I've often read about the profound effect the nature of the water used to brew tea has on the final beverage, and today I have a prime example. Gu Zao Wei is a tea that I used to think of as a pretty good example of a mid-roast, mid-oxidation oolong. A good all rounder to drink on a day-to-day basis, but nothing really special. This afternoon's was my first session with this tea using my new ceramic kettle, and it was a wholly new experience. The water coming out of the unglazed ceramic spout of my kettle made the tea come alive in a way I had never experienced with this tea before! This may be incentive to revisit some teas from The Before Time...
On to today's tea. The smells trapped by the airtight seal on the bag in which the leaves are stored are abundantly smooth and fruity-floral without too much evidence of roast; that particular character makes itself evident once the leaves are heated up.
The first short infusion doesn't release much in the way of aroma from this tea, but what little there is is pleasant. This may seem a strange thing to say, but the tea feels wet in the mouth. It's not the oily thickness of a very green oolong, but just a refreshing feeling which coats the palate. This makes for a very interesting overall textural profile as this tea has a tendency towards being very mildly astringent. When I say very mildly astringent, I mean that it isn't quite enough to actually register as astringency unless you're really looking for a word to describe that nice, slightly cooling feeling on the tongue and across the rest of the mouth.
To me, this is an all-weather tea: slightly cooling on the days which are a bit too hot, and slightly warming on the days which are a bit too cold. The roasted character starts to emerge on its own as an undertone in the second infusion but never really comes to the forefront, leaving flavours of ripe fruit to occupy the limelight. On some level this tea is slightly sweet, a characteristic which comes out more in the aroma from the liquor itsself and even more so from the aroma cup. Whereas this set of leaves is mostly all about fruit, the aroma cup gives up notes which are distinctively floral as it cools.
Brewing with water kept hot only by the residual heat in the kettle walls this tea has good endurance, with a more herbaceous flavour only starting to creep in as I approach the tenth infusion. This seems a little surprising as the liquor seems to have a fairly green tint right from the get go, albeit as a shade of bright yellow. Perhaps it's just my eyes.
Inspecting the leaves after my session there are few examples of stems at all, let alone stems with leaves attached. The leaves vary in size but are of a uniform dark green, and are fairly stiff and wrinkled in texture.
All in all, this is a good tea I've enjoyed for quite some time given new life by new water. If I'm honest, it's not a tea I'm passionnate about, but its vivacity made my day (which was mostly filled by two final exams) a better one, and surely that's why we all drink so much tea.