Sunday, July 23, 2006, 12:24 AM ( 47 views )Here are three video clips from our vacation in Taiwan this May. I visited our partner Mr. Wu. Together we had a trip to Shan Lin Shi to see the two plantations from which we harvested two of our Spring oolongs.
Video 1: Shan-Lin-Shi, Yan Wan section, 1700m
This is where we harvested the 2006 Shan-Lin-Shi "Yan Wan" oolong.
Video 2: Shan-Lin-Shi, Long Feng Shia, "Dragon Head" section, 1800m
This is where our highly praised 2006 Spring Shan-Li-Shi "Long Feng Shia" oolong was harvested. The highest plantation in the whole Shan-Li-Shi region.
Video 3: A chat with Mr. Wu's father. Our partner is the forth generation in their family to make teas.
Tuesday, July 4, 2006, 12:03 PM ( 26 views )Blake of the popular Yahoo! Tea-Disc forum kindly hosted a Wuyi yan cha tasting of 6 samples he acquired from 5 different vendors. we received the samples early last week. The July/4th holiday finally made us available to enjoy tasting all of them. We decided to use the standard Tasting Sets (pin jian bei zhu) and recorded our tasting in detail.
Please note the international standard competition brewing parameter is 3g/150cc/6min. The tasting cup from the set we have is 120cc. So the amount of tea is adjusted to 2.4g.
Below are our steps to finish the tasting:
Step 1: Lay out the tasting sets and teas. I like to have a little piece of white paper for each tea (2.4g) so I can conveniently inspect the dry leaves and later put them into the tasting cup (120cc, Ozarka spring). Below are some picutres fo this step:
Step 2: Put tea leaves into the cups.
Step 3: I use an earthenware kettle to make the boiling water for the tasting. Below is a picture of my good old kettle. Pour boiling water into each cup until full (that is about 120cc).
Step 4: After 6 mins, pour out the tea liquor by setting the cups on the round bowls at an atilt angle. Liquor will drain out completely from the cup into bowl.
Step 5: The tasting begins! Below is a picture showing the difference in each liquor. A spoon is all you need in this stage. Soaking the spoon in the liquor to smell the aroma from the wetted spoon. Record the impression on a note paper. After finshing the aroma evaluation of all teas, move onto the tasting of the liquor.
Use the spoon to scoop just enough amount of liquor. Taste the liquor. Suck in a little air and roll your tongue. This helps release the aroma from the liquor and let your tongue thoroughly contact with the liquor.
** If the taste on the tongue is curious, pungent and uncomfortable, don't swallow the liquor for your own safety! In a real Tea Competition, the judges almost never swallow the liquors. I was really curious about each tea so I did drink them... about 10mins after finishing the tasting, I had a minor stomachache. So watch out for the "cocktail" of the 6 wuyi in your stomach!
Click to see the liquor of each sample
Step 6: End of Tasting. Irene and I both put down on a note paper our impressions and scores for each tea in "Aroma" and "Taste" categories. We just quickly browsed through unfurled leaves in each cup to re-confirm our impression from their aroma/taste.
You can also re-use the leaves to do the second-round brewing and tasting. Same boiling water and 6mins, repeat Step 3~6. But I think we have pretty solid decision from the 1st round of tasting, so the 2nd round is not necessary.
Reaults of tasting (1-100, 100 be the best, scores in the parenthesis):
A: Aroma(50)- very bizarre burnt smell, almost like burnt electric. Uncomfortable. Head dizzy after smelling for several times. Taste (50) re-affirm the aroma impression, harsh and mouth-puckering. Irene gave it 40 overall.
B: Aroma(75)- more conventional wuyi aroma, warm, honey, floral, however "waxy" or "oily" aroma when cools slightly, strange. Taste(70) is mellow and round. Little harshness with a slight acidity. Irene gave it 80 overall. Leaves in very shreded shape.
C: Aroma(65)- flat, characterless, slight floral, slighty malty, a little "grassy". Taste(60) is easy, flat, soft, little puckering. Irene gave it 55 overall. Leaves show sign of lower oxidation degree.
D: Aroma(65)- slightly more honey/floral, but the "grassy" note is quite irritating, should be a problem in the kill-green process. Slightly minty when cools. Taste(60)- more bitter/harsh, mouth-puckering, grassy. Irene gave it 60 overall. Leaves show sign of more oxidation.
E: Aroma(55)- Quite grassy, really have a problematic kill-green step. Floral and sweet, but overshadowed by the irritating grassy smell. Taste(60)- in accordance with its aroma impression, slightly bitter/harsh. Irene gave it 65 overall.
F: Aroma(50)- Over-burnt, bad roasting skill, problem in temperature lowering step, fire is locked inside the aroma, irritating. Taste(50) - Harsh and bitter, provoking over-burnt feeling, bitterness stays not transforms. Irene gave it 40 overall.
Above tasting results are just based on our limited knowledge : ) Please feel free to disagree. Thanks a lot, Blake!
Irene & Guang
Sunday, June 25, 2006, 12:33 AM ( 44 views )We have been searching for Wuyi yan cha that have really great quality and deserve our cordially introduction to our customers. In our May vacation to Taiwan, we visited an old pu-erh collector. During our conversation, we talked about our desire to find great wuyi yan cha. He laughed and brewed us a Rou Gui gong-fu style... and we immediately knew we found them!
Here are the four yan cha we just received from him:
(1) Da Hong Pao - 2005 Spring
(2) Rou Gui - 2005 Spring
(3) 90's Shui Xian - early 90's
(4) Bai Rei Xian - 2005 Spring
I have beed drinking them several times, gong-fu style. But I think it would be worthy to perform a small "taste-off" among the four using standardized "competition tea" parameters to have a fair evaluation of them.
First, I measured 3g of each tea and put them onto labelled paper:
Next, put each tea into a white porcelain bowl and pour in 150cc boiling water. Cover each bowl with a lid. Waiting .. tic tic tic... 6 mins. OK! Ready to taste them. This is the picture after 6mins:
Our tasting notes:
Liquor: All four liquor show great clarity. Each of them is distinct enough: 90's Shui Xian indeed shows her beautiful amber color due to aging. Da Hong Pao is light amber. Rou Gui is light amber to golden. Bai Rei Xian is light golden with a hint of green.
Aroma: All four of them have their own unique and original aroma.
- Da Hong Pao has an amazing ripe fruity fragrance and changes to delicate floral aroma when cools. Medium-bodied. With flavors of honey, ripe apples, lychees, and later orchid/roses. Not spicy but assertive, mature and round.
- Rou Gui really lives up to its name: spicy cinnamon aroma smartly blends with airy floral fragrance. Medium-bodied. Flavors similar to the traits of Da Hong Pao but with an explicit and crispy cinnamon background.
- 90's Shui Xian is excitingly mellow and complex - we can easily detect the unmistakable aged feeling with a hint of acid, the aroma is spicy like Rou Gui, and when it cools it shows the pleasant fruity/floral quality of Da Hong Pao. Full-bodied.
- Bai Rei Xian has an easy-going and pleasant floral quality, like a teenage Da Hong Pao. Less flamboyant, more airy and light-bodied. With flavors of orchid and green apples/pears.
Taste: Interestingly, the taste of each one matches very well with her aroma impression: Da Hong Pao is mellow/smooth/round, Rou Gui adds some spicy-ness but still very smooth. 90's Shui Xian is surprisingly complex and mellow. Bai Rei Xian is breezy with a wonderful sweetness and smoothness.
Very often we heard people complain about Wuyi yan cha, "They all taste the same, very heavy-fired." During our search for great yan cha, we came across many times same kind of problem - they miserably lack unique character. We are very happy with the four Wuyi yan cha we tasted here: each one is truely unqiue and original!
Overall, Irene and I like the 90's Shui Xian the best - it so smartly possesses the advantages from Da Hong Pao and Rou Gui, but at the same time so round and mellow. The charming acidity in it due to over 10-year aging is a killer!
We think the aging potential of Da Hong Pao and Rou Gui is promising. With so much "juice" packed in the leaves, the two will denifitely shine given several more years to mature.
Irene & Guang @ Hou De
Thursday, June 22, 2006, 10:25 AM ( 47 views )Yesterday I receives a parcel of 1998 Bai Hao Oolong from a collector in Taiwan. Out of curiosity, I brewed it side by side with my 2005 Bai Hao Oolong using standardized parameters (3g leaves/150cc water/6mins).
Below is a picture of the two liquor at the end of 6 mins:
As can be seen in the picture, the 98 bai hao has a more amber color than the 2005 one. While the 2005 bai hao has a very enticing floral/fruity fragrance, the 98 one definitely shows more mellow and mature fragrance: still floral and fruity, and a lovely nutty scent also emerges to nicely blend together all fragrance in a harmonic way. The 98 bai hao also has more penetrating and lingering feeling - especially in the aftertaste.
Can oolongs age like fine wines or pu-erhs? Oh, definitely! But not every oolong can be aged, and it needs special "roasting treatment". A very complex topic, I will get back to this in more details in the future ; )
Friday, June 16, 2006, 12:07 PMI was so excited to receive a "sample cake" of 2006 Yan-Ching Hao, together with three photo albums of their trip to Yunnan this spring.
>>> Click here to see the album <<<
Here is a picture of their 2006 cake.
Larger Images of the cake-->
Striking red-and-white-colored design with traditional phoenix patterns. A bit similar to 2005 Yi Wu Cha Wang, but 2006 cake has a double-layered wrapper as used in 2004 Special Reserve Cha Wang. A blue seal on the wrapper saying "Chi Shian", meaning "a wondrous fragrance". Date (2006 March) and weight (500g) are also clearly marked on the wrapper.
A picture of the liquor; first thing first, I checked the clarity of the liquor to make sure the kill-green process was well completed. I was indeed satisfied with the crystal-clear clarity!
Next, onto the quality of the leaves. As can be seen in the pictures, How Strong and Lively those leaves are! There is not doubt they are very premium big-tree (arbor) type pu-erh leaves.
The taste is a nice blend of veggie fragrance with floral aroma. Some fruity notes appear in later brews. Still few woody tones developed. No unpleasant smoky smell. Very elegant, mild and smooth taste.
According to Yan-Ching Hao's owner Mr. Yan, this Gu Shu cake was made of a blending of premium sun-dried leaves from old plantations in the six famous mountains, and contains at least 30% of leaves from wildly-grown arbor trees. Their another 2006 cake, on the other hand, did not contain wildly-grown leaves. I tasted both and found the aroma/taste of the Gu Shu cake was indeed more refined. Hence we decided to offer this Gu Shu cake.
He also pointed out that the blend was overseen by an old tea master in YiWu, following the traditional of some antique-Hao grade pu-erhs.
I also like the solid and meaty feeling of 500g cake! With the surging price of pu-erh raw leaves in Yunnan, this fine cake is truly a worthy treasure.
Guang@ Hou De