Saturday, 11 June 2011

Semi-Wild Baozhong - Spring 2011 from Teamasters

Tea: Semi-wild Baozhong from Teamasters
Origin: Wenshan, Taiwan
Harvest: April 24, 2011

A beautiful day for a beautiful tea. Today was warm-ish outside, so this afternoon before the gentle rain  started I decided to pair the wonderful atmospheric conditions with a gentle, slightly cooling tea: a baozhong. Specifically, this is the semi-wild baozhong I received earlier this week from Stéphane Erler; safe to say this is not my first session with this tea. It is, however, the first session that will form the basis of a "review" for this blog. Here goes nothing!

I brewed this tea with a relatively small amount of leaf in a 100ml porcelain gaiwan. My initial infusions were quite short, but in spite of this a smooth, creamy fragrance opened itself to my nose followed by a somewhat more leguminous beany note in the aroma cup from the first infusion. The second infusion held a small amount of the floral notes common to more oxidised oolongs, but these notes were fleeting. In the next infusion the aroma peaked with fruity rather than floral notes trapped under the lid of the gaiwan which left behind a pleasant tingling sensation. In subsequent brews the aroma continued to diminish and I focused more on the taste and abundant mouthfeel of this tea.

For the most part the aromatic qualities of this tea were echoes of its taste and feeling in the mouth which I can only describe as silky smooth. The tea coated the inside of my mouth and left behind a fresh and sometimes minty feeling which lasted longer and longer as I made my way through the infusions. Over the first few infusions a flavour profile developed which was strikingly similar to sunflower seeds; this flavour seemed to originate from a blending of the initial creamy taste and the emerging leguminous note which never seemed too prominent.

Leaving the lid off resulted in a cooler brew.
 As I focused less on my note taking and more on simply drinking the tea hot and fresh out of the cup the chaqi became much more apparent, stimulating my salivary glands and leaving my mouth tingling lightly. It was at this point that a dryness began to emerge in the tea's finish which was at first not unpleasant but later became accompanied by a feeling of roughness in the back of the mouth which acted as an unappealing anticlimax to the tea's otherwise unblemished smoothness.

As I took the above picture the tea continued to steep in the lidless gaiwan, and when I finished drinking the resulting infusion I noticed that the roughness and astringency in the aftertaste was gone! In the next infusion I experimented with leaving the lid on as I usually do, and sure enough this resulted in a rougher cup. In each of the infusions that followed I left the lid off and each brew was perfectly unblemished into the double digits. I suspect this is due to the water cooling off more quickly once poured in, resulting in a gentler and therefore smoother infusion. Although this was never a problem before because my old plastic kettle cooled down fairly quickly and made progressively cooler infusions unless I made a point of reheating the water, my new ceramic kettle holds heat much more effectively rendering me in charge of ensuring that the leaves in question receive increasingly gentle treatment as they lose their robustness over the course of a session.

Upon examining the spent leaves noticing an abundance of twigs is inevitable. A byproduct of this tea's semi-wild nature? Perhaps. In any case, the last long, cool infusion of this tea gave up the ghost with a creamy mouthfeel, a tingle on the tongue, and a hint of bean. Delicious.

Addendum on June 19, 2011: On revisiting this tea with more leaf all aspects of the tea were amplified, which proved very satisfying as far as the taste and aroma were concerned (this time strong floral notes emerged in the aroma, peaking in the third infusion) but also brought out the persistent roughness that this time I was unable to successfully manage as I had before. I suspected that the stems were the source of this unpleasantness, so I picked through my gaiwan and removed them in between infusions, saving part of the last infusion for comparison, though as it turned out this was hardly necessary. Along with the twigs the roughness made its exit from the brew.

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