zaterdag 26 januari 2013

Hojo's Ali Shan

I'm back home for the weekend and was eager to try my new teapot that had arrived a couple of days ago together with some samples. The teapot is a red mumyoi clay pot made by Watanabe Tozo. For some purists it might be strange to drink Chinese tea with a Japanese teapot, Korean cups and European grown flowers... but I like this kind of cultural mix up, it is a good representation of our today's society where country borders are starting to fade away.

This Ali Shan is a spring harvest and from the Luanze cultivar (qingxin) which is for me the archetype of gao shan oolong, perhaps because my first introduction to high quality oolong came from Teamaster's, who always has a great selection of this particular cultivar. The dry fragrance is strong and flowery from the start and will form the red thread through the whole tasting progress.

Yesterday when I tested the teapot with a tea that I know pretty well, I noticed that it made the tea 'chewier'. The bass notes became a lot stronger and the higher ones were more polished. From that moment on and I knew that I'll have an amazing journey together with this teapot, love at first sight doesn't seem to be a fairy tale after all.
In contrary to many people, I actually prefer the first brew of a tea; it's the sweetest, creamiest and most fickle brew of them all. When it's hot, it's sharp and flowery with a hint of caramel sweetness yet to come. When cooled down a little bit, it becomes the opposite: thick, caramel creamy; I almost dare to say vanilla-ish.

The other brews are not remarkable, just an excellent gao shan that is still suitable for an every day cup of tea. They start of flowery with an aftertaste that reminds us of the flesh surrounding the apricot's stone. When brewing such teas in a gaiwan, they might be more perfumy and aggresive, though in this teapot it becomes more balanced. Both brewing vessels has it own characteristics.

On the left you can clearly see the spear shaped leaf that I find so typical for this cultivar. They are thick, elastic and slightly oxidized. This tea would be an excellent pick for every day brewing, complex enough to keep it interesting but not over the top. When brewing there isn't any astringency at all which makes it very forgiving for those people who sometimes lose their track on time - during this tasting session I was watching a squirrel jumping from branch to branch while the snow was falling down from the trees, they are such a little daredevils!

One last picture to end this blog. The contract of the red clay and the dark green tea laves is magnificent, it reminds me of big red mountains covered with trees. When soil and plant embrace eachother again, wonderful tea is the result.

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