Friday, September 5, 2008

Into The 6th Day of Tasting...

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.


Salsero said...

Coincidentally (which means with only slight nudging from Toki), I started on Sunday just as you did. I am most amazed so far by the rich taste of the warm wash that I use only briefly to heat the leaves for a few moments and then pour off. This warm water still becomes tea and has a nice full feeling in the mouth! I like your Cognac taste analogy.

I'm sure hoping at least some of your hypotheses are right!

toki said...

Or we might all pass away in our sleep by drinking bad tea water? I will greet you all in heaven, with a big smile and a Great pot of eternal tea : P -Tok

~ Phyll said...

Salsero: I also hope Toki and Michael at TTG don't have some kind of special resistance that we both don't.

Toki: But, won't St. Peter or whoever your gatekeeper is find you guilty for what happens to us? No worries, though...hellfire is infinitely better for heating up a Great big kettle. :)

toki said...

as long as I am with friends whom would die for tea. Anywhere is good : )