Saturday, April 27, 2019

Mountains of glass and steel

NYC is a city where men have created mountains of glass and steel. Even coming from a big city like Taipei with its 101 bamboo shaped building, it's hard not to be fascinated by New York's skyline. 
This is especially the case at night or in the early hours of a sunny morning! I wonder if these buildings have inspired the name of the Floating Mountain Tea House. In any case, I find this an excellent tea house name in this city! And that's one reason why I was eager to meet with Scott Norton there.
(I'm sorry if I didn't contact all my blog readers in the NYC area. These trips always receive a very late approval and it's difficult to plan many or large events. That's why it made sense to meet someone who is very dedicated to tea education and share some of my techniques so that he can pass it onward to a large number of people.)
So, I brought my little gold coated silver teapot and I let Scott play with it! He's a fast learner and poured with calm and dexterity.
We tasted three very different teas. A green tea from the tea house, a lapsang souchong and my early 1990s green mark. All three felt particularly pure and light brewed in the silver teapot.
It's as if the teas were under a microscope: all their scents were intensified. We also experimented with different cups to see how they affect taste and color. The ivory hue went really well with the red tea and the aged sheng puerh.
I still feel that the best place to brew tea is at home where I have all my teas and accessories (or in nature), but such a tea house is a really nice place to have tea with a friend when the home is not an option. And it's also the opportunity to meet other tea drinkers at events hosted by the tea house and where Scott is the instructor. If you're new to the tea scene, I think it's a great way to learn.
And it's also a place where you can find inspiration for some simple and beautiful flower arrangements! Because the taste tea is always a taste of nature...
I wish Scott and the Floating Mountain tea house success in spreading traditional tea culture in NYC. It's not an easy task in a city where the water quality is more suited to brew coffee than fine teas!
But when the air is clear and the sky is blue, it feels we're walking among mountains of glass and steel! That's when I feel almost electrified by the energy of city! It's a similar feeling to a sunrise in Alishan or Lishan.
Bryant Park
Even in the big city, you'll find the green beauty of nature...
Central Park
... and a longing for a good cup of tea.

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Le temps des Oolongs

OB impérial 2016
 Dimanche prochain, je pars pour NYC et la Pennsylvanie pendant 10 jours. Ce sera de nouveau l'occasion de donner des cours de thé avec Teaparker à un grand nombre d'étudiants américains passionnés de thé chinois. Aussi, aujourd'hui, je comptais faire un tour à Alishan pour sélectionner du Jinxuan printanier. Mais quand j'appelai les fermiers, ils me dirent qu'ils ne commenceront les récoltes qu'après le 15 avril et pour le qingxin Oolong, il faudra même attendre le 24 pour que les productions se mettent en route! Je m'occuperai donc de cela dès mon retour à Taiwan!

Pour l'instant, mon seul thé de 2019 est ce Dong Pian de SiJiChun. Le temps avant QingMing ne fut pas trop bon dans le nord de Taiwan, et c'est pourquoi j'ai fait une croix sur les BiLuoChun de San Hsia cette année. Cela nous rappelle que le thé est un produit de la nature et sensible à ses variations. Et le temps du Oolong n'est pas celui du thé vert. Le Oolong a besoin d'une maturité et ne se récolte pas au moment où il ne fait que bourgeonner. L'exception est le Oolong Beauté Orientale de haute qualité.
Mais la raison pour cette exception, c'est que ce thé n'est pas issu de la première récolte du printemps, mais de la seconde, lorsqu'il commence à faire plus chaud et que la finesse des arômes ne se retrouve que dans les bourgeons mordus par nos petits criquets verts. Le résultat est un Oolong à forte oxydation aux senteurs de parfum féminin et mystérieux. Caliente! Le plus latin des Oolongs de Formose!
Le temps du thé vert est court, mais celui du Oolong est long. Les récoltes en plaine ne s'arrêtent pratiquement jamais. Les photos de plantation de cet article datent du 21 février, à Mingjian. On voit que les bourgeons poussent au milieu de l'hiver.
Et l'on voit la nécessité d'arroser les théiers durant cette saison sèche. C'est d'ailleurs un manque d'eau dans le centre de Taiwan qui explique aussi le retard dans la croissance des feuilles.
C'est aussi parce que le temps des Oolongs est long qu'ils se conservent bien sur plusieurs années et que je me régale ces jours-ci avec des récoltes de 2016/17!

Thursday, April 04, 2019

The very green Qingxin Oolong

This tea is confusing, because it's a Qingxin Oolong green tea! Wait, what? An Oolong green tea? Do I mean it's one of those very lightly oxidized Oolongs sometimes called 'nuclear green'?
No these are still Oolongs. The explanation to this riddle is that this is a green tea (= with 0 oxidation). But it's made from a tea cultivar named 'Qingxin Oolong' (aka ruanzhi Oolong or soft stem Oolong). That's because you can process any tea leaf the way you wish. You could also make white tea or red tea with Qingxin Oolong leaves!
This spring 2017 Green Qingxin Oolong was harvested on April 25th, 2017. I have stored it vacuum-sealed and the freshness is still very present in the dry aromas. To celebrate spring, this tea now my gift for orders in excess of 60 USD (excluding shipping) and below 200 USD.
I'm brewing this tea in a (preheated) thin white porcelain bowl (by David Louveau). I make the leaves turn thanks to the pour of water from the (silver kettle) and, later, by lightly using a porcelain soup spoon to lightly make the leaves dance. This helps them to unfold and release their aromas.
 This method works well with green tea. Its purpose isn't a very strong cup, but a light one. Once you smell or see that it's ready, you can pour the tea in the cups with the soup spoon. And if it's becoming too strong, you simply add more hot water in the bowl.
This green tea is interesting, because it shows the character of the Qingxin Oolong (famous for Hung Shui and High Mountain Oolong) as green tea. Its freshly cut grass notes, typical of green, have a very high note, very refined. And in terms of taste, there's a good mellow taste feeling when brewed lightly, but it turns bitter if it's left to brew too long. It's full of 'green' energy!
The biggest difference with Oolong, is that the leaves are mostly buds or very small. This leads to this kind of beautiful picture. Imagine using the spoon to let these 2 buds dance!...

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Brew the flower inside

Taiwan Oolong teas often have scents of flowers. Sometimes, it's because they are artificially or flower scented. But most of the time, these aromas develop naturally during the partial oxidation production process. Here resides one of the great mysteries and beauty of tea: a green leaf that can be turned into a flower! And a special kind of flower, one that keeps its fragrance for the moment YOU choose! 
 And contrary to tea bags, whole leaf Oolongs can be brewed again and again and again... The power of the aromas may diminish little by little, but it's still fun to play the game of seeing how far the leaves will take you, how many good brews you're getting! This is especially true with traditionally roasted Oriental Beauty.
Close your eyes while you're drinking your Oolong tea. What flower can you smell and see?