Wednesday, June 28, 2017

World of Tea Series: Wuyi Oolong Tasting

Northwest Tea Festival hosts the World of Tea Series one Saturday of each month. This series offers unique tea tastings and workshops presented by specialists in the industry.

On May 20th, Andrew Goodman (The Happy Tea Man) hosted a Wuyi Oolong Tasting.

To kick off the event, everyone introduced themselves and shared their tea stories.  It's always interesting to hear how people came to tea, whether through fond memories of family traditions or through great teas discoveries later in life.

All the teas we enjoyed were prepared using Smacha's Auto Tea Brewers which brew for 2.5 minutes.  Oolongs were steeped at 195° F and the black tea was steeped at 205° F.  While the teas brewed, Andrew shared stories of his travels and insight into Wuyi tea production.

Wuyi Shan (Wuyi Mountain) is located in China in northwest Fujian Province.  Teas produced here are Yan Cha (rock oolong) and Lapsang Souchong (smoked black tea).  Harvesting and processing is done very early in the day.  The top three leaves on the tea bushes are plucked early in the day on a schedule that takes into careful consideration the day, weather, temperature, mist, and time of sunrise.  Wuyi rock teas tend to be roasted and the finest teas are roasted over charcoal that has been covered in rice ash.

There are four ways in Wuyi Shan to look at tea:
  • Aroma should speak of roasting and should not be overwhelming.
  • Clarity of flavor should have distinct notes, not muddled.
  • Aftertaste or Gan should coat the throat with a warm feeling.
  • Spirit or Vigor will stem from the influence of traditions on production, like whether the plucking is from the east side of the bush versus the west side of mountains.
The first tea we tasted was Tie Luo Han (Iron Warrior Monk) which had notes of roasted nut shells and a hint of cocoa.

Next, we tasted one of the most famous Wuyi rock teas, Da Hong Pao (Big Red Robe).  Six of the original "mother" tea bushes have survived for over 350 years old.  Almost all Da Hong Pao comes from plants propagated from the mother tea bushes.

Our third oolong was a rare Ban Tian Yao (Halfway to the Sky) with a smooth, dry, nutty taste.

We shifted from charcoal roasted rock oolongs to a pine-smoked Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong, a hong cha (black or red tea) more commonly known in the west as Lapsang Souchong.  The flavor was mild, sweet, and smoky with a hint of honey.

For our final tea we moved away from Wuyi to Zhang Ping in Fujian Province, tasting a compressed and colorful oolong called Zhang Ping Shui Xian (Narcissus 'Water Lily') which had lightly floral and mild mossy notes.

Thanks to Northwest Tea Festival for providing another great tea tasting opportunity and especially to Andrew Goodman for sharing these fantastic teas as well as your experiences in Wuyi!

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