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Tea Tasting Mao Xie, Harry Crab - Fall 09 Oolong Tea

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Varietal: Mao Xie Oolong

English Name: Hairy Crab Oolong

Harvest: Fall, 2009

Growing Region: Anxi County, Fujian

Roast: Heat dried, no roasting

Vacuum Sealed into 50 gram portions

eG Society member Greg Glancy at http://www.norbutea.com is contributing 7 gram vacuum packaged samples of a new Fall 2009 Mao Xie, also known as Harry Crab for this Tea Tasting & Discussion. Greg has provided four samples of 7 grams each, and I will mail three of them to the eG Society members participating in this Tasting and Discussion.

This is the first of the last three Tea Tasting & Discussions for this year. However, several interesting Tea Tasting & Discussions in a new format are already slated for the first part of 2010. If you subscribe to the eG Coffee & Tea forum you will be among the first to know when one is posted.

While the tasting is open to all members who have posted at least ten substantive posts in the eG Coffee and Tea forum, preference will be given until midnight (EDST) Monday, November 16th to those who have not participated in the last two tastings. Although many teas brew well both gongfu style aand Western style, Greg says this one really needs to be brewed gong fu style, so samples will go to those who will brew this tea gong fu (which means "with skill") style in a gaiwan or Yixing teapot.

The three free samples are available to members who also 1) will do at least one gongfu style brewing session with multiple infusions from the sample, 2) will report on their experience and participate actively in the discussion, and 3) who have previously posted at least ten (10) substantive posts (questions, answers, comments that add to discussions) in the Coffee and Tea forum.

As always, everyone who does not receive a sample 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. (Used with permission.)

Another of the famous Anxi Oolong tea cultivars, this tea is known as Mao Xie or "Hairy Crab" oolong in English. Mao Xie got its name from the physical attributes of the leaves. The edges of the leaves are serrated and pointy like a crab's claws and tend to be covered with fuzzy "hairs," so the name became Hairy Crab.

Although they are closely related, the real difference between Tie Guan Yin, Huang Jin Gui, Ben Shan, or Mao Xie Oolongs is botanical. Each of these teas are all distinct sub-species of Camellia Sinensis which come from Anxi county in Fujian Province. Each of the sub-categories of Anxi Camellia Sinensis plants (cultivars) have their own physical characteristics and flavor profiles.

The flavor of this tea is typical of a lightly oxidized "Green" style Anxi oolong, in that it can be described as floral and slightly fruity. Fans of Tie Guan Yin or Huang Jin Gui will definitely enjoy this one. The main difference to my palate is the more aggressive background note which has proven itself quite difficult to describe...it's not bitter, it's not really tannic, and it's not exactly astringent, so I am going with "aggressive" for lack of a better term. This particular batch of Mao Xie has a nice "Hui Gan" (sweet aftertaste) that lingers for just a little while with elements of this aggressive flavor that I can't seem to describe properly.

The infused liquor is a lovely green color, and you will probably notice some of the fuzzy hairs floating on the surface of your cup. I strongly recommend brewing this tea Gong Fu style in a Gaiwan or Yixing-type teapot...for some reason, this tea just doesn't reveal itself as the awesome tea that it really is when steeped Western style in a big teapot with a higher water to leaf ratio.

I have known Greg for several years since a presentation he once 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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Tic-tock. Only one free Oolong tea sample left. I'll be mailing out the samples tomorrow, so PM me now after reviewing the first post above if you are interested.

I have not mailed the samples yet due to Thanksgiving cooking, so PM me now if you are interested in the last available sample. The samples will go out Monday.

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I received my sample today from Richard as well as my order from Norbu. Though I didn't have the time to devote to a gung fu session I was nonetheless eager to try the hairy crab sample. I brewed 3 grams of tea to 8 oz. water. The first two steepings were 3 minutes and the 3rd steeping which I am drinking now went for 4 minutes.

The liquor is a golden yellow almost hayish color. There are some very fine bits floating on the top even after the tea sets for a minute.

The tea is very floral and perfumey. I get a slight tropical note, almost like pineapple, in the middle and then the tea finishes in what seems like it's going to be a dry/tanninness or astringency but it stops before it actually hits my mouth with the dryness.

The first cup was perfect as far as body goes. The tea had a nice round mouthfeel and was not thin as I was expecting. The second cup was almost all that the first was with the slightest let up in the body. This third cup is lighter yet but still enjoyable and not thin. The floral and pineapple notes are still there but a little more of the dryness crept in on the end.

I am likeing this tea better than the Alishans. Even though it is very floral and perfumey it has counterpoints to the floralness that make it more enjoyable to me.

I definitely prefer the roasted oolongs but I have greatly enjoyed tasting the Alishan and this Harry Crab. I look forward to a gung fu session with the remaining 4 grams of my sample next week when I return from my trip.

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Thanks for the detailed notes, LuckyGirl. I am on my second infusion of this today, brewed gong fu cha in a small 55 ml gaiwan with 2.8 g leaf at 195 F. With this richer leaf to water ratio, I find an oily mouthfeel - and not in a bad way. I think that what you are experiencing as pinneaple must be that note that Greg has had a hard time identifying. Me too - it's there but I don't have a word for it.

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My first brewing this morning was a thinner brew, about 1 gram in both a gaiwan and a small yixing pot, using about 2 ounces of water in each, so perhaps 1/3 of richard's. Even at that dilution, there is a rich body to the tea. It is a little bit sweet, but not nearly as sweet as the two spring oolongs--the Alishan or the Diamond Tie Guan Yin. And there is a rich warm hay/grass note, a bit of astringency but not bitterness when brewed at 180 degrees--it was quite chilly as I was brewing it and I had trouble hitting the 190 I was aiming for. There is something else there between the sweet and the hay notes, and I will be trying again soon but double the leaf to water ratio to see if I can give it a better name.

Overall, it's a lovely tea with bright green leaves yet buttery yellow liquor


yet I cannot see, in the rolled dry leaves or in the opened leaves after brewing, any real 'hairy' texture.

(link to the same image larger, for a more detailed look at the leaves here)

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2 grams, hotter water, again with about 2 ounces of water in a small gaiwan. To help identify the other flavor, I am tasting it at the same time with some of my Honey Orchid Phoenix Oolong from teahabit.com, because it's a strongly fruity oolong. There is a resemblance, something tart and fruity in both, that is not found in the Alishan or Tie Guan Yin Oolongs also from norbu, but it is a little more vegetal than the Phoenix . And it seems remarkably sweet now by comparison to the Phoenix oolong.

The phoenix oolong also has a bit of camphor that is quite absent from the Hairy Crab.

I'm up to four brewings now, each a bit longer than the first time around, when I started at 30 seconds, and it's holding up nicely. I think I can get at least two more infusions out of it, but doubt it will go to a 8 or 10 like the super sweet and strong spring teas have done.

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Thanks for the report and the photos, Wholemeal Crank.

I wonder what was growing near these tea plants that may have contributed to the ambiguous flavor component. Pomelo perhaps?

I got about 9 infusions out of my first brewing session (above) in the gaiwan. 185 - 190 F worked better for me than 195 F. The leaves probably had a little more left, but I was ready to stop. Oh, and I did find a few floating hairs on my first infusion, which I poured without use of a strainer.

Today I have started a session with the remainder of my leaf, 4.2 g, in a Yixing teapot of 180 ml, but filled only to the 120 ml level. So this is similar to WmC's second session leaf:water ratio. My Yixing, pot bellied in shape and made of hei ni clay, is one I have not dedicated to anything yet and have not used in a long while, so I decided to give it a try.

I am on my third infusion and I like it best of the first three (flash rinse; 1:20; 2:15; 3:20), all at 185 - 187 F. The floral aroma of the wet leaf carries to the tea liquor and to the taste, and all is more intense - the floral and fruit flavor and the growing sweetness. The hui gan (after taste) lingers pleasantly for a while - longer than I anticipated from Greg's notes on norbutea.com.

These leaves expand quite a bit, so if anyone does not have a scale, filling your gaiwan or Yixing no more than 25% with the dry leaf should be about right; then you can adjust your infusion timing to taste.

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Today I am drinking the Hairy Crab again, with 2 grams to about 2 ounces of water in the gaiwan, and it is again quite nice. That flavor element we've been trying to describe seemed more like pineapple-coconut than pineapple today, but whatever you call it, it's interesting and pleasant.

I also tried to find the hairiness in the tea today. Despite my best attempts to manipulate photo conditions and the actual photo in photoshop, I could find very little hairiness in the first brewed tea (and I did not rinse the leaves first, to maximize my chance to catch the little hairs), I can only see a couple of them here, on the right side of the image:


and this is a link to my flickr page, where I put a tag so you can see the specks I'm talking about.

Looking again at the dry leaves, about as closeup as I can get with the macro lens, I can see a faint downiness on the Hairy Crab

that is more obvious than on the Alishan High Mountain Spring 2009 Oolong



So it is a bit hairy, but those leaves hold onto the hairs quite tightly.

Edited by Wholemeal Crank (log)
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My (very well wrapped and packaged) sample arrived over the weekend and I've broken it out this morning to play with.

First observations-

Verdant green dry leaves... beautiful color... how do they fix the chlorophyll like that... A strong tropical floral aroma from the dry leaves, with a slight metallic edge to it.

First shot at brewing in a more western style, 2.5g tea to 250 ml water at 190, 3 minutes. Aroma in the cup less intense then the dry leaves would have made me expect. At first the body seems unexpectedly light, with a tart fruity tang up front... but then the long sweet/floral aftertaste kicks in. I can see how the tang and the floral might seem pineapple-like. The floral aspect seemed to intensify as the cup cooled.

A second infusion of those same leaves under the same conditions revealed a tea with more developed aroma, as the dry leaf aroma portends. The tang subsides a bit and the floral aspects take on a more lilac edge. The aftertaste tickles the sides of the tongue with a lingering tartness.

So far, this tea shows quite well brewed in a more western fashion... and portends an huge presence in a gong fu style brew session. Up next- 5g of tea and a yixing pot.

Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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I've been having gong fu fun with this tea... 4.5g of tea making batches of about 80ml.

Surprisingly, the first three infusions were remarkably similar to the results of the western style brewing done earlier. Similar flavors and textures, though it did give me the insight that the tang-y flavor there in addition to the floral elements is chlorophyll. All that bright green color was doing something to the flavor, I think. After the 4th 30 second steep (granted the leaves rested in the pot for 3 hours between 3 and 4), the mouthfeel suddenly got more viscous, and the floral tones livened up. 4-6 are again fairly similar to each other... will report back on 7-9 when I do them tomorrow.

Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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Yesterday, I finished off my Hairy Crab with just 1 gram of tea in a 60mL yixing, doing longer infusions to help make up for the again quite low leaf-to-water ratio, and I did about 5 in the morning, abandoned the leaves all day, and then after a quick cool-water rinse, did another 3 infusions in the evening, these last 2-3 minutes apiece, and there was still some flavor and body left. I will not be ordering more of this tea because my cupboards runneth over, but will keep it in mind when I need some more.....

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I finally had time this morning to dedicate to the remaining 4 grams of this tea. I brewed it in a loose gong fu style (oxymoron, I know). What I mean is that I do not have a proper pot for gong fu but used my cup for multiple infusions of 4 ounces water to 4 grams of tea. I did a quick rinse then 1:30, 2:30, 3:45, 4:20.

The biggest surprise for me was how much more this tea opened up on the third steeping than it did the first two.

I am getting that note we have all had a hard time describing in a more pronounced way with this style of brewing. I keep going back to pineapple but not a juicy ripe pineapple. The tropicalness that I taste is a flavor like pineapple but not in a sweet, juicy way rather the dry, almost prickly way of a slightly under-ripe pineapple. The sweetness of the tea is a separate element to me while that beginning of astringency/dryness is part of this pineapple flavor element.

When I first read cdh's post where he mentioned lilac I went "ah, ha" and now that I am drinking the tea again I am inclined to call the floralness a lilaciness vs. an orchidiness. The orchid floralness that I think of has a floweriness with a bit of cola while this is just flowery and really does put me in mind of lilac.

I am finding that while I enjoy the floral, perfumey teas in a novel way, my strong preference for a daily tea leans towards the more toasted and earthy teas. I am struck that this is much the same as my wine preferences.

Is it just me or does this tea offer a rounder, fuller mouthfeel than the Alishans from Norbu even though the Alishans flavor elements are a little bolder?

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  • 2 weeks later...

Is it just me or does this tea offer a rounder, fuller mouthfeel than the Alishans from Norbu even though the Alishans flavor elements are a little bolder?

I think that's a pretty good comparison, Chris.

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I have brewed this twice western style and find it quite acceptable, although I agree with Greg that it shows itself much better when brewed gong fu cha style.

Thanks to everyone for participating in this Tea Tasting & Discussion, and to eGullet Society member Greg Glancy at norbutea.com for contributing this interesting Oolong.

I'll be arranging more Tea Tasting & Discussions in January and beyond. If you subscribe to the Coffee & Tea forum you will be among the first to know.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hair crab is one of the famous Anxi Oolong tea for its mellow taste. Normally for the hair crab Oolong, it is processed accordingly to the traditional method, so that is why its tea liquid is quite yellow, compared to Tie Guan Yin. But its aroma is not as good as Tie Guan Yin, which is famous for its suble orchid aroma. The Tie Guan Yin Yun, Yun(refers to the combination express of Tie Guan Yin aroma and taste) is superior than any other three Anji Oolong teas. Once you sip the teas, you know exactly it is Tie Guan Yin, not others.

For brewing Anxi Oolong teas, normally we will use a Gaiwan(120ml, or 4.2oz), 5-7 grams of tea to brew in a standard/tradtional Chinese way.

Brewing guidelines: Gaiwan or Yixing pot (120cc):5-7grams per time (based on personal taste); the water temperature should be over 98C or 209 F.

1) Warm up-First to warm up the vessels, pour out the hot water;

2) Smell dried tea fragrance-Then put the teas in the vessels, cover the Gaiwan or Yixing pot, and shake the vessels for about 3 seconds, then smell the dried tea leaves aroma.

3) Wash the tea-Pour the hot water into the vessels and pour out the water within8seconds; then smell the tea aroma on the lid first to enjoy the Mao Xie flavor;

4) First infusion-pour the hot water into the vessels again, and steep for about 10-25 seconds(based on personal taste);

5) Coming infusion- the time for the successive infusion can be 5 seconds longer than the previous infusion.

Hope you guys like this way.




Providing fine teas and promote tea culture is always a pleasure job. JK Tea Shop

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