Thursday, January 24, 2013

2012 winter Shan Lin Shi 'High roast' Hung Shui Oolong

A complex tea like a Hung Shui Oolong can express different tastes, different characteristics depending on how it's brewed. Today, I'm brewing my 'high roast' Hung Shui Oolong from Shan Lin Shi (1500 m) again. In my previous article, I used an old Yixing Duanni and a warm setting. This time, I'm using a 1980s Yixing zhuni teapot on this blue and light brown Cha Bu. It's a nice match for the porcelain qinghua jar I'm using to store this tea.

Harvested by hand at the end of September 2012, these leaves of high mountain Oolong were roasted over charcoal. This is increasingly rare, as most farmers use big electric ovens to make the roast.
The farmer made 2 charcoal roasts: a medium and a stronger one. This 'high roast' Hung Shui Oolong is the stronger one. The appearance of the leaves is less green, more grey. But it's not black or brown either like many competition Dong Ding Oolongs. The skill of this type of roast is to add a long, low fire that preserves the freshness of the leaves.
Zhuni clay is very hard and heat conductive. It's a perfect fit for great unroasted high mountain Oolong, but it's generally not recommended for roasted Oolongs, because it's not a clay that absorbs flavors and mellows the taste like a good zisha or duanni clay. If a porcelain gaiwan is like a miror, brewing tea as it is, then zhuni is more like a magnifier. The good and the bad come out in force. For this reason, I am taking some precautions and adapting to this teapot. First, I'm using few leaves that have rested in my jar. Second, I'm pouring the boiling water very slowly and softly in the teapot.   
Dark malt flavors, dry orange peel, brown sugar sweetness are followed by minty freshness. The mouth feels pure and clean with a nice little tingle on the tongue. The warmth transforms into cool. Dark mountain. It's a very direct and strong feeling. 
The duanni teapot expressed the warm and mellow character of this Hung Shui Oolong. With the zhuni teapot, it's the pure strength and coolness of the high mountain that comes to shine. Both teapots had great but different results. Cha Xi means 'tea play' like a 'tea theater'. The tea is the main actor of this play. And like a skillful actor, it can show different emotions: mellow and sweet one day and pure strength the next.  
That's probably why making tea alone never feels lonely. Each brew is a response to our inputs. The tea 'talks' back and shows a different character depending on how we treat it.
This Cha Bu (quilt) and its blue tone turns out to be a great fit for the cooling, 'dark mountain', sensation of this tea!
What makes this 'high roast' amazing can be seen below. Despite the stronger roasting, the leaves still manage to open up very well. They are not hard and dark, but have kept their flexibility and green color.

And what makes the flavors so refined can be seen here: buds! We see them best when we take one leaf at a time.

Using high mountain luanze Oolong to make Hung Shui Oolong combines the quality of the leaves and the skill of the charcoal roasting. It's a 'nectar', wrote one reader who had just tasted it. It's like Meryl Streep: it can become whatever you want it to be. 

1 comment:

John-Paul said...

Beautiful post Stephane