Friday, December 21, 2012

Comparing Yunnan Dian Hungs

Today, Neil, a visiting tea friend brought his favorite red tea, a Yunnan golden tip Dian Hung (left on both pictures). This gave us the idea to compare it side by side with the wild Dian Hung from my selection.

Visually, these 2 teas look quite different already. Neil's is much more golden and appears more tippy. However, a closer examination shows that my buds (right) are thinner, smaller and more concentrated. Also, my Dian Hung is full of 'hao', tea hair. Like for a Bi Luo Chun, this hair, fur is a sign that the tea was picked young. The difference in appearance makes it obvious that these 2 teas are not from the same tea tree (cultivar). In fact, my Dian Hung uses wild, old, high mountain puerh tree material.
We brewed both teas with 2 white porcelain competition sets for 6 minutes approximately. Neil's Dian Hung (left) had a slightly less clear, less bright tea brew. The leaves turned greenish. This was reflected in the scent of this tea. It still had a 'greenish' smell that shouldn't be there in a red tea. My wild Dian Hung (right) had a nice shine and the wet leaves were still red. The flavors of my Dian Hung were very clean and bright.

The taste difference was even more obvious. Neil's Dian Hung tasted sweet (good!), but flat. Nothing much else was happening in the mouth in terms of aftertaste. For my wild Dian Hung, Neil found it had a touch of astringency, but not a bad one, he added. But what it had was energy, power, life, you name it! It's a tea that continues to create many strong feelings in the mouth, after it's swallowed.

Neil asked me about what vocabulary to use to describe a good tea experience (when you are with tea friends). It's can be quite difficult to find the right words. Too detailed, they can sound like a medical exam (salivation glands are activated, blood rush to the heart...) and too poetic they will border the mystical and weird (the harmonious energies of nature transport me into another state of mind...) What I recommend is to let other drinkers talk first and try not to influence them with your own take. And be honest. 

Neil and I had tasted my wild Dian Hung last year. It's from spring 2011, but I find that the aromas are more concentrated and finer now. And with the quality of its material, it's a tea that will continue to evolve well (if properly stored). With winter starting today, this is a tea I will often brew in the coming cold months...


Hector Konomi said...

Stephane, do you expect your dian hong to improve with aging? I know that generally black teas store well, but I didn't know they could improve.

Where would you store it?

TeaMasters said...

This tea already tastes finer and deeper than last year. It's already improving! A big reason is the quality of the (old puerh tree) leaves.
I store the small portion I use for myself in one of my Anping jars. Its thick walls provide excellent protection for the tea.

Thomas said...

Hello Stéphane,

Comparisons are always instructive and surprising, because they allow you to focus on small variation..

I didn't know that some DianHong were made with "wild, old, high mountain puerh tree material", that's quite surprising because it's so different compare to "regular" Raw Pu Er (like cake or brick).
Is the procesing of the leaves the only cause of the "sweatening" of the wild nature of Pu Er material ?

Do you have an idea of which cultivar is made the other one ?

TeaMasters said...

Hello Thomas,
We didn't have the information about the cultivar of Neil's Dianhung. What was obvious, though, was that it was a plantation tea.

For your first question, I guess you mean 'sweetening', making it sweeter. I agree that a good process is one that emphasizes the sweetness and reduces unpleasant tastes (but without reducing the energy of the tea). The full oxidation of these leaves has this impact, I think.

Jesse said...

I drink a lot of Yunnan black tea and Stephane's is one of the best I've tasted and as such its price reflects that.

You can't really place both in the same category and expect Neils to come out on top unless some consideration has been placed into value. Sure I'd rather drink less and drink better but it's definitely something that should be considered when doing comparisons. Then I guess it would be a blind tasting to stop you from favouring the more expensive. As I type this I can see why we don't make such comparisons often because it takes the fun out of drinking tea.

It does remind oneself of the reasons why we keep searching for the perfect cup.

TeaMasters said...

Happy New Year Jesse,
I'm glad you like my wild Dian Hung!

Neil and I didn't discuss the cost of our leaves. It can be called 'blind cost' tasting. That's trying to assess the quality of the tea without being influenced by its price.
Yes, we were not looking for the tea with the best value, but were wondering how our respective Dian Hung compared in terms of taste, aromas...