zondag 22 april 2012

Oriental Beauty

 CORRECTION: I thought this was the red da yeh but it seemed I used oriental beauty because today I found the red da yeh package unopened....silly me!

Today I was about to make my first Taiwanese red tea ever and I had totally no clue how to do it so it was a big experiment for me. A Czech friend of mine made me some cups and a teapot and I was sure those would fit perfectly with a red tea. More information about these ceramics in my next blog!

This red Da Yeh is a sample I received from Stéphane and it's harvest on 26 June(This is correct for the red da yeh which I will review later but this OB is harvested in August). It's from miaoli and fully oxidized and slightly roasted. As with my previous wild concubine I reviewed this tea is also bitten by the Jacobiasca formosana Paoli which gives it a natural sweet flavor. The tea looks very dark and the smell reminds me a lot of dusty, very dry hay but with some more  bitterness and some underlying sweet, fruity tones. The dry smell isn't as pleasant as with most high mountain oolong teas but the brew of this tea is totally different.

For today's setup I used these black placemats because I thought it would give a nice cotnrast with the white ceramic. The brown matcha bowl I used for the wastewater. In the right porcelain vessel I stored the tea. Outside the weather changes every 10 minutes and it was very pleasant to watch because the light would change every 10 minutes and it gave a really cool atmosphere to this configuration and to the tea.
When I started brewing this tea I had no idea what to do. So I just took a little bit of tea and I poured very hot water on it. The first time I already poured it after about 45 seconds but the brew was pretty light. Next steep I kept the hot water in the pot for much longer untill the brew received the colour of sunset because that's how I would imagine a Taiwanese red tea. Sitting on the beach, watching the sunset and having a nice cup of this tea preferably accompagnied by a nice Taiwanese girl but well..... lets not dream away! I will have to do it with rainy weather and sparkles of sunshine now and then. The first thing that struck me of this tea was the intense citrus, sour taste. This sourness was very pleasant and refreshing but I expected something totally different. I expected something very warm, sweet like dark sugar, a bit nutty maybe but I got something completely else. After the sourness there came this grapefruit  bitterness and eventually it would become this floral lingering sweetness at the sides of your mouth. Since I never really tasted something like this before and I had no idea how to brew it's hard for me to write about this tea because I can't compare it to anything else. For me it's not as complex and sensitive as an high mountain oolong. It's more this kind of evening tea for relaxation, something you would drink on a romantic dinner with your girlfriend or wife. Some sort of aphrodisiac, something that will bring complete peace to your evening. It's a very sensual tea I must say. In a later brew I noticed there was also this sweet honey tea, subtle but it is there, it also got a little bit more fruity. Think about blood oranges and grapefruit mixed together but more soft, elegant and sensual. The colour of this tea was very special and I think it suited perfectly in these white cups. The cups are elegant but still very robustic just like this tea and it displays the colour of the tea amazingly well. If you look very closely on this picture you can see that at the sides of this tea there is this grapefruit redness and more to the middle it gets more orange/amber, a very complicated and beautiful colour. In the pot it gave this lovely, iron colour as a deep red sun. All in all, a very special tea and I will keep it for special occasions and people.

 The tea reminds me very much of this particular poem: shakespeares sonnet 18

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature's changing course untrimm'd;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this and this gives life to thee.

donderdag 12 april 2012

Instinctive tea

Today's blog might be somewhat different than my usual blogs but I hope it will be atleast as interesting. I'm not going to review any tea today nor will I post pictures but hopefully I will be able to interest you with the words I'm going to write.

For the first time in many days the sun was shining again. It wasn't very warm because of the wind but still I went outside to make some tea. I think making tea outside in the sunshine, hearing the birds sing, seeing the flowers blossom and feeling the wind cooling your body is one of the most enjoying things in life. At such moments you really feel that you're living. But what me suddenly stroke today was the thought of how instinctive tea actually is. Now I know you people may wonder now: what the hell is he talking about? Well let me explain to you.

Today was a sunny a day but not too sunny or warm so I grabbed for a slightly more oxizided high mountain oolong. I didn't put that much tea in the pot, just a little because I wasn't up for a strong brew. And when I was drinking my first cup of tea I realised what I've done. I instinctively copied my mood and the change of season into my cup of tea. Because today was such a sunny day but with lots of clouds and wind I chose for thise slightly higher oxidized tea to connect with both changing types of weather. Because I didn't use that much tea the leafs had all the space to open up and grow to beautiful big,thick leafs which would resemble the change of passage. Because the flowerbuds are starting to bloom, the rain is going to stop and the sun is going to take in its place. I found it so fascinating that I chose to do all of those this instinctively without thinking. And I think we always do that, we match our teas with our state of mind, the weather, the seasons etc... But what I found most fascinating is that even 'bad tea' can become world's best tea if it's shared with the right people :)
Can't help it to post one picture (and yes, this is related to tea)

zondag 8 april 2012

Ali Shan (Teahouse Oolong)

After a few days of snowboarding in France I was craving for some oolong tea and today I finally was able to make a nice cup! I wanted a very sweet, calming tea so I chose for an Ali Shan tea from teahouse oolong, which is a dutch importer, according to their website biological grown at 1200m.

I first made a cup competition style (3g for 5min) to see what the tea had to offer. After 5min of waiting I poured a cup and I was astonished by its intense and overwhelming sweetness. It starts of with a very flowery flavor which evolves in this super sweet peachlike taste which kept lingering in my mouth for minutes. It was so sweet I could almost feel the sugar between my teeth. This tea is extremely smooth and has a full body. Wow, I can't wait to try this gong fu cha style! When I examined the tealeafs I noticed they are very small, haven't seen any this small yet. I guess this is still a very young plantation or an early harvest? I'm not an expert so I hope someone can tell me why these leafs are so small. The tea is barely oxidized at all.

Intens green
So time to move on to the gong fu cha. I used my new bigger yi xing pot because I want to use it as much as possible. This seemed to be a bad idea because of its seize I used waaaaaaay too much tea than normal which resulted in 2 very bad steeps. I was very curious about the results in the yixing pot but when I poured the first brew (I didn't fill the whole pot, only about 1/2) I tasted a flat,bitter, disappointing cup of tea. I just wanted to spit it out. I just poured the tea away because it was terrible. For the 2nd steep I used the same amount of water but I steeped it for a shorter time. Again full of excitement I tried another cup but this was also flat and bitter (though a little bit less worse). What is this? I really used too much tea. Guess I learned my lesson on this one that being too greedy isn't good. Another lesson learned just by drinking tea =) On the 3rd steep I filled the whole pot and waited for about 40-45seconds. This steep was amazing just like the competition style! It was even more sweet and fruity. It's not complex, not at all but the sweetness gives such a satisfaction to your body. I felt the energy rushing through my body and my legs started tintling.

For this tea session I also used a new brand of water. This springwater is slighty acid (pH of 6) and has a very low mineral content. Soon I will make 2 cups of tea with 2 different waters so I can tell the difference. I mainly use water with a pH around 7.5-8 and a mineral content of 150mg/l+. I did notice a more smooth, sweeter brew with this water but ofcourse I can't certainly tell because I haven't tried this tea with the normal water I use. More on this topic soon.
EDIT: Today I tried this tea again with a smaller pot and it just can't convince me. The taste stayed rather flat even with different water and steepingtimes. I even wasn't able to find that sugary sweetness back again. This tea is rather disappointing and flat. Hopefully it will get better over time...

EDIT 2: Because I was so desperate with this tea and not knowing what to do I started reading about roasting oolong tea. Some said that heating the oolong for a short time will open it up so I tried.... I just used a wok and put it on the fire on a fairly low temperature and put a spoonfull of tea in there. I heated it for about 20min. and made a brew and I was surprised by the results! The tea really opened up and I found this sweetness back again that I liked so much. It was very mellow and elegant like it should be. Maybe I should store the other tea in a porcelain jar and maybe they will open up soon aswell.