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

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Extra Tips on Waking Up Aged Oolong

After posting about waking up aged oolong I had gotten a lot of questions, so I thought I should post some more specific guidelines. This is a new technique for us, too, but we are very excited to practice and share. We decided to do an experiment, which I will lay out for you. I hope the outcome of our experiment will be a good starting point to practice waking up aged tea with heat.

We got the idea of waking up teas from footage shot in Taipei for the documentary. The tea brewing master she interviewed used his brazier that keeps his kettle hot to heat his clay teapot, dry, with aged tea in it. This, he said, was to wake up the tea.

We had touched up old teas before, but this encouraged us to practice it and make it a more regular part of our tea brewing.

The Experiment:

We did a side by side tasting of the '66 Aged Beipu before roasting, after being touched up in our electric tea roaster, and after being touched up in an old teapot over a candle flame. The three versions of the same tea all tasted different, and we preferred the candle flame tea.

Earlier this week, Shiuwen tried herself to touch up the tea in our electric roaster. After roasting it, she felt that although it was clearer tasting, the heat was not enough. So we tried again. This time, we tried 60 degrees Celsius for 20 minutes in our electric roaster. Despite being slightly over-roasted (had a stronger drying effect on the tongue), the tea was pretty good.

With the teapot roasting setup above, I started to heat it over the flame myself. The tea started out smelling slightly prune-like and moist. When I felt that most of the moisture was out of the tea, I showed Shiuwen. She smelled it and said "It's not done yet. Don't be afraid of the heat. And you don't need to toss it the whole time." You can see me babying the tea in the picture, continuously holding it shaking it so it wouldn't burn.

She placed the pot directly over the flame and let it sit. When she pulled the tea off the heat, we smelled the dry leaves. The fragrance was more clear, and I noticed
it penetrated deeper into my sinuses.

Brewed, the teas were all great because we started with a very good base. But the MVP was certainly the flame touched tea. It was not only clearer without the stale note, but it also 'opened' much more. The broth felt soft and round and expansive, and the scent was clear and assertive. The untouched tea was good, but the teas we 'woke up' felt like they had just a little bit more. The electric roaster tea was definitely right in the middle, clearer but without as much smoothness or roundness as the candle flame tea.

So go ahead and wake up your aged teas, if you like. It may help them to shine even more. If you discover something really awesome, let us know. We're on the same journey. And don't fear the heat, or you may find yourself outside the kitchen ;)

Written by Noah

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Oriental Beauty

This tea goes by many names. Oriental Beauty (Dongfang Meiren), Bai Hao Oolong (White Tips), Champagne Oolong, Formosa Oolong, Five Colors Tea (Wuse Cha), Braggart's Tea (Pong Hong De). It was the most exported tea from Taiwan to the West in the 1800s. The Queen of England is credited with naming it Oriental Beauty, because loved it so much when she tasted it.

The tea is well known for its distinctive honey sweetness. The story goes that tea jassids (little aphid-like bugs) fly around and bite the leaves of tea plants. The plant produces a secretion at the bite-mark, which apparently gives the tea its sweet taste.

The first time this happened, the tea farmers thought their crops were lost. But a bold farmer turned around and made the tea anyway, and his Western middleman loved the product. He was so proud, he went around telling all the surrounding farmers, hence the tea garnered the name Braggart's Tea.

The tea is highly oxidized, about 70 percent. It is sweet, light bodied, floral, fruity. The bouquet is really exquisite. The dry leaves are tippy, with little silver buds and long brown-red leaves. It's distinctive taste has gotten the attention of tea drinkers across Asia, so there are farmers in Viet Nam, Thailand and China trying to reproduce the taste. But it was first grown in Xin Zhu/Miao Li in Taiwan, and now Ping Lin grows some great Oriental Beauty as well.

Our Oriental Beauty is made in Ping Lin with the Qing Xin varietal. The most popular, original style Oriental Beauty is grown with the Qing Xin Da Pa varietal. And farmers are also making this tea with Bai Mao Hou varietal (White Haired Monkey), which produces a beautiful tea with tiny, fine leaves.

This is a regular daily tea for both of us. It is great in a bowl or mug (grandpa style) for a morning tea. The tea jassids only show up in a big group once a year, so the tea is only produced one season per year. Because Shiuwen doesn't visit Taiwan in the summer, she's never seen it being processed. We hope to visit some great Oriental Beauty farmers and watch them make this tea some day.

We will be drinking this tea live on Instagram next Tuesday 10/24 at 11:30. Please tune in and drink the tea with us! Shuiwen will brew the tea and talk about her experience with it. If you have our Oriental Beauty, that's great. If not, brewing another Oriental Beauty would also be great. We hope you can make it! Our Instagram account is https://www.instagram.com/floatingleavestea/

Written by Noah

*photography by Jake Knapp of Cloud 9 Photography & Design.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Waking Up Aged Oolong

Aged oolongs can have a soothing energy. They are usually temperamental, and sometimes sour, but if you nurture them they can be full of life and delicious. And they will have a story to tell you. Part of the process of nurturing aged oolongs is waking up the tea.

When I talk about waking up a tea, I do this with heat. This is also called spot roasting, or touching up a tea. It is like roasting it just slightly, right before brewing. The simplest way is to get a candle, like a tea light, with a low flame. You can use a small sheet of paper, resting one pots worth of tea on the paper. Hold it above the flame so that a gentle heat starts to warm up the leaves (and not burn the paper at all!!). The goal is not to roast the tea, but merely to push out the slowly accumulated moisture. You can also make an apparatus to roast aged teas with an old teapot and a candle based teapot warmer as in this picture.

However you wake it up, the tea will taste cleaner, more direct and more full. The moisture that gets stuck in an aged tea can be like a glass wall between the tea and the drinker.

Our ‘66 Aged Beipu, for example, benefits from a quick spot roast. As it is, the tea is herbal, medicinal and smooth. When I feel like using some extra time and energy, I spot roast this tea as a step in my brewing process to produce an even more delicious pot of tea.

Written by: Noah

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Lishan High Mountain Oolong

photography by Douglas King

The highest tea growing peaks in Taiwan are located on Lishan. Misty, cool, high elevation, this mountain produces some of Taiwan's most famous tea. Tea farmers are growing tea around 1500 meters up to about 2600 meters at the highest point. Da Yu Ling and Fu Shou Shan teas are the most sought after among the wider tea audience because of their elevation.

Other lower elevation tea growing mountains may be growing other kinds of cultivars, like Jin Xuan. Around 1500 meter areas, Lishan farmers may be growing these varieties, too. But Qing Xin cultivar is the only one that can stand up to the highest elevation conditions and still produce a good oolong.

Compared to Alishan, Lishan tea is much more buttery. Alishan has high notes. And Lishan has a buttery texture that coats the mouth. It is balanced and thick, and is very classically representative of High Mountain Oolong.

We will be doing an Instagram live session with Lishan High Mountain Oolong on Tuesday the 10th of October at 11:30. Shiuwen will talk about how she brews and tastes the tea while drinking the tea with you. We want to encourage people to drink the tea along with us. If you have our Lishan then that's great, and if you drink another Lishan Oolong, that should be fine, too. Our goal is to facilitate drinking tea together and share the way we experience our teas.
Our Instagram account is https://www.instagram.com/floatingleavestea/

Written by Noah

Note on Myself: I’m Noah, and I have been an apprentice at Floating Leaves Tea since 2015. Since then, my love for tea has grown deeper and deeper, and I want to share my journey with you all. Thanks for reading!