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Tea Tasting: Taiwan Alishan High Mountain Oolong


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eG Society member Greg Glancy at Norbutea.com is contributing 10 gram samples of a new Taiwan Alishan High Mountain Oolong from the recent spring harvest 2009. Greg has provided four samples of 10 grams each, and I will mail three of them to the eG Society members participating in this tasting and discussion.

While the tasting is open to all members who have posted at least ten substantive posts in the Coffee and Tea forum, preference will be given until midnight (EDST) Friday, July 31st to those who have not participated in the last two tastings. Preference will also be given to those who will brew this tea gong fu (with skill) style in a gaiwan. ("Substantive posts" simply means "contributed something to the discussions".)

As always, everyone is welcome and encouraged to participate in the discussion.

So, please PM me now for details if you would like to receive one of the the free samples and participate in the tasting and discussion.

Here's more information on this special Oolong tea from the Norbutea.com website.

This is an excellent example of High Mountain Oolong Tea from the Alishan (Mount Ali) Scenic Area in Taiwan.  Oolong tea is almost an obsession among the population in Taiwan, and tea grown in the higher elevation plantations on Alishan enjoys immense popularity throughout the region.  Local demand in Taiwan is always higher than the available supply of true High Mountain Oolong tea, so I am very excited and lucky to have formed a partnership (and friendship) with a fantastic tea grower from the Alishan region to bring authentic 100% High Mountain Oolong tea to our customers. 

This particular tea was grown at an altitude of 1,200+/- Meters (3,900+/- feet) above sea level.  This batch is from the second pluck of the Spring season of 2009. It  was custom roasted just for us to maintain the fantastic aroma of the fresh, lightly oxidized tea leaves while producing a more flavorful tea liquor than if it was roasted to a lesser degree.

It has a unique "High Mountain Aroma" that can best be described as "orchidy" or floral, but it is an aroma (and resulting flavor) that is very hard to describe and truly unique to teas from this area.  The mouthfeel of the infused tea liquor is nice and smooth without being too thick, and the flavor is light, crisp, and refreshingly sweet and floral as a result of the low oxidation and very light roasting.  The Hui Gan, or sweet  aftertaste that comes after the initial bittersweet flavor fades, is lovely and long lasting.  

I recommend steeping this tea gongfu style to truly enjoy the layers of flavor that reveal themselves as the leaves unfurl over a series short steepings.  I would start with about 5 grams in a small 100-150 cc Yixing type teapot or Gaiwan, and steep the leaves with 190-195 degree Farenheit water (under a boil).  I have also enjoyed this tea many times steeped in the Western manner with good results.

I have known Greg for several years. A presentation he gave on a trip through the tea markets and farms of China fed my growing interest in learning more about fine teas. Since then Greg has become a tea friend and we drink tea together and trade teas and tea stories from time to time.

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Just a reminder that there are only three free samples of this Taiwan Alishan High Mountain Oolong from Norbutea.com available, and that preference will be given to members who have not participated in the past two Tea Tasting Discussions until Friday at midnight. Please review the post above and send me a PM if you are interested.

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eG Society member Greg Glancy at Norbutea.com is contributing 10 gram samples of a new Taiwan Alishan High Mountain Oolong from the recent spring harvest 2009.  Greg has provided four samples of 10 grams each, and I will mail three of them to the eG Society members participating in this tasting and discussion.

While the tasting is open to all members who have posted at least ten substantive posts in the Coffee and Tea forum, preference will be given until midnight (EDST) Friday, July 31st to those who have not participated in the last two tastings. Preference will also be given  to those who will brew this tea gong fu (with skill) style in a gaiwan. ("Substantive posts" simply means "contributed something to the discussions".)

As always, everyone is welcome and encouraged to participate in the discussion.

So, please PM me now for details if you would like to receive one of the the free samples and participate in the tasting and discussion.

Here's more information on this special Oolong tea from the Norbutea.com website.

This is an excellent example of High Mountain Oolong Tea from the Alishan (Mount Ali) Scenic Area in Taiwan.  Oolong tea is almost an obsession among the population in Taiwan, and tea grown in the higher elevation plantations on Alishan enjoys immense popularity throughout the region.  Local demand in Taiwan is always higher than the available supply of true High Mountain Oolong tea, so I am very excited and lucky to have formed a partnership (and friendship) with a fantastic tea grower from the Alishan region to bring authentic 100% High Mountain Oolong tea to our customers. 

This particular tea was grown at an altitude of 1,200+/- Meters (3,900+/- feet) above sea level.  This batch is from the second pluck of the Spring season of 2009. It  was custom roasted just for us to maintain the fantastic aroma of the fresh, lightly oxidized tea leaves while producing a more flavorful tea liquor than if it was roasted to a lesser degree.

It has a unique "High Mountain Aroma" that can best be described as "orchidy" or floral, but it is an aroma (and resulting flavor) that is very hard to describe and truly unique to teas from this area.  The mouthfeel of the infused tea liquor is nice and smooth without being too thick, and the flavor is light, crisp, and refreshingly sweet and floral as a result of the low oxidation and very light roasting.  The Hui Gan, or sweet  aftertaste that comes after the initial bittersweet flavor fades, is lovely and long lasting.  

I recommend steeping this tea gongfu style to truly enjoy the layers of flavor that reveal themselves as the leaves unfurl over a series short steepings.  I would start with about 5 grams in a small 100-150 cc Yixing type teapot or Gaiwan, and steep the leaves with 190-195 degree Farenheit water (under a boil).  I have also enjoyed this tea many times steeped in the Western manner with good results.

I have known Greg for several years. A presentation he gave on a trip through the tea markets and farms of China fed my growing interest in learning more about fine teas. Since then Greg has become a tea friend and we drink tea together and trade teas and tea stories from time to time.

Tick, tock. Preference for the free samples given to those who have not participated in the last two Tea Tasting Discussions expires at midnight. Tick, tock. PM me if you are interested.

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The three eG members receiving the free tea samples from Greg Glancy at Norbutea.com for this Tea Tasting Discussion are ---

* cdh

* Wholemealcrank

* weinoo

I shipped the samples of this Taiwnese Oolong today, so you should get them sometime this week.

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I have not brewed any of the sample yet, but I asked Greg for a starting place and he said he uses 5 grams in a 150 ml gaiwan. Then you can adjust to taste.

Everyone receiving the free sample is able to brew with a gaiwan or Yixing tea pot, so with ten grams to play with we can do one session gongfu style and have enough left to brew western style, too. I am assuming 2.0 to 2.5 grams per 6 - 8 ounces of water for western style.

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I opened my vacuum sealed sample today and started a gongfu session using a 100 ml gaiwan. It's 100 ml measured to the rim (that's just the standard way of measuring them), but holds 80 ml to the edge of the lid - the useful capacity. I weighed 3 grams of leaf and did a 10 second 195 F rinse and let the leaves rest in the gaiwan for about 30 seconds before starting the first infusion at 195 F. The infusions so far ran 1: 20 sec; 2: 15 sec; 3: 20 sec; 4: 30 sec, and more to go. Britta filtered tap water. This seems to work well as a starting point for me. I am interested in your experiences with this Alishan Oolong, so I'll hold my tasting comments for now.

Edited by Richard Kilgore (log)
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I opened my vacuum sealed sample today and started a gongfu session using a 100 ml gaiwan. It's 100 ml measured to the rim (that's just the standard way of measuring them), but holds 80 ml to the edge of the lid - the useful capacity. I weighed 3 grams of leaf and did a 10 second 195 F rinse and let the leaves rest in the gaiwan for about 30 seconds before starting the first infusion at 195 F. The infusions so far ran 1: 20 sec; 2: 15 sec; 3: 20 sec; 4: 30 sec, and more to go. Britta filtered tap water. This seems to work well as a starting point for me. I am interested in your experiences with this Alishan Oolong, so I'll hold my tasting comments for now.

I decided to try a lower temp on the fifth infusion - 185 F for one minute. It seemed that the aroma was diminished compared to the last infusion and the taste flatter. So on the sixth infusion I went back to 195 F, for 75 seconds, and the flavor improved in complexity with more after-taste. The aroma may have come up a little, too, but I'm not sure.

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I think everyone has been posting tasting notes and photos as they have them to post. Except that I usually hold my tasting comments until everyone has had a chance to respond to the tea.

Here's a gong fu steeping guide Greg has on norbutea.com that may be of interest. (Scroll down.)

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This tea is on the agenda for today. I've dusted off my 110ml gourd-shaped tan yixing pot for the brewing, and have done 5 or 6 infusions gong-fu style of a Chinese green oolong I've got for practice. Amazing how some teas just keep on giving.

I may dust off the tall narrow aroma cup and wide shallow tasting cup too. It seems that a 100 ml batch should split nicely between them. They appear to be part of the whole gong-fu setup.

Any thoughts on why this tea has differing guidelines from the link above? It suggests 6-7g of tea to gong-fu 100ml... and this thread recommends 5g/150ml...

Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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Am trying gong-fu now. Am finding that 3.3g for 110ml is not enough to get any intensity out of a 20 second steep. Very nice floral aroma, a bit sweeter in the aroma than in the flavor. Only filling the pot to 75ml for steep 3, and it emphasizes the and lengthens the aftertaste, but the initial upfront taste is still lacking. I think it is time to try water at temps other than 195.

Edited by cdh (log)

Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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That's interesting, cdh. I'll brew this again today and increase the amount of leaf. Last time I used 3 gr; this time I'll measure about 5 gr into my gaiwan. Pics to follow.

The aroma cup and tasting cup are typically used by pouring the tea into the aroma cup and then directly into the tasting cup. The tall shape of the aroma cup concentrates the aroma, so you smell that and then drink from the tasting cup.

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I have started another session with 5 gr in the same 100 ml gaiwan that holds about 80 ml of water when filled to the rim of the lid. 195 F temp on all infusions. 10 scond rinse; 30 second rest; 1: 20; 2: 15; 3: 20 so far. I noticed two things. First, that the flavor and aroma become more balanced on the third infusion, and second, that the flavor changes, and the flavor comes more to the front, as the tea cools while drinking it.

Here are a few picks of my second infusion.

gallery_7582_6392_61322.jpg

gallery_7582_6392_20042.jpg

gallery_7582_6392_27900.jpg

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Any thoughts on why this tea has differing guidelines from the link above?  It suggests 6-7g of tea to gong-fu 100ml... and this thread recommends 5g/150ml...

All I can say is that's what Greg told me he uses for a leaf:water ratio on this tea. I added the link to the gong fu brewing guidlines as an over view for anyone not familiar with this way of brewing fine teas. No set parameters cover all Oolongs and, just as important, all individual tastes. And there are so many other factors that also influence the result of the brewing - water quality, teapot material, the last thing you ate, how you hold your mouth when you pour - that it is always a matter of experimenting a little to get the best brewing technique for my taste.

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I have done additional infusions, all at 195 F: 4: 30; 5: 45; 6: 75; 7: 120, and it appears to have a little left to go.

The sixth infusion was a little weak on taste, so I used a technique that sometimes adds to the appreciation of a tea. Take a sip, close mouth, breath in through the nose. This resulted in a rush of flavor. The seventh infusion had flavor without using this, so I think the sixth may have been better with a few more seconds of brewing.

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My tasting notes for two different sessions follow.

I did three sessions, one with my clay teapot, one with a glass gaiwan, and a 2nd with a ceramic gaiwan. The 2nd time I forgot to rinse the leaves first, and used water that was overall hotter, and released more bitter flavors that were difficult to control.

The first and third batches were much better.

I took a set of photos of the first brewing, and they're on my flickr here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/debunix/sets/...7202856/detail/

FIrst brewing

Set aside the tea for brewing--sorry I don't have a scale, but given that the sample was 10g, probably used about 4 grams for my pot, which is about 160 mL

Heated small clay teapot, rinsed tea, let sit 2 min before first brewing--teapot was 160 degrees exterior after first heating rinse

1st infusion 193 degrees 1 minutes sweet, floral, fresh mown hay; 2 minutes stronger odor--again, sweet, floral, new mown hay, vegetal/steamed fresh asparagus, caramel; warmer and stronger but still the same

Much more like pouchong than the ti kuan yin

then 2nd infusion 198 degrees 3 minutes

deeper gold, stronger notes of hay and caramel, less floral odor, but stronger grassy/vegetal notes in the actual infusion, hint of bitterness but only enough to ground the flavors, like SB 70% vs some of the flatter single-origin criollos

3rd infusion, let the water in the pot cool, was 177 for final infusion of 4 minutes--more like the first infusion in being lighter, faintest hint of bitter, but much less floral, but still quite sweet

(amazed at how the bitter flavors came out a bit with the hotter water in the 2nd infusion but were not still right there in the 3rd infusion)

4th infusion 3 minutes, forgot to take temperature, odor is much weaker, but otherwise unchanged in character; richer color; more straw flavor; some vegetal bitterness in last swallows; will stop here

leaves now smell bitter and unpleasant, and did before this brewing as well, but the tea never was

packs a powerful caffeine punch after the entire brewing x 4 small pots

3rd brewing

heated gaiwan, rinsed the rest, maybe 3 grams of leaves, 20 seconds 195 degrees

30 seconds with 195 degrees full gaiwan: sweet, floral, lighter hay undertones

1 minute with 195 degrees gaiwan: a touch of bitter with the same overall aroma and presence

2 minutes with 195 degrees in gaiwan: more bitter, still lovely aroma

1 minutes with 185 degrees in gaiwan: light, almost too light, but the bitter is gone

1 minutes with 193 degrees in gaiwan: light, but lovely

I think the key is the shorter brewing time and milder temps that bring out the sweet and floral and hay with a minimum of bitter

And the tea may have a bit more to give, if I did worked with gentler longer infusions, but I do not have more time tonight!

I will order some of this tea shortly.

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Thanks for the detailed tasting notes. Your photos are great, too. Hope you can make them display.

When you get more of this tea to work with, I would encourage to to try using more leaf, a lot more, with short infusions. For your Yixing, for example, try working with 5gr, 7 gr or more at 195 with an infusion series something like: 20, 15, 20, 30, 45, 60, 90, etc. Adjust to taste. People are often stunned by the effect of using more leaf than they typically do.

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Thanks for the detailed tasting notes. Your photos are great, too. Hope you can make them display.

When you get more of this tea to work with, I would encourage to to try using more leaf, a lot more, with short infusions. For your Yixing, for example, try working with 5gr, 7 gr or more at 195 with an infusion series something like: 20, 15, 20, 30, 45, 60, 90, etc. Adjust to taste. People are often stunned by the effect of using more leaf than they typically do.

Okay, so this was my problem for my first attempt - I only used 2 grams of tea for the 100 ml of water.

Maybe that's why I don't like what I'm brewing?

Thanks for the link to Greg's site.

If one wanted to make ice tea, is that totally off base?

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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Greg told me he makes iced tea by throwing some leaf in cold water and putting it in the fridge for a few hours. He doesn't measure, so I can't say much about what to do, but since you have about 8 grams left, how about 3 grams in maybe 8 ounces of water. Then use the last 5 grams in your 100 ml of water for gong fu cha.

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