Saturday, September 6, 2008

Elevated Expectations?

Last night, after drinking Toki's yancha oolong brew du nuit (steeped from 9am to 9pm), I decided to look for another yancha tea among my stash to do a comparison tasting, sort of. Aha! I found a pack of vintage 2007 Baishuixiang (100 years fragrance -- BSX) oolong, still vacuum-sealed in its little mylar bag.

This tea, among others, was generously given to me by Will and Louise, two of my LA Tea Affair buddies. While visiting Wuyishan last year, they obtained a variety of teas from the local producers and vendors to be brought back to Los Angeles for their personal enjoyment. I am sincerely grateful to them for the potpourri of samples of their acquisitions.

My thinking was to drink Will's BSX and use my recent (and ongoing) tasting of Toki's Shuixian (SX) as a frame of reference for taste, quality and, most especially, firing technique. Granted that BSX tea is not the same variety as SX, I hope they are more or less comparable on the general level, as far as my tasting experiment is concerned.

So, as with Toki's tea, I placed about 3/4 full of the BSX, tightly compacting the leaves by tapping the pot's side gently, into my 80cc 1970's hongni shuipin Yixing pot. With boiling-hot water I flash-rinsed the tea once, and then flash-steeped the tea for 6 infusions. After the 6th cup, I felt that I've had enough impression of the tea for the night (will continue in the morning).

The differences between the two teas were strikingly noticeable. Although both teas have been deeply roasted, the SX managed to give out an upfront yet balanced sweetness and roastiness. The BSX, on the other hand, was skewed much more towards its roasty characteristics. It had thin layers of green and floral characters underneath all the strong, toasty flavors. Also, the BSX tasted rather chaotic in the mouth: burnt toast, some greenness, a bit floral, but highly astringent. I felt that the qi of this tea was also chaotic, giving me an uneasy feeling overall. The aftertaste lingered for quite a while, though unfortunately, it was sour and drying to the throat. I felt more thirsty than before I drank this BSX.

Should I not put as much leaves when brewing BSX tea? Or has my expectations been elevated somewhat by Toki's tea? If my overall expectations has indeed been elevated, then I reckon that I am doomed to spend a large sum of money whenever I shop for a decent Wuyi tea -- that is if I could find such high caliber teas to begin with.

[My utmost thanks again to Will and Louise! Despite my criticism, I am grateful for the lesson I learned from tasting your tea.]


toki said...

Hi Phylls - Sometime you have to give the tea more time to develop. Specially it was sealed for a year? Might helps, if let it breath a while before brewing... I was drink some 4 kinds of tea this Sat., before the storm hits NYC. All the tea tasted flat and unremarkable.... I think the low pressure and the muggy weather did a big number on their behavior?

btw. great tea does not = to top $$$. Lots of tea is free : ) Cheers-T

~ Phyll said...

Perhaps that was my mishap -- not giving the BSX dry leaves some time to breath before brewing.