Tuesday, May 20, 2014

E-Tea With a New Friend!

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting Shiuwen Tai of Floating Leaves Tea - in a Google+ hangout room.  Before I jump into the tea event, I'll give some background.

I was snooping around Teachat and reading some blogs when I came across a few folks talking about floating leaves tea.  I looked a little further, and found the opportunity for a "live' tea chat, sampling and discussion on Google+.  I did some reading, decided it was for me, and signed myself up.  I'm always happy to meet others who practice Gongfu Cha, or as I call it, The Fu.

I received five samples - a 2013 Winter Dong Ding Charcoal Roast, 2012 Muzha Tie Guan Yin, 2013 Winter Lishan, 2013 Winter Dongfang Meiren(Oriental Beauty), and the 2013 Winter Baozhong Farmer's Choice.

The Google+ meetup started out quite well.  There were two other guests that were to appear as well, but only one other had shown up.

Shiuwen is amicable and a pure joy to converse with - she would initially talk about the next tea we would be brewing, describe it's origin, processing, and other facts and factoids regarding what we were brewing.  I might have asked a question now and then, or asked for clarification, but for the most part, I simply listened, took notes, and drank some tea.

Now, the tea itself!

2013 Winter Baozhong Farmer's Choice

This is the less expensive of the four Baozhong's that she offers (Edit: the 2nd place winter BZ has sold out!)  The leaves ranged from a light green to a dark green and were long and in a strip style, which is really the only kind I've seen, other than the roasted kind.
What struck me about this tea is despite it's light flavor and color, this tea felt full in the mouth - thick! Shengjin, (mouth watering) was moderate, and some se (Astringency) appeared in the later cups.  The huigan was long lasting, and most importantly, the tea made me feel good - Balanced, relaxed, and happy.  The spent leaves looked good and well made.

2013 Winter Dongfang Meiren (Oriental Beauty)

Oriental Beauty to me, is one of those unique local things that one wouldn't ordinarily come across unless they were in the area that produced.  In the region of the US that I come from, we have Vinegar-Pepper Pit cooked pig(Barbecue) and we also have groups of people who supposedly still eat white clay- I won't elaborate on that one.
The thing about Oriental Beauty that surprises me is how many online tea vendors seem to sell some version of it or the other.  I would venture a guess that it may be one of those Lao Banzhang situations, where the amount of LBZ supposedly purchased is x times greater than the tea made there over the course of the year.
Regardless of that fact, this was enjoyable OB - It was thick and full feeling, it didn't come across too strongly with hints of hong cha.  In fact, I was able to push the tea rather hard and not come across much kou gan or se, though I did notice it a little in later cups, which is understandable - I was brewing this very hard at that point.
Despite my attempts at brewing it hard, it didn't give much flavor. Hints of wood, a light malt flavor appearing and disappearing, and a general low, broad sweetness that was hard to associate with anything that I have tasted before.  This tea did make my hands and face feel warm at first - I was perspiring by the end of that session, and I felt very energetic.  I should note that I let this tea cool somewhat before I drink it to reduce the risk of me confusing the feeling I get from the tea and sweating because the tea was 190-odd degrees.  Pleasant for a cold, rainy day.

2013 Winter Lishan

Lishan is actually one of my preferred 'light' teas for everyday drinking.  I generally prefer light to medium roasted versions.  This version was very green and had ample stem, which is fine, as experience has taught me that stem can add to the flavor of the tea.
I brewed this tea even harder than the OB, and was greeted with a pleasant light sweetness and plenty of florals.  It lasted about 7 infusions before I gave up, but the tea at that point still had flavor and huigan.
There was plenty of thickness in the early infusions, and this one was also hard to overbrew - though on one cup I experienced a little bit of se, but it didn't necessarily detract from the experience.
This Lishan relaxed me and was enjoyable to drink.  I would enjoy tasting a lightly roasted version of this tea.

2012 Muzha Tie Guan Yin

I admit that I'm usually not a fan of tea from the Muzha area, but as someone who enjoys reading philosophy (but would never call themselves a philosopher, ever) I was quietly reminded that every new experience can lead to something new.  Basic stuff, you know - remembering to apply that lesson is how we get results, though.
These leaves were dark and loosely rolled in comparison to other Muzha TGY's that I've come across.  The dry leaf aroma was hard for me to place - It was unlike anything I've smelled before, though. A mixture of popcorn, cedar wood, and dried Camellia flowers.  That's the best I could do.
This tea presented itself differently than I had expected.  If I closed my eyes while someone made this for me, I might have thought it was some kind of Yencha that I hadn't tried.  Notes of roast, dried fruits, brown sugar and 'wood'.
There was plenty of se in this one, and I didn't brew this one as hard as a result. The se still resumed, which is fine. I experienced some kougan in the first two infusions, but it wasn't too much, and it didn't stay in my palate for very long, and was replaced by a pleasant sweetness.
There was plenty of thickness in this tea for the first two cups, at which point it thinned somewhat, but was still very enjoyable to drink.  Overall, I got a much deeper feeling from this tea than that of the previous three.  It was like being warmed from the inside and rocked to sleep, or the feeling of putting on warm clothes from the dryer on a cold morning.  It's difficult to describe, but it was a deep, intense feeling.  I like this one quite well.

2013 Winter Dong Ding Charcoal Roast

Some people might say I have an irrational fear of Dong Ding Wulong, and they are absolutely right.
I call it Dong Ding Traumatic Stress Disorder (I'm not poking fun at anyone with PTSD, please understand).  In my earlier years of knowing nothing about tea, I had many a bad session with all sorts of Dong Ding.  In my current years of knowing nothing about tea, those events occur once every  few months or so, but my formative years in oolong are still scarred by horrid, bitter Dong Ding.
Ring the Bells, folks....Ding, Dong...I've found me a nice one!
The roast aroma was still prominent to me, along with an aroma of dried herbs.  So far, so good.
This tea had light notes of char - nothing overwhelming or distracting. It blended with the woody, stemmy, dried fruit, earth, and mellow sweetness, and overall was very balanced.  It was able to handle harder brewing without issue, which tells me the tea is worth it's salt in at least that part of the experience.  This tea, as with all the others, made me feel good (and also very energized for some reason), but it didn't have the depth of some of the others, feeling wise.  Flavor wise, there was plenty there to observe - this a tea that one should pay plenty of attention to.
I would like to see how this tea ages, as it seems to have enough roast in order to keep, given that it is stored properly.

With all of that said, give these teas a try.  They are worth it, and there are a wide variety of flavors and feelings present; at least one of them should suit your tastes, or if you're new to this world, perhaps it will bring you closer to knowing what you like.  Experience is experience as long as we listen and apply what we've learned, and perfect practice...is just an idea.  Do your best when you brew these(Edit: Do your best, no matter what you do!), and pay attention to how they respond to different tea ware,  water, and brewing parameters, if you're into that sort of thing.  If you're a lets-drink-this-because-zen person...well, enjoy!

See you next time!