Today, I enter into my 6th day of tasting Toki's Wuyi oolong, which according to his blog was harvested from a 200+ years old Shui Xian bush, and then fired 4 times between May and September of 2004 by a talented tea master in Wuyishan, Fujian Province, China.
For the first 3 days (Sunday to Tuesday), I brewed this tea with regular gongfu methods until such point that I had to infuse the tea for 15 minutes or longer. From then on, I began to infuse it for hours on end. These are the steps I am taking, as suggested by Toki:
1. After concluding the last short-brew steep, pour boiling-hot water into the teapot up to the rim. Place the lid on, and pour hot water over the lid to "water-seal" the teapot.
2. After about 6 or more hours, pour the tea out (to be enjoyed). Then, pour boiling water into the teapot for about 5 - 10 secs before pouring the brew out into a cup (to be enjoyed). The purpose of this short steep is to re-heat the leaves in order to prepare them for the next extended steeping. The leaves must be as hot as possible. Then, I immediately pour boiling-hot water into the teapot again, up to the rim, put the lid on, and water seal it. I let it stand again for hours on end.
3. Repeat step 2. Increase steeping time as necessary, up to 12 hours.
The liquor from yesterday morning's 11-hour steeping was smooth and flavorful. It no longer had the roastiness and the astringency that this tea exhibited during the first 3 days. Rather, it tasted and smelled floral and subtly complex. I can't find the words to describe it. Somehow, it reminded me of drinking an old, top-notch Cognac.
I wonder if an extended tasting session that goes on for weeks is best (or better) done with a heavily-roasted tea. Since roasted tea had to go through the firing process, I would assume that the end product is "clean"...less bacteria, fungi and other creepy microscopic crawlies. Also, the fact that the leaves are always submerged in water inside a sealed teapot probably minimizes mold growth and other nasties from developing. Further, after the tea is poured out, re-steeping the leaves with boiling-hot water maybe helps kill any chances of unwanted stuff from growing too much, too quickly or at all. Lastly, perhaps the fact that tea has antiseptic properties helps keep it clean and safe to consume for much longer.
These are just hypotheses...I'm not sure.