Friday, July 10, 2009
Brewing Da Yu Ling High Mountain Oolong Tea
When I was in Taiwan in May searching for Oolongs, I didn't notice that some of this past season's tea has a slight bitter taste in the back of my tongue. After I brought them back to Seattle, that mild hint of bitterness appeared in some of the new teas. I don't know why they had such a change. Perhaps just like humans, tea can change in new environments, too.
Many customers have tried this spring's Da Yu Ling and they've commented that this Da Yu Ling is sweet and complex, but not bold. They generally like this tea. A regular customer bought a bag of the Da Yu Ling, and after he tried it twice at home, he came to tell me that the tea had some bitterness to it. I was having tea with some friends at the teashop at that time and he didn't want to sit down to try the tea that I was brewing. I asked him to come back again and to bring the regular pot he uses for high mountain teas and with that pot, we could brew the tea together. He gladly accepted the invitation.
My customer showed up with his pot later in the week. He brewed the tea in his pot the way he is accustomed to and I brewed the same tea in a gaiwan. The first three infusions from his pot were overwhelmingly bitter. He tasted mine and told me that the bitterness was there, but it was not offensive. I laughed and said,"no wonder you didn't like this tea. It's too bitter the way you brew it!" He justified by saying," I think this tea is interesting. The flavor changes throughout the infusions and it can last for 7 infusions. This tea is not boring at all. I just don't like the first three brewings." I laughed again and told him that it was not good enough. He was very intrigued by the tea's different taste when brewed in a gaiwan compared to his pot, though. My point was to ask him to give this tea a chance.
Alone in the teashop one afternoon, I found that I was in the mood to drink Da Yu Ling. I took out a yixing pot and put in a lot more tea leaves than usual. I brewed it for about 20 to 25 seconds (I noticed that customer timed his tea 20 to 25 seconds). It was really good! I wish he was there at the time to try the tea. It had full body and was full of flavors. The slight bitterness was there, but it was not offensive at all. I enjoyed that tea until the last drop of many brewings.
My customer came again afterwards. I asked him if he could bring his pot over so that we could brew the same tea in two different pots, and he accepted the second invitation again.
This time, we were pretty scientific about the brewing. We measured the pots and the leaves. My pot is just little bit smaller than his. He used around 10.2 grams of tea and I used 10 grams. He timed the 20 seconds of brewing time and I added two to three more seconds. It turned out again that the tea from my pot was not as bitter as his. He insisted it was still too bitter and I respected what he was tasting. I told him with a sincerity that I liked the tea. I told him that in Taiwan, many people brew tea even stronger than what we did that day, and they would brew it to just the "right edge". Their tea tastes bitter, but it was normally full body and the Hua Gan(sweetness turns back to the throat) and a sweet taste will appear at the mouth. People like interesting changes like this. He told me it was the first time he ever heard of Hua Gan and he couldn't "sense" it. But it was interesting for him to learn new things.