Monday, June 2, 2008

Summer 2006 Guei Fei (Concubine) Dong Ding Oolong

I've been finding myself in the mood for Taiwanese Dong Ding oolongs these past few days. Rummaging through my tea canisters at home, I found a few Dong Ding oolongs from Stéphane Erler of Tea Masters that are long overdue for revisitations. Tonight, I decided to brew the Summer 2006 Guei Fei (Concubine) oolong from Fenghuang, Dong Ding, Taiwan, which I have never noted before in this blog.

Tasting Note: The tea soup was medium amber in color and it has crystal clear clarity. The base perfume was of deep floral notes, accompanied by a fruity and acidic high notes that are commonly found in Oriental Beauty oolong. I thought the high notes reminded me of an unripe green mango or, to borrow Stéphane's accurate description, "sour pineapple." The mouthfeel was rather thin. This tea left a fruity and acidic aftertaste long after it's swallowed.

As noted in Stéphane's blog, this tea was still in the experimental stages, and therefore, its quality may be inconsistent from one vintage to another. I thought that given the amount of high oxidation that this tea received during its manufacture, it was worth comparing it to the 2006 Dong Ding "Hong Shui" (Red Water), which I noted quite some time ago. So I brewed the two teas one after another (with an hour of rest in between sessions). I found the Hong Shui to have a deeper and heavier overall perfume while lacking the high notes found in the Concubine tea. The Hong Shui, however, had a certain sweet, gingery warmth to its characters, which reminded me of entering a cozy home when gingerbread cookies are baking in the oven.

Notice the side-by-side picture of the wet leaves (left side is the Hong Shui): they are quite similar in appearances and colors. The green part of the Hong Shui's leaves is a bit greener than the Gue Fei's, which is closer to being black-green. I wonder if it's caused by varietal/clonal difference, the degree of sunlight exposure or human factors such as processing techniques.


Salsero said...

You could review toothpaste and it would still be a joy to see you back!

Maybe this is a stupid question, but does the liquor's deep color result from oxidation or the roasting? I just get completely confused about the effects of these two processes.

BTW, I don't know if you remember I had an accounting student daughter, but she did her CPA exam and is now working for PWC in NYC.

~ Phyll said...

Hi Salsero, you are most kind and thank you.

The short answer to your loaded and shrewd question is: I don't 100% know for sure.

From my own observation of roasted and non-roasted oolongs that I've had, there is a clear correlation that both processes play a factor in the color of the tea soup. Of the two, roasting seems to have a more pronounced (and immediate) effect on the liquor's color than oxidation alone.

I don't think that the term "oxidation" in oolongs is the same as when the term is used to discuss pu'er teas. But it is clear the older raw pu'er has deeper liquor color than the younger, less oxidized pu'er. Drawing from this nonparallel example, oxidation does change the color of the tea soup.

(There are more inaccurate / inconclusive / flat out wrong answers than stupid questions in this world. So please treat my comment above with a grain of salt.)


Re: your CPA daughter, my congratulations (with ample reservations for her well being)! I have come to think of the big public accounting firms as slave drivers, especially to the newly graduated. 99% of the professionals that come out of those institutions and into the private industries are very capable thoroughbreds, though. The ones who stay inside them for too long I'm not quite sure about...

May I ask if she is in audit, tax, business consulting...?

Salsero said...

Well my question was not intended to be either loaded or shrewd, but it makes me feel like a big shot to have you attribute such expertise to me. Thank you for your substantial and thoughtful response.

As for the daughter, she is in tax in a real estate group, and the hours she and her group worked during tax season confirmed what you say about slave drivers.

~ Phyll said...

Real estate of the most complex specialties in taxation and a very small world. She must be among the best in her group.

TeaMasters said...


The oxidation makes the color of the liquor red (hence hung/red cha for fully oxidized teas) and the roasting makes the color of the liquor brown. This tea is strongly oxidized and medium roasted. So the deep color is mostly the result of oxidation, while roasting added a little more darkness.

Glad to see you back to (tea) life Phyll!

~ Phyll said...

Thank you, M. Erler.