Two weeks ago, I was in Portland tasting some Taiwanese Oolongs with my tea friends. Before I arrived, our host Jan called to inform me that the air was quite smokey due to many wildfires in Oregon state. I didn't think too much about that since I lived in Taipei for many years in the past, and the air pollution was quite bad back then.
I arrived a day before the tea tasting event and I was fine with all the smoke in the air. The first half of the tea tasting went very well. We enjoyed two Baozhongs, Oriental Beauty, Alishan Black tea and a Chuan Tong Oolong (a heavy roasted Oolong). We took a small break and had some snacks. I didn't serve any of the High Mountain Oolongs until the second half, because there were five of them and I wanted participants to be able to compare the teas.
I opened the vacuum bag of Alishan Oolong. It surprised me that there was almost no smell from the bag. I thought the bouquet would definitely show up after the bag of Alishan had a chance to breathe. I proceeded to brew the tea and there was close to no bouquet from the tea broth, either. I was very disappointed. I very much wanted to share with them how beautiful this season's Alishan could be! Next, I brewed the ShanLinXi, which did not reveal most of its flavor either (ShanLinXi has the heaviest body and its flavor is very easy to detect this season). I thought something was wrong.
Jan graciously offered to change the pot for heating hot water, and wanted to know if it could make a difference. Not much more bouquet nor flavor showed up after changing to a different pot. Some people said it might be the water. I didn't think the water would be the cause as we had 5 different teas earlier and they tasted fine and delicious. I thought it might be caused by a sudden change in air pressure, but I had no proof.
I would say the High Mountain Oolongs only showed an average of 30% of their bouquet and flavor. However, their textures showed up without any problem. They were all very soft and round.
One hour afterwards, while I was bagging tea for my tea friends, I smelled the bag of Alishan and some bouquet showed up.
I didn't drink any High Mountain Oolong for two days. After I came back to Seattle, I was eager to try the Alishan. It smelled beautifully and tasted as what I have remembered. Thank goodness! Maybe my senses were muted by the smoke in the air?
I wonder if you have had similar experiences? If so, please share your thoughts with me, I would love to hear more about your experiences.
*photo provided by Marilyn Miller