragrance and soft taste.

These leaves come from a new, organic plantation. Young trees are usually so delicate, that the stems are preserved to add depth and taste. This works very well in this batch: the taste is very mellow and calm.

The character of this Baozhong is very feminine.

Both this and the previous 'lily flower' Baozhong are nice alternatives to the more expensive High Mountain Oolongs.
3. 'Semi-wild' forest Baozhong. Harvested on March 27.

I chose this name (semi-wild), because the leaves come from an organic plantation mostly left alone (except for harvesting). 

Oxidation is strongest, more traditional. The smells are very natural and pure: those of the Wenshan forest. The taste is full body, mixing some astringency with unfolding, lingering aftertastes.

Its character is masculine. It's a very different Baozhong compared to the first two. The stronger oxidation level has replaced the delicate fragrances with more complexity and darker notes. It's very nice to taste it with its raw freshness. 

But the more I drink it, the more I believe this would be a good candidate for some more traditional roasting... (Maybe I'll have half of this batch also roasted. It could become more like the Qizhong. In 2007, I had part of semi-wild Baozhong 'honey' roasted. I just opened my last pack to check its evolution: it's very delicate and despite being 2 years old, it doesn't taste stale at all, on the contrary.)

All three Baozhongs have passed the test well. They still tasted good after 6 minutes infusion. They will taste even better when brewed with skill and heart.

Tasting fresh spring Baozhong is about the youthful energy of nature, green mountains. Somehow, if it were a song, it reminds me of this euphoric song, Allein, Allein.   


EnKoppZen said...

Some tea master indeed.
An excellent way of appreciating tea, just like this filmclips...


Sebastien said...

Hello, just a little comment about the Lily one I have just received today. Well, it was a flower explosion in the aroma cup. The flower taste is delicate. I began by a short brewing sequence 20' and found no astringency. Compared with other ones I found elsewhere, this Lily flower is a long way ahead. Thanks.

Karen said...

"Long aftertaste" doesn't begin to do justice to "the power of the Lily." Each infusion (I keep 'em short) gets progressively better.
Although soft, that feminine quality would seem to include knowing how to make "her" target continue to think about her when she's gone!