Classic Dong Ding Oolong – Tea Masters

November 12, 2008

Tea Masters is an amazing “blog” run by Stéphane Erler and is an almost perfect mix of information, highly skilled photography, amazing teas, and he even sells some teaware and tea straight from the source. Fluent in both English and French his posts at times can frustratingly alternate into one language or the other rather than posted bilingually… however I’m sure that is a big pain and time sink so I can understand but it is hard when you are left out of a particularly interesting looking post. I have however learned more than I can say here from him and his writings, and it is a must read site.

I am a relative newcomer to drinking oolong seriously as I have always concentrated on greens but for a few years now I have delved into this new and strange realm. Floral and “green” oolongs are right out for me, I have no taste for it and even after some years it is not even an acquired taste I can learn to enjoy. I like the more fruity/peachy/raisiny heavily roasted types and my all-time favorite was a double roasted Shui Xian from Singapore which was a hair’s breadth away from charcoal.

This “classic” Dong Ding Oolong from Feng Huang, Taiwan Spring 2008 (April 30) (how’s that for informative!) went into my gaiwan as small fisted very green leaf which had a slight raisin aroma. I wasn’t expecting much since the rich green  color is normally indicative of floral oolongs and not my preference. The tea actually brewed up quite differently than I had anticipated. It was fruitier and more mellow with almost no floral taste. I managed three haphazard infusions which held out well and started to change flavor into a new and interesting more roasted/nutty flavor but never turning floral. Had I taken more care I could have probably got another infusion or so, but regardless it was great at every stage. This is a highly recommended tea and well worth a shot even if you have tried other Dong Ding Oolongs, I was incredibly surprised and taken by it. Which is saying a lot as normally I’d never give a tea with this color and processing a second thought. My tastes have still not shifted to enjoy any green/floral oolongs but this tea showed me that all green oolongs are not so easily judged and have soime tricks up their sleeve for those who are willing to strip away some preconceptions and bad past experiences.

Rock The Vote!

November 12, 2008

2008 Spring San-Xia Bi Lo Chun – HouDe

November 11, 2008

I’ve been in the tea doldrums lately between being sick and just not really into anything I’ve received lately. That’s changed, and in a big way. HouDe Asian Art is a very respected vendor and one I have dabbled with but never sunk into. Now I have and I’m glad I did.

Bi Lo Chun is a comfort tea to me. It is a solid green that has a unique flavor which can be as straight-forward or as subtle as you are feeling as long as it is of even middling quality. It is clean and refreshing but with a deeper nutty flavor and some other nuances that change with the year and location. It is always similar enough to be my comfort tea but with just enough variation to keep me interested and surprised.

I was shopping for a Taiwanese competition oolong tea tasting set (which I’ll cover soon) and HouDe not only had them but for a very reasonable price. I can never order teaware without a few teas and one that caught my eye was this 2008 Spring Taiwan San-Xia Bi Lo Chun. It was unique in a number of ways and unlike the “snail” shaped BLC it was more of a downy, wiry, and shabby looking lot… I was intrigued.

This Image (c) HouDe Asian Art and only a placeholder

This Image (c) HouDe Asian Art and only a placeholder

It shipped in a nice sealed foil pouch inside of a resealable beautifully labeled outer pouch and as soon as I cut open the inner pouch I was hit with the true essence of Bi Lo Chun. Hard. The leaves are very verdant and much darker than what I am used to, but any hesitation was instantly dispelled on the first brewing. This is simply an amazing treat! It has all of the usual characteristics but all intensified as if double or triple the normal flavors. I was actually torn at first if that was a particularly good thing or not, but after just a few initial sips I was totally sold. Three infusions kept it coming and the fourth was light but still easily identifiable as BLC. Sweet, nutty, intense, smooth, lush… this is a must try for a BLC fan. It may be almost too much as a daily drinker but I’m going to have a go at it anyhow.