Sunday, 12 June 2011

Alishan 1 - Spring 2011 from World Of Tea

Tea: Alishan Oolong from World Of Tea
Origin: Alishan (1,400m), Taiwan
Harvest: Spring 2011

Today I sat down with Director's Cut to try a couple of different teas, the first being this fresh gaoshan oolong from World Of Tea, a relatively new brick and mortar shop located in the national capital's Westboro village.

As this tea has a very low oxidation level I brewed it quite cool (and a bit too light in the first cautious infusion), and as a result very little in the way of aroma greeted us from the sniffing cups. The mouthfeel, however, was instantly smooth and coated the whole inside of the mouth just as a drop of soap diffuses across a layer of water covering it completely. Having been gently woken by the first infusion aromas of mango and papaya reached us revealing what little oxidation this tea had undergone during processing. Looking at the leaves in the empty gaiwan this was very apparent; they were of an incredible rich green!

Someone left emeralds in my gaiwan...
This tea really seems to be all about mouthfeel rather than the intense fruity and floral qualities for which more oxidised and roasted oolongs are known, and in this respect it really excelled. The mouthfeel was consistently smooth and had a pleasant cool and minty huigan which only lasted longer as we progressed through the infusions. However, this is not to say that the flowers and fruit of other oolongs are completely absent. After the third infusion very clear and distinct floral notes bloomed beneath the lid of the gaiwan letting us know that this was indeed an oolong. In later infusions the tea developped a light sweet note which DC described as being closer to the sweetness of caramelized onions than the honey-sweetness of the senchas with which he is familiar. This sweetness continued to evolve throughout the subsequent infusions eventually concluding with a note most like some sort of candied fruit.

One subtle but at the same time powerful characteristic of this gaoshan tea was it's trademark high-mountain chaqi. While the cooling properties were duly noted early on during the tasting, it was only towards the end of the session that a remarkable calmness became more obvious. The qi was never overpowering or in your face as it can sometimes be with other genres, but rather has a more subtle centering effect on the drinker. As this tea was provided courtesy of DC's personal stash, he was able to relate previous experience with this tea illustrating this effect: at the end of a hectic day the tea left him with a feeling of calmness, providing an interesting contrast to today's lazy Sunday session which managed to dispell a feeling of lethargy stemming from not doing anything all day up until then. However, this is not to be mistaken for an energizing, early morning tea as it clearly did not have this effect on us.

Looking into my tea strainer the quality of the leaves that make up this tea is obvious: barely anything's been filtered out. The tightly rolled leaves are whole almost without exception, about two thirds of them being three leaves to a stem (rather than lone leaves). As World of Tea's mid-range (or better yet, mid-mountain) Alishan Oolong, at about $20 for 50g it is a thoroughly enjoyable and economical way of exploring gaoshan as a genre.
Co-authored by Eugenius and Director's Cut

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