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.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Dong Ding and Hong Shui Oolong

One of my favorite teas of the spring season sold out a couple of months ago. It was a Dong Ding Oolong. I simply loved the way it felt in the mouth. I thought I would wait for the winter season to arrive, but some customers fell in love with that tea and simply couldn't wait.

I called the Dong Ding farmer and asked him if he had any tea for sale. He told me yes, and I talked to him about what I liked and how I liked the previous batch of tea I purchased from him, and how the other types didn't work for me. Then he suddenly said," Oh, what you like is Hong Shui Oolong."

I asked him if Hong Shui Oolong was the traditional way of making Dong Ding. I also asked if I should be seeing the clear red edges when the leaves opened up and how come I didn't see that from the previous batches of his tea. "Miss Tai, don't listen to too much of what people have said about tea," he said. I told him I needed to know because that's part of my job. I needed to tell people the right information.

He went on with saying that the tea has the "appropriate" oxidation level and I will like it. I knew I was not going to be getting much more from him on this particular subject, so I asked him what he thought of the weather for the upcoming winter tea. He said," Why do you care about the weather? You don't grow tea. You only need to choose tea. So weather is not your issue." I bursted out laughing and thought that was totally him.

I called a tea friend in Taiwan that had tried that Dong Ding tea. I asked him about his opinions on Hong Shui Oolong. He told me he liked the tea and it was a Hong Shui Oolong. When asked why, he didn't really know how to explain it. I was getting frustrated and turned on the computer to see what I could find. I read a couple of articles from the myteastories blog and Houde blog and found both of them interesting. I got on the phone again after reading, and talked to one more tea friend in Taiwan. He said, "紅水烏龍是台灣烏龍的一種做法,茶葉發酵度高,茶湯呈橘紅色,沒有花香而是帶熟果香,茶湯入口柔順而且很有喉韻".

I swear I could taste the tea when he was telling me how it supposed to taste like. If you can't read Chinese, here is the translation: " Hong Shui Oolong is a traditional way to make Oolong tea in Taiwan. The tea has a higher level of oxidation. The tea liquid is orange/reddish color. This kind of tea no longer carries a floral bouquet, instead, it has a sort of ripe fruit taste. The feel of tea water is very smooth and it has a good 喉韻(Hou Yun - throat smoothness).

Then he went on," 在以前,紅水烏龍指的是毛茶,現代的定義有一點混淆,有些人把烏龍茶焙一焙,茶湯呈紅色,就叫做紅水烏龍." Translation: "In the old time, Hong Shui Oolong refers to Mao Cha. Nowadays, the definition is a bit muddled. Some people roast their tea to show a reddish tea liquid and they will call that kind of tea Hong Shui Oolong, too."

I told him the original style sounded very delicious and asked why we aren't seeing more of that type. He told me that it took more time and skill to make. Not many farmers have those kinds of skill anymore. I could see that he was very busy. I thanked him and told him I would call back again.

Some of you will have more insight and notes on my new Hong Shui Oolong and I would love to hear from you. I have a new Hong Shui style Dong Ding and I also have a modern style lightly oxidized Dong Ding, too. I would like to give out samples of both types to you if you agree to please write me back with what you think of them after you compare them.

Please write to me at tea@floatingleaves.com to request the Dong Ding samples; include your name and address. Only the first 30 requests will get the tea. If you live in Seattle, please just show up and try these teas with me.