Today, a few days short of a year after it was harvested on Taiwan's east coast, I finished off the last of my pack of red tea I ordered after thoroughly enjoying the sample Stéphane was kind enough to provide. A da yeh oolong from Teamasters, this tea is made from oolong leaves that were fully oxidized to make a red tea rather than an oolong. Unconventional, to be sure, but as I mentioned in my first post on this tea, this is the only hong cha I've tried that I've really enjoyed. It's complexity and aromas that border on floral belie its oolong origins and make this tea all the better for it.
As we rapidly approach the solstice, temperatures have been ramping up and have been in the thirties (forties with the humidex) for a few days now. During the summer I try to drink outside as much as possible, both to enjoy the ambiance as well as to try to keep the heat out of the house what with electricity costing so much these days. Green tea, however, has got nothing on this heat, much less the low oxidation oolongs that are my preference. It's for that reason that I decided to go whole ho(n)g in the opposite direction.
The first quick infusion is light and complex; full of flavour but not yet hearty and warming. I savour the light fruits over candy sweetness and sniff the hints of flowers in the bottom of my cup as the next infusion steeps a little longer. As I pour it, I worry a little that I might've overdone it a bit and made the tea bitter; one thing I've learned is that once a tea's been drastically overstepped, there's often no way back. The much darker red liquor wafts a thick aroma that's always reminded me of very ripe tomatoes, although the two scents don't actually bear any striking resemblance. As that peculiarity dances across my synapses I take my first sip: it's so thick and flavorful! Far from being oversteeped, this tea has simply become more potent. I can feel the heat cascade down into my stomach and spread out as I finish drinking.
The veins on my arms start to pop up and I start to cool off as the perceived temperature differential decreases. Funny how drinking a something so warming on such a hot day can be so cooling...
The tea goes on, gradually returning to the lightness of the first steep, over a few more infusions. I stop bothering to reheat the water in my glass kettle (which seems better suited to this tea than my tetsubin) and pour in enough water for one last steep to be enjoyed tomorrow.