Thursday, May 20, 2010

20 years old Hung Shui Oolong

I like to translate Cha Xi with tea play. 'Xi' has is the same as a theatrical performance and it's something we do to enjoy. We play and we tell a story. The plot is the tea: each brew tells us something. Fragrances can disappear as quickly as the sound of a word, but the tastes can linger on as the deeper meaning of the story.

The main actor is the teapot. It's always center stage. Kettle, tea cups, jar, display plates come next. They all interact with the teapot to produce our story. Then, there are supporting roles: the Cha Tuo (that supports the cup) and the Cha Chuan (that supports the teapot) ; the Nilu supports the tetsubin here, but its part could be considerably enhanced if we used it to heat the tetsubin. And we have a stage that is designed in the same spirit as the tea we choose to make.
The 'acting technique' is called gongfu cha!

Today, my tea is the 1990 Hung Shui Oolong from San Hsia. This spring, this tea is now 20 years old. Happy birthday!

The dry leaves are quite relaxed about their age. They have unfurled a little bit with time. Their color is darker, but not black. Their smell is intoxicating, ripe fruit with a fine Cognac touch.

The main actor is a small Chao zhou teapot. Its deep red color stands out from the rest of the accessories. It's the star! The teaboat comes from David Louveau's latest set. With this tea and teapot, I decide to perform this gongfu cha in the Chaoshan style.

Open leaves.

The tea smells of raspberry, old wood. The taste is sweet and clean. There is also a dry rock taste that nicely lingers. As the brews progress, it lightens up and it feels like alive and fresh again. And it's amazing how long it can brew without ever turning bitter or astringent. And yet, it is sensitive to the brewing and it will become calmer if the water is poured slowly and steadily (after the second brew).

I'm using simple but old white tea cups. Each is different and none is perfect. But they have character, like this tea.

For my background, I used a fabric with a dragon (long) pattern. This chinese tea is indeed powerful and mythical. It combines the dark colors of age and roasting with the white freshness that I can still feel in this tea.

When a Hung Shui Oolong is young, the fire enters the leaves to give strength and power. With time the tea keeps on evolving and improving. This makes these Oolongs particularly fascinating. They are an inspiration and a source of considerable peace and happiness.


David said...

Great lesson of Cha Xi. Thank you.

TeaMasters said...

I am glad you liked it. And I see that you have been very creative in making your own Cha Xi. I was very happy to see your experiments.
Have fun in expressing yourself!

Sir William of the Leaf said...

I really like this comparison of the ceremony to a theatrical production! It explains everything in a way people can understand!
Great post!

Kevin said...


For me, one of the most interesting aspects of tea are the myriad trails one can explore and investigate. The 1990 Hung Shui oolong from San Hsia you offer, in my opinion, is absolutely the finest aged oolong I've ever encountered. It has everything I would expect in a great aged oolong. It has intoxicating aroma, incredible taste, artistry, durability, and pleasing energy. It is one of the few teas, when a session has reached conclusion, that I will put the used leaves in water overnight to extract the last pleasing drops. This tea set in motion an exploration down a trail of other aged oolong teas. Could I find another to rival this one? Over the past several months I've had the opportunity of sampling at least ten other teas in this category. While many were very good and even excellent, none have matched the high bar set by your 1990 Hung Shui. In the very finite world of aged teas, I would encourage all who have an interest to try this special tea. For myself, I will continue to search for great aged oolong, and this tea will be the gold standard upon which they will be judged.

Take care,


Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more with what Kevin wrote.
An exceptional wulong. Intense, long-lasting, pure.

It is a real marvel.