Thursday, January 14, 2016

Tea lesson: brewing mid aged Oolong and puerh

Cold temperatures call for warm, sweet and rich teas. For this lesson, I wanted to show that we can find such nice combination in mid aged teas that are 10 to 15 years old. Good tea can be enjoyed at any age. The point should never be to brew an old tea for its age's sake, but for the pleasure it brings.
Brewing with a gaiwan is a challenge when it's cold, but it remains the best tool for learning how to brew well. Preheating is essential. 
We started with my 2001 spring Concubine Oolong and the three of us brewed it alternatively on 2 Chaxi.
The first brew of Serena and Israel were very different and then mine was also unlike these 2 brews. This was the first take away from this class: the same tea, brewed with the same water will taste notably different when prepared by different people. The reason is that we pour the boiling water in the gaiwan with different speeds and different level of control (some are more steady, while others pour at uneven speeds). Another reason is the length of the brew.
For the first 2 pours, it's best to pour slowly, because aged Oolong has unfurled a bit and doesn't require much energy to open up. The other detail that helps improve the flavors is a good preheating of the cups. We preheated them again for each brew and then it's best not to empty them too early, but wait until a few moments until you're about to pour from the gaiwan in the cups.
Good leaves are forgiving when they are not brewed perfectly, but when you do they give an incredible crisp, sweet and delicious taste that lasts comfortably for over ten minutes.
I was happy that Serena got her third brew right after following my instructions. "This is the best cup of tea I every brewed!", she said.
Then we switched to my beautiful 2003 wild Yiwu puerh qizi bing. It already smelt fabulous dry. It also delivered a powerful aftertaste that lingered well beyond the end of the class. Its energy was pleasantly felt in the body. And like the Concubine Oolong, each brew turned out a little bit different, depending how the water was poured in the gaiwan. The rewards of getting it right make learning and practicing tea brewing so interesting!
These 2 mid aged teas still had a lot of power and freshness, while already feeling more rounded and deeper. They also showed that it's not so much the age that matters, but the initial quality of the leaves and good storage conditions. 
Thank you Israel, my longtime tea blogger friend, and Serena for sharing and supporting my tea passion.


carl360 said...

Wonderful! I would love to organize a class for you to teach if you're ever near Boulder, Colorado!

TeaMasters said...

Thanks Carl,
I'll let you know if I come to Colorado!

Israel said...

Thank you for the wonderful classes and the delicious teas! I hope to meet up again next time.