Floating Leaves Tea Home ---Shiuwen's Blog!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Is Taiwanese Oolong Usually Blended

Two customers came in to share with me a Dong Ding oolong they had purchased elsewhere. They told me it was $18 per ounce; I was very excited to try it. I normally don't care how expensive a tea is, but the pricing and the quality should match.

After two infusions, I asked them what they thought. They said it tasted good enough, but they were more eager to know what I thought of the tea. I told them I didn't think it was a bad tea, but I wouldn't pay $18 for it. Later, I laid out the open leaves for them to see and asked them to look closely. There were two different styles of leaves in it. One was roasted and one was not. They told me that they've never "studied" tea leaves after they were done drinking tea before and thought it to be quite interesting. They asked if it's a good thing to mix tea like that and if Taiwanese Oolong teas are usually blended.

I told them sometimes Taiwanese teas are blended, but it doesn't mean that it's a bad thing. I have a tea friend who owns a tea business outside of Taipei. He once told me that his clients would order more than 100 pounds of Oriental Beauty. There is no way that he could get a single crop from one source of Oriental Beauty in that quantity. He searched for teas that had similar quality and taste and he would mix them together and finish the tea off with a touch-up roasting. I have tried those teas before and they tasted good. One wouldn't even notice that the tea was mixed.

In 2005, my friend took me to see the Pinglin Baozhong competition. One of the assistants saw us and went to prepare a gaiwan. He put three different Baozhongs in the gaiwan. I asked my friend what the assistant was doing, and he told me he was going to make us some tea. I wondered why he mixed three different Baozhongs. I drank a cup of that blend and it was one of the best Baozhongs I have ever tasted.

I think it's alright for Taiwanese teas to be blended. If they are, the teas are generally from similar processing methods. I rarely see a tea that is blended from different processes, unless it is low grade or low quality.


Soïwatter said...

This article is very interesting.

I love tea leaves study. Not as a divination art. But I think it is a good way to understand the tea.
Dry, you can sea its roasting and guess about it fabrication.
Steeped, you can guess about the fabrication, see the oxidation, the breach in the leaves, the size of the stem, the cut of the leaf (mechanical or by and, number of leaves, remove of the stem...), the bites of insects, the care of the tea maker. All these informations that tasting cannot teach.

It is quite logical that, for very little productions such as Dong Fang Mei Ren or little plantation of gao shan cha, there would be blending of tea leaves because one single batch cannot make an enough amount of tea.
I've also seen many times these blending in huge batches spring green tea (commercialisation often need many kg of tea, which are often blends of batches), when you can differentiate the leaves at first sight.

But is this habbit common, for high quality (high price) taiwanese teas I mean?
As one of the quality of tea is its purity and it's clearness, is there no blur of the tea specificities?

The leaves you are presenting us are quietly from 2 different processes. One highly oxidized (it looks like a Hung Shui and the other of light oxidation. How odd!

I agree with you, blending can lead to good thinks. Friends of mine have made many "amateur" tests of tea blending, reaching good results, even with very strange blends (red with oolongs, different oolong types...) But I would always prefer single batch teas. And every time I taste a good tea, I would like to knows more about it (harvest day, producer, location of the plantation, fabrication data), even if it is impossible most of the time...

cwbrynan said...

Dear Shiuwen,
Reading tea leaves? I always thought that dusty residue in the bottom of the tea cup was only for the mystics. Now I'm going to pull that magic leaf from the cup for further inspection. Thank you Shiuwen for adding another step in my tea journey!

I sent my first Dong Ding review on your last post. Why did you mark the packet Dong Ding Green?

Shiuwen said...

To Soiwatter,

Thank you for your comments.

I normally don't see much blending going on in Taiwanese teas. People can accept the different tastes in tea from different seasons. So they normally don't mind that different batches of tea from the same producer taste different.

Shiuwen said...

To Cwbrynan,

Oh, I marked it green because I call lightly oxidized oolong green oolong.