Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Semi-Wild Baozhong: One Year Later

 ...sort of. I first reviewed this tea back in June of 2011, little more than a month after it had been harvested in Taiwan. Now, just over ten months from the baozhong's late-April harvest, I'm drinking part of a portion I set aside for 'aging'. Not having the patience for serious aging, I elected to leave a few grams of the tea in the bottom of the plastic sack it arrived in for a few months as more of an extended airing out to see what would happen. I've been drinking a little bit of it every couple of months to check up on it, and at this most recent trial I feel the changes are significant enough to be of interest.

Initially, this tea was full of strong notes of raw vegetables, as well as having a long lasting fresh aftertaste and a few rough edges that needed managing. All of those traits still exist, but have undergone great changes in proportion and character. Chiefly, while this tea still tastes and feels very fresh, it has lost most of its raw character. In days not so long gone by the liquor bore a similarity to fresh green beans in its raw and slightly biting edge of freshness, but now that bite has been tamed, only appearing briefly in the first gaiwan infusion. More akin to lightly steamed beans, the tea has become more savoury and rounder. I tasted this tea when it was fresh and then again a couple of months ago with a friend who tends not to enjoy overly vegetal teas such as this one. Having mellowed out significantly by then, my friend was surprised to find out that the tea he was enjoying that day was the same one he hadn't much liked a few months prior.

The strength of aromas in this tea has waned over the year, but the pleasant sweetness and lightest of floral notes are still to be found in the bottom of the cup, largely bereft of the vegetal notes that accompanied them in days of yore. The fading of the rawness from when this tea was fresh has allowed other elements to come to the forefront, namely the mouthfeel and the aftertaste. If this tea was initially silky smooth, then now it's more like cashmere. The liquor is still very light and fresh, but has become full to the brim of umami. (Umami is a tricky thing to describe if you don't already know what it is, and apparently as much as a quarter of the population can't taste it, but 'brothiness' seems as good a descriptor as any.) Smooth and dry, but full of substance, this tea's mellow and satisfying fresh character makes it great for drinking outside in today's record-breaking high temperatures (12C; it's early March in Canada, I'll take what I can get).

Only a few months of airing out have made this tea much more manageable, and in a pot dedicated to all things green and fresh I really don't have to pay much attention to it so long as I stay mindful of water temperature. What seasoning this pot has brings out the aftertaste in the tea, leaving sunflower seeds and a cool, minty freshness on my breath long after I've stopped drinking.


  1. Sounds about right - I have a bag of baozhong from five years ago that I've been drinking casually recently. It's only starting to develop the slightly aged taste.

    1. I don't think I'll ever have the patience required for real aging, especially when it comes to oolong with all the roasting and re-roasting that entails. Still, with the (seemingly) common obsession with keeping anything green-ish as fresh as possible, I think it's cool to have the occasional counterpoint.