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Tea Tasting: Three Wuyi Rock Oolong Teas


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Drinking the Shan Jui Gui now, brewed 2g in the 60mL oolong yixing. THis one starts brassier, tarter, more like wine, then mellows on later infusions, but still isn't as earthy and toasty as the Ban

Tian Yao. It reminds me of the one aged oolong--IIRC a Tie Guan Yin--that I've tried--in the fruity/winey character.

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I used 4 grams Ban Tian Yao to 100ml (just less than

'Volume of the brain of a Tyrannosaurus Rex') just-under-boiling water:

Dry leaves have a maddeningly elusive fragrance, somewhat like red wine or perhaps dry wood, changing to a mineral aroma when wet.

0:30 steeping - medium amber color; clean, light, fairly neutral taste with a whisper of grain

1:30 - color similar to first; a slight fruit note (green apple or pear)

2:30 - As the leaves continue to open, there's a more vegetal aroma. The tea seems more rounded and full-bodied, with the hint of green fruit remaining.

3:30 - Still rounded and velvety; a slight toasted grain note

4:45 - Starting to fade, overall; still a toasty note.

Steepings 3 and 4 were my favorites.

I intend to brew the remainder 'western' style to see how it compares to other oolongs I regularly consume.

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I'm back to the SJG, which I think is my favorite of the bunch. The wine descriptor is really striking chords... This tea's aroma is reminding me of riesling. 3.3g 100ml water just off the boil, 30 second infusion. The empty cup still smells strongly of winey goodness. Time for infusion 2.

Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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After this discussion of the winey character of the SJG, I am doing a comparison of the SJG with the 90s aged Lao Tie Guan Yin (also from norbu). The aged TGY is one that I also thought of as winey. Interestingly, this pairing brings out all the toastiness of the SJG that is a bit drowned out when comparing the SJG to the other two Wuyi Rock teas.

Fascinating.

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I used 4 grams Shui Jin Gui to 100ml (just less than 'Volume of the brain of a Tyrannosaurus Rex') just-under-boiling water:

Dry leaves have a maddeningly elusive fragrance, somewhat like red wine or perhaps dry wood; a bit more fragrant and wine-like than the Ban Tian Yao.

0:30 steeping - light amber color; clean, light, fairly neutral taste with a dry finish

1:30 - color a bit darker than first; a slight fruit note (green apple or pear); a slight astringent after-effect

2:30 - As the leaves continue to open, the tea is more rounded and full-bodied, with the hint of green fruit more predominant.

3:30 - Still rounded; very similar to previous steeping

4:45 - Starting to fade a bit, but more robust than the BTY at this stage.

Steepings 3 and 4 were my favorites. I did not detect any toasty notes in this tea, but otherwise it was quite similar to the BTY.

Again, I intend to brew the remainder 'western' style to see how it compares to other oolongs I regularly consume.

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This has been a fascinating Tea Tasting & Discussion so far. cdh has stated a favorite out of the three Wuyi Olongs. Wholemeal Crank and baroness may have some tasting yet to do, but when you have finished tasting and comparing, I would be interested in knowing if you two have a favorite also.

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Brewed up a bit of all three again tonight, and it's so very hard to decide. I think the Da Hong Pao is probably my favorite, being the smoothest combination of toasty and fruity, and the Shan Jui Gui next. Still, it's hard to be sure which of the differences I'm tasting are due to the intrinsic properties of the teas, and which to a few seconds longer infusion or few degrees cooler water when doing the comparative tasting; I can clearly say that all of them are quite delicious one by one.

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And finally,

4 grams Da Hong Pao to 100ml (just less than 'Volume of the brain of a Tyrannosaurus Rex') just-under-boiling water:

Dry leaves have a fragrance of green (unripe/sour) plums, changing to a mineral aroma when wet.

0:30 steeping - rich amber color; plum and wine notes

1:30 - color similar to first; a slight toasty aroma and taste

2:30 - As the leaves continue to open, there's a more vegetal aroma. Surprisingly, the tea seems to be past its peak of flavor and is now more neutral.

3:30 - Fading rapidly; quite weak

4:45 - Almost no flavor noticeable at this point

Steepings 1 and 2 were my favorites.

I suspect that this tea will be more to my taste brewed 'western' style. I was unhappily surprised that the aroma and taste went from a very promising, 'heartier than the others' start, to too weak so rapidly.

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After my tea overdose afternoon, brewed up a pint of relatively dilute Ban Tian Yao, using the dinky yixing with many infusions to fill up the pint. The spicy flavor has come up wonderfully.

I think something about this one prefers the yixing to the gaiwan. This was a rather quick & careless brewing, not at all gongfu, but the end result is delicious.

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Have just made a batch of Ban Tian Yao in a more western and less gong fu technique, and I like it a lot better. 2g to about 330ml of water. The vegetal is subdued, the roasty is enhanced, and a rich woodsy/cacao flavor note is coming through in the finish. I'd drink this with chocoaltey foods and be quite happy, I think... (runs off to grab some chocolate) Yup... this tea, brewed this way goes very well with chocolate.

Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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Have done infusions 4 & 5 at 90" and 120". The woodiness and bitterness on the palate increase, while the aroma goes to a cross of fruity and metallic. I don't get the impression that any further infusions will yield much interesting.

I wonder if your "metallic" taste is what I was reading as chloriney or checmical. I have been following this tasting thread and it seems noone else got that "thing" I was getting.

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I brewed the remaining Ban Tian Yao in a Bodum (press style) teapot with just-under-boiling water.

Dry leaves have a sour grape/plum fragrance, changing to a mix of fruit and toasted aroma notes while brewing for 5 minutes.

The first cup was clean, light, but well-rounded with green fruit notes and a whisper of floral.

Subsequent cups (due to the press design which virtually stops steeping) were a bit heavier feeling but very similar to the initial one.

Verdict - A pleasant tea, but perhaps a bit lightweight for snowy winter weather!

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Did a brew of the Da Hong Pao in the more western style, and again it strikes me as more like a black tea than an oolong. Its flavor profile seems much closer to a particularly fruity Keemun than to an oolong. I'm not getting any of the floral notes that characterize an oolong... oolongs have lilac or orchid aromas... this is more woody and yet still fruity.

Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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I brewed the remaining Shui Jin Gui yesterday in a Bodum (press style) teapot with just-under-boiling water.

Dry leaves have a sour/unripe fruit fragrance with a hint of unsweetened chocolate, changing to a mix of fruit and spice aroma notes, changing to ripe fruit while brewing for 5 minutes.

The first cup was clean and fairly neutral flavor, medium weight with a fruity aftertaste.

Subsequent cups (due to the press design which virtually stops steeping) were a bit heavier feeling and a toasty note began to emerge. The last bit some mineral flavor and was slightly astringent.

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Thanks to everyone for your careful tasting notes and discussion around them. Your notes show again that the aroma and taste of tea, like wine, is an individual thing, even though there are many commonalities.

A few miscellaneous comments and questions:

Chris, your use of aroma cups seemed to be helpful. Do you think you could detect aromas better than without them?

Looks like the metallic quality characteristic of Wuyi "rock" or "cliff" Oolongs may have solved a mystery for you, LuckyGirl.

Chris noted a lack of a floral aroma in the Da Hong Pao. I think this is due to it being high roasted rather than highly oxidized. A less roasted version likely would have a little more floral and little less fruity character. In contrast, a DanCong may have higher oxidation, but low/no roasting and be characteristically very floral.

I have been drinking these Oolongs a number of different ways, and so far like them the best brewed gongfu cha in a small Yixing with a higher leaf:water ratio, from 1.5 - 2.0 per ounce of water. They have 5 good infusions, at which point I have stopped, though I might be able to get another 1 - 3 out of all but the Ban Tian Yao. All of you apparently liked the Da Hong Pao and Shui Jin Gui more than the Ban Tian Yao and that is true for me too. Two days ago I thought I preferred the Shui Jin Gui, but now I think it varies day to day, probably depending on subtle differences in the way I brew.

Any conclusions or thoughts on these three?

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Chris, your use of aroma cups seemed to be helpful. Do you think you could detect aromas better than without them?

[...]

Any conclusions or thoughts on these three?

For brewing gong fu style, the aroma cup was helpful... though similar effects were achieved by brewing 100ml of tea and putting it into a tall 400ml mug... the aromas concentrated in the enclosed space.

As to conclusions, the SJG was my favorite when brewed gong fu style... extremely fruity and interesting. The BTY, on the other hand was overly vegetal and not so pleasant brewed gong fu style. The exact opposite results obtained when brewed in a more western style, as the SJG was unexciting, and the BTY was very well rounded and quite pleasant with a toasty cocoa finish. The Da Hong Pao brewed either way struck me as more like a black tea than an oolong.

Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thanks to Greg Glancy at Norbutea.com for providing the three Wuyi "cliff" Oolongs for this first comparative Tea Tasting & Discussion. And thanks to baroness, cdh and Wholemeal Crank for doing such indepth, detailed tasting notes. And also LuckyGirl for participating.

Greg promises more teas this year for single as well as multi-tea TT&Ds. In the meantime, there are two new TT&Ds in progress here in the Coffee & Tea forum. If you subscribe to the forum, you'll be among the first to know when a new TT&D is posted.

Of course, if you have a comment or question about this Wuyi Oolong TT&D, post here.

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