Saturday, September 06, 2014

Hung Shui Oolong innovation: High Mountain

Hung Shui Oolong is traditionally associated with Dong Ding Oolong and lower elevation Oolongs from Mingjian. In the 1990s, when High Mountain Oolong became more and more popular, these teas would distinguish themselves from Dong Ding Oolongs by having very light oxidation and no roasting. Roasted Oolongs were for the old (lao ren cha, old people tea) and high mountain Oolong for a younger and urban crowd. 2 very different styles.

What innovation brought these 2 worlds together? Competition breeds innovation and this one came from the Dong Ding Oolong competition! Each spring and winter, over 5000 teas (1 farmer = 1 batch) participate in the Lugu Farmer's Association competition for the best roasted 'Dong Ding Oolong'. In August 2007, I already reported that insider news: the Oolongs who win at this competition come mostly from high altitude plantations. Here's an example:

Cultivar: Qingxin (ruanzhi) Oolong
Origin: Tsui Feng mountain
Elevation: 1700 meters
Harvested by hand in Spring 2014
Processed as a competition Dong Ding Oolong (Hung Shui and no stems). It's from the same batch as a prize winner, but it's a 'left over', because only 18 kg are allowed per batch at the competition.
After a careful 'hōngbèi', the High Mountain Oolong preserves its particular mountain freshness and elegance, but it acquires warmer and fruitier flavors. It's like adding a bass drum to a high pitched sound. It adds depth and body to the taste while you still feel a lot of crystal clear freshness. The taste is also sweeter and less sour than with Dong Ding Oolong. The aftertaste is powerful and full of energy. But it's not one dimensional: there's a wonderful balance between the sweet honey/fruity flavors and the mountain cool. It jumps, dances and whirls in the mouth!
High Mountain Hung Shui Oolongs are made with Oolong leaves that have been sufficiently oxidized to receive a slow and deep roast while preserving their mountain characteristics: freshness, lightness and elegance. Like for the best Wuyi Yan Cha, the roast is lightest and skillfully done when the underlying quality of the leaves is the highest! The leaves open up very well and turn green quickly again.
If you like to combine the pleasure of tea with out of this world music, I can recommend listening to La Cité des Dames (by Capella de Ministrers), music from the Middle Ages. The high pitched sound of the song and the deep drums are a wonderful echo to this Gao Shan Hung Shui Oolong! This sacred music sung by a woman in Latin conveys a feeling of calm joy and deep faith. It brings you to the top of the world!
From the top of Hehuan Shan, near Tsui Feng

1 comment:

Zach said...

This tea sounds incredible! I love dong ding and am very excited about the combination of high altitude and a medium roast, seeing how my taste prefers darker roasts but still see the potential goodness of high mountain!