Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Unsuccessful brewing of Hung Shui Oolong

On a cold winter day, I like the warmth and sweetness of my winter Feng Huang Hung Shui Oolong. Unfortunately, despite the beauty of my Cha Xi and suitable teaware (Qing dynasty qinghua cups, my zhuni teapot and a Japanese tetsubin), I fail to get the best out of my tea. If the problem is not the tea (which tasted delicious before) and not the teaware, then it's the brewing.

How did I brew? I did preheat the teapot. I was careful to first pour some boiling water on the outside before filling the teapot. On a cold day like this, a big change in temperature could cause a zhuni teapot to crack. I put the tetsubin on my empty Nilu (no time for charcoal heating today). Then, I preheated the cups by emptying the zhuni teapot's water. I put one layer of dry leaves on the bottom of the teapot. And, I poured the water from the tetsubin slowly on the leaves (as I advised here at the end of the post). The brewing lasted approximately a minute.

How do I know there's a problem? The tea didn't taste fully concentrated and harmonious. There is some weakness and the flavors don't seem to bind well. Visually, the leaves have failed to open up well and are siding close to the mouth of the pot.

Rolled Oolong has to open up after its first brew. So, the problem is that with my slow pour, the leaves didn't get enough energy to open up. When the weather is warm, I have no problem with pouring slowly. But, with today's low temperatures, the tetsubin must have lost a degree or two while I was preheating the teapot and teacups. And water also cools faster in the teapot with a slow pour than with a fast one.

The solution is to reheat the tetsubin, to pour with a little more strength and speed, and to let the tea brew a little longer. With these small adjustments, I can again taste the fine full body of my Hung Shui Oolong during these winter days.

I wasn't the only one to feel cold. The tea leaves also felt cold and needed more heat to give their best!


Philippe de Bordeaux filipek said...

Cher Stéphane,

J'ai remarqué que les Hung Shui sont délicats&difficiles à préparer : ils sont exigeants peut être que la variété et le cultivar d'origine Wu Yi Chine y est pour quelque chose!J'ai lu cela récemment et j'ai fait ce lien...

La température comme tu le soulignes est primordiale : soit elle est trop forte et il ressort fort et astringent;soit elle est trop molle et il devient tout mou, sans relief...

Entre les deux il y a un Espace pas évident d'y pénétrer mais quand tu réussis à le trouver c'est l'extase : cela ne m'arrive pas si souvent d'avoir la "chance" de le réussir car il a un superbe potentiel ce Thé...


(désolé j'ai pas osé l'anglais!)

Philippe de Bordeaux filipek said...

Compléments d'informations

Lectures Hou De Blog : source .

" Hong Shui oolong est l'enfant d'un heureux mariage de compétences de traitement de Wuyi et Anxi.

Le lieu de naissance de Hong Shui oolong est Lu Gu, Nan Tou,dans la partie centrale de Taiwan.

Cette région hérite de leurs compétences oolong&traitement d'Anxi.

Mais plus tard, le cultivar Soft-Stem oolong de Wuyi est devenu plus populaire à Taïwan que le cultivar Tie Guan Yin.

D'où la naissance de Hong Shui Oolong.

Hong Shui oolong prend naissance dans une plantation à Dong-Ding, qui a un climat très similaire et les conditions d'élévation de Wuyi:

Ding Dong-est d'environ 700m d'altitude,et l'élévation moyenne de Wuyi est 650m.
Les deux endroits sont à environ la même latitude, mais les conditions de sols différentes.
Hong Shui Oolong a été fait à partir d'un cultivar traditionel de centaines d'années Wuyi.
Bien que vous pouvez certainement trouver des similitudes "Wuyi" à Hong Shui oolong,certaines choses sont différentes:
le Hong Shui a une douceur intense de canne à sucre dans l'arôme et de la rondeur;un bon goût.
Wuyi yen cha (les bons)est plus aéré
et florale,liqueur épaisse mais pas aussi rond.

Je suppose que nous pouvons utiliser la notion de terroir pour comprendre les différences en eux.

La rougeur de la liqueur de Hong Shui et l'arôme floral charismatique sont sur un pied d'égalité avec Wuyi Da Hong Pao."

Au plaisir.


Alex Zorach said...

I'm only starting to look at how leaves unfurl but I'm beginning to realize that you can tell a lot about how the cup is going to taste just by looking at how the leaves have unrolled (or failed to do so).

David said...

Very interesting indeed.

I tend to drink my Hung Shui with fewer and fewer leaves and longer brews. This way, the first brew almost always open up the leaves.

I love this kind of technical post. It helps me reflect on the effect of every single gesture on tea.


Petr Novák said...

Unsuccessful brewing like a teacher for successful brews - I have to give more attention to this, thank you for inspiration Stephane.

Can I have a question? From your observations, Does play a role how fast do you heat water for tea? The logic says yes, but what is, please, your approach. Maybe you already have written about this....thanks

TeaMasters said...

Merci Philippe,
Concernant la température, avec ce type d'Oolong d'excellente qualité, j'ai surtout eu des problèmes quand elle est trop basse. Quand elle est vraiment forte, il suffit de jouer sur un geste plus doux et lent. Alors que quand c'est trop bas, le geste rapide ne peut changer grand chose.

Thanks Alex and David for your comments.

If you brew water very fast, you're more likely to overbrew. Also, there will be a big difference in the water close and far from the heat. This means less harmony in your kettle and hence later in your teapot. For these reasons, it's better to slow your water slowly.
And when it's cold, a charcoal fire will give additional good taste to the water!