Friday, February 19, 2016

Parallel brewing tea lesson

For today's tea lesson with 3 visiting guests from the US, I set up 2 similar chaxi for some parallel brewing. Like this, the student can see how I brew and brew right after me.
To spice things up and make it a little bit more challenging, I chose to brew my spring Alishan Oolong and gave Carl my spring Lishan Oolong, a tea twice as expensive. Carl even used a few more leaves than me, but we all felt that my first Alishan brew had a more powerful and smooth taste than the Lishan! So, I proposed to exchange our teas and continued brewing the Lishan Oolong. And now it's the Lishan that tasted finer and the Alishan rougher!

This little experiment shows that it's not just how good the leaves are that matters, but that the brewing technique can make even an Alishan taste better than a Lishan.This is a reason why I recommend that beginners don't start right away with the best leaves, because they are not likely to brew their full potential. 
For our second Oolong, we brewed the same winter 2015 competition Dong Ding Oolong. And even with the same tea, we obtained very different results. However, with this roasted tea, Carl did a very good job and the differences were more in strength and character than in quality, I felt. However, here we realized that sensitivity to bitterness wasn't the same for each of us.
Our third Oolong is neither low oxidized or medium roasted, but high oxidized: Oriental Beauty from Hsin Chu. These 3 teas give a good overview of the incredible range of flavors that can be found in Oolongs. This time it's Lopa who is parallel brewing this tea with me. Again, the results are very different. Lopa's first brew was astringent, but she improved in her second brew. My cups tasted sweet and rich.
When we brew alone, we don't always realize the importance of each detail of our brewing technique. Parallel brewing allows us to experience how a steady pour of the water in the gaiwan impacts the taste of the tea. The goal is to allow the leaves to open up at the same rate, so that they occupy the gaiwan evenly. The pouring of hot water on the leaves changes with each brew and each type of tea. But the first step to learn about the brewing technique is to become aware of how big an impact it can have. I think this was particularly well demonstrated with the high mountain Oolongs!
Thanks for your all your interest. It's great to meet my Internet/Facebook friends in person!

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