Thursday, May 31, 2018

Magnifying the beauty of tea

2011 Dian Hong from old arbor trees
One of the biggest challenge of our time is to see through appearances, because they can often be misleading. Marketing asks designers to create very enticing and beautiful packagings to suggest that the tea is of very high quality. This often reminds me of those YouTube videos with extreme makeup transformations! What you see at the end is miles away from reality. So far, the best teas I had came in very common bags, while leaves in great looking packages were almost always disappointing.
Thus, in the tea world, consumers must remain very rational and sensible when approaching a new tea. This also applies to professional buyers who travel to the production sites. It's easy to get emotional and carried away by the surroundings, the expert tea master who brews the tea... One of the best way to stay unbiased is to brew the tea in a standardized fashion to evaluate it (and compare it to others). In Taiwan's Dong Ding competition, the standard is 3 grams for 6 minutes in a porcelain tasting set. Glazed porcelain doesn't impact the taste of tea and the long brew makes sure that all defects in the leaves come out in the brew. If the tea tastes OK like this, it can only taste better when brewed with skill and care.
Bowl by Michel François
That's why, when you select Oolong, puerh or red tea on my online tea boutique, you see the same things a tea professional does when he's tasting tea:
1. 3 grams of dry tea leaves
2. The sight of the 6 minutes brew of these leaves without filtering.
3. The sight of the open leaves, after the brew.
4. This year, I've also started to make pictures of 1 or 2 open leaves only to better see their details.

These pictures go to the heart of the quality of the leaves. For scents and taste, you can read my description. And if you're still not sure, it's always possible to order sample sizes of the tea to taste it by yourself before committing to a bigger quantity. (Note: for this 2011 wild Dian Hong featured in this article and a few more teas, I haven't taken these detailed pictures in my boutique, because I always forget to do so! Sorry!)
Once the rough diamond is found, it's the brewer's task to prepare it to perfection! This step 2 comes after the selection, after the commercial transaction. This is what I am doing in this Chaxi, using a silver teapot to extract a maximum of aromas from these golden buds. And I'm using thin white ivory porcelain cups to emphasize the finesse and lightness of the taste. This is magnifying the beauty and the character of this red tea. The aesthetics of these pictures are not simply an appearance. They reflect the truth and beauty of this tea. The key to brew it well is to understand that buds are baby leaves: they are very concentrated with flavors and so small that these flavors are quickly extracted. That's why it's best to use few, especially with a silver teapot, and brew rather quickly.
To sum up, even the most elegant packaging will end up in the trash. Disregard it.
True tea beauty comes from within the leaves.

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