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A Taste of Taiwan Oolong

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Chris Two Times

Oh! I am still very much a tea-brewing philistine, but it is something I could get into. This thread may have pushed me into the start of something.

 

Many thanks for that link to your previous post. I will read that more fully and get some invaluable insights from it.

 

Warm regards,

Chris Two Times

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realmayo
 What kinds of Oolong did you mostly bring back from your trip?

 

I bought a fair bit of aged Oolong, around 15 years old, from a little tea shop near where I was staying, and which had a very friendly 老板. I also went a bit overboard and bought three teapots from him, yixings which he'd picked up from China 10-20 years ago. Two of them are great but the third just soaks up all the flavours and leaves quite a bland-tasting tea at the end. I've tried puerh, oolong and green tea in it and none of them are happy.

 

I also picked up plenty of Gaoshan from one of the bigger vendors, and some Tieguanyin. And -- although not oolong-- also Baozhong, which I'd never had before and found myself really liking. I don't know how much of this sudden conversion to all tea Taiwanese was just because I really liked the place in general!

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abcdefg

Realmayo --

 

Sounds like you came back with a great sampling. Congratulations! I'm really looking forward to a chance to try an aged Oolong, such as the the one you mentioned. Having a friendly shop boss whom you trust is a big advantage. There are a couple such here in Kunming with whom I've cultivated a friendship over the years and I always listen carefully to their recommendations. I now feel confident they are not likely to mislead me or cheat me.

 

I may be able to help you with your Yixing teapot, the one that is stealing too much flavor. One of my tea pro friends showed me his trick last year. What he did was to first "re-cure" the pot as if it were new. (It was an older one like yours.)

 

He simmered it in a large pot of fresh water for several hours and let it cool down in that water overnight. Did that two days in a row. (Wrap the teapot in an old towel that you don't care about -- it will acquire some permanent ugly stains. Wrap the lid separately.) Be sure to protect the end of the spout. Use very low heat so it doesn't bounce around too much.

 

Then decide on only one type of tea with which to use that teapot, best bet would probably be only a Pu'er. He suggested further limiting its use to only sheng  生 or only shu  熟  Pu'er. (He is a purist; I personally am not convinced that it matters.) Brew a generous amount of that tea in the same big pot and immerse the wrapped teapot and its lid. Cook low like that for a couple hours and let it cool in that water overnight. (I don't remove the leaves; some people do.)

 

Same a second night with new tea and new water. The people who write the articles usually say to use your best tea. But they generally own a teashop and get it wholesale or as free samples. I use a second rate tea, one that isn't awful but that I don't care too much about. One that is on my "only use in a pinch" shelf; maybe something I have picked up on sale at a bargain price.

 

That's all pretty standard information, but here is the clincher. Every time you use that pot from here on out, finish up the session by filling the pot with hot water (tea leaves still inside) and just let it stand until it cools down, or until the next day. He called that 养壶 yang hu ("raise" like a young plant or animal; "bring up" like bringing up a child or a pet.)

 

You have probably seen pots full of tea just sitting around in teashops like that and might have wondered about them. That's what the bosses were doing. What I do at home, since I don't have much space, is just set the full teapot on a plate and put it out of the way during that time.

 

The other thing that my friend always does is rub the pot a bit with a tea towel while it's still warm. It burnishes the outside and, over time, gives it a luster. A tea towel 茶巾 is similar to a thick, tight-woven wash cloth and one could just use a wash cloth or small hand towel instead. (It will, however, ruin the towel.)

 

Balthazar knows a lot about teapots, and may have other suggestions.

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abcdefg

#21 -- Chris Two Times --

 

In the interest of saving you some time, let me "demystify" this Grandpa Style tea thing for you here and now. It just means putting some loose leaf tea into a large cup or mug with a lid and adding water as needed. It's a very casual and easy way to enjoy some tea, particularly a Chinese black tea such as Dian Hong 滇红茶。

 

The beauty is that it doesn't require close attention to proportions of tea to water, water temperature, or brewing times. Can do it with both eyes closed as you focus on other things.

 

In China most people, including me, have a couple of these screw-top mugs. They may or may not have a built-in strainer. Don't think I've ever seen one in the US, though I confess to not having looked very hard there.

 

Here's the one I am using this morning (mug with handle.) Convenient at home, but not good for travel. Similar one without handle that I take to class in my backpack. These have double walls and are glass. Some others are single-wall and yet others are plastic.

 

post-20301-0-32444100-1443233514_thumb.jpg  post-20301-0-10963800-1443233524_thumb.jpg

 

This one is metal for the coldest part of winter. (No interior heating in Kunming.) The one next to it is plastic for summer. Has a large tea compartment on the bottom. Bought it on impulse and don't use it as much as I thought I would.

 

post-20301-0-91491200-1443233534_thumb.jpg  post-20301-0-68643200-1443233545_thumb.jpg 

 

Most of these cost 30 or 40 RMB (a bit over $5 US.) They aren't exotic. Most supermarkets have a shelf with many sizes and styles (30 or 40 different ones.) Lots of people use a simple glass jar that originally held pickled vegetables, fruit, or whatnot. Taxi drivers often use those; big ones that hold the better part of a quart.

 

I didn't see so many of these tea mugs 茶杯 in use in Taiwan. I'm guessing it's because the climate is not a dry as Kunming. Here, a good 65% or 70% of the people you meet on the street when out and about are carrying one. Most stores and offices have a hot water dispenser 饮水机 where you can get free refills.

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ZhangKaiRong

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Slightly roasted Tie Guanyin oolong from Taiwan. Goes well with the cold winter weather :)

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abcdefg

Looks delicious, ZhangKaiRong.

 

-------------------

Edited to ask: What Oolong was it? (Just curious.)

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Alex_Hart
On 9/24/2015 at 4:19 PM, abcdefg said:

Hope to get you thinking about Oolongs. We can talk about them more later: How to select; how to brew.

Reviving a long ago post - sorry! Would like to hear more about this. 

 

For brewing, do you just gongfu it in an yixing/gaiwan? Are there special ways to brew it that differ from, for example, brewing puer? If it's 功夫法, wouldn't mind an exploration of this, or even the little traditions around it (e.g. was once told that a "true" Fujianese gongfu brewer will shake the pot to get the last drops - the best part of the tea - every time they refill the pot). Is there anything that differs between oolongs in how to brew other than times, etc? What about in Fujianese versus Taiwanese oolongs?

 

And how to select would be awesome. I'm under the impression choosing a good oolong is rather harder than some other teas, which are perhaps more able to be roughly categorized from looking at their leaves. 

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chenyswhite

Thank you for your post, I do not know more about taiwan oolong, and the process of making tea is strange for me. 

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Balthazar
Quote

Reviving a long ago post - sorry! Would like to hear more about this. 

 

For brewing, do you just gongfu it in an yixing/gaiwan? Are there special ways to brew it that differ from, for example, brewing puer? If it's 功夫法, wouldn't mind an exploration of this, or even the little traditions around it (e.g. was once told that a "true" Fujianese gongfu brewer will shake the pot to get the last drops - the best part of the tea - every time they refill the pot). Is there anything that differs between oolongs in how to brew other than times, etc? What about in Fujianese versus Taiwanese oolongs?

 

And how to select would be awesome. I'm under the impression choosing a good oolong is rather harder than some other teas, which are perhaps more able to be roughly categorized from looking at their leaves. 

 

 

I can only answer for myself, but compared to puer tea I will usually have a significantly lower leaf to water ratio when brewing Taiwanese oolongs (here I am thinking primarily of rolled varieties such as Dong Ding). Usually 4-5 grams will be more than enough for 90-110ml of water (whereas I'd probably use 8 grams of puer tea for the same amount of water), for the yixing pot I use for Taiwanese oolongs that usually translates into covering the bottom of the pot (and then adding slightly more leaf) before pouring on water. With rolled oolongs I will also pour the water onto the leafs from higher above. Due to the lower leaf to water ratio, steeping times are also slightly longer even in the initial few steeps. This isn't a fixed rule though, I'll experiment a bit with each tea to see what works best. A gaiwan will work really well with Taiwanese oolongs (in my opinion a gaiwan is great for pretty much any kind of tea, perhaps with the exception of heichas). If you want to use a yixing pot you're better off with a high fired (less absorbent) clay. I personally use a dedicated yixing most of the time, but again, a gaiwan will do the job (and unless you have a quality pot you're much better off using a gaiwan).

 

As for differences within the oolong "family", there are countless.Yanchas, dancongs, tieguanyins etc. are all very different beasts.

 

I don't find oolongs harder to source than other kinds of tea. It's not easy, but that's true for any kind of loose leaf tea. How much you are able to tell about a tea just by looking at the dry leaf is very limited, I think it's often more misleading than helpful. Unless you're able to sample (and ensure that what you sample is actually what you buy) there's not much to do other than going by word of mouth.

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realmayo

When it comes to fresh green Taiwan oolongs I also find I prefer to use less leaf/more water, a bit closer to green tea, although to be honest I haven't drunk a huge amount of that kind of oolong. However for any oolong with some proper roast to it, I bang the leaf ratio up high, about half to two-thirds full of leaf, something like 5 grams in a 70ml pot. Unlike Balthazar though, when it comes to puerh, I prefer to use a lower ratio, maybe about one-third leaf in a pot. No harm in playing around and seeing what suits you, of course.

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Alex_Hart

Thanks for the answers! Have been only using a gaiwan for oolong, but was under the impression a lot of people preferred yixing - guess I don't need to worry about investing in another pot in the short term! Have only tried a few oolongs and almost none were rolled other than some 铁观音, looking forward to exploring the genre more. 

 

Do you pour from higher only when they're rolled? Does it help wake up the leaves, or? And when you say a bit longer for the time, is there a general time you would recommend for a first steep before calibrating later steeps more to your tastes?

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realmayo
On 16/05/2017 at 8:59 AM, Alex_Hart said:

If it's 功夫法, wouldn't mind an exploration of this

 

I reckon this guy knows his stuff: https://www.kyarazen.com/chaozhou-gongfu-tea/

I'd never be as hardcore to do what he describes there, with the 'gall bladder' in the middle.

But it's a good point that most of the so-called traditional gongfucha is a 'new tradition'. I don't think puerh was ever made gongfucha style until the last few (20? 30?) years. To be honest, the fact that there are long-standing regional differences in China shouldn't surprise me at all....
 

Quote

If you might have noticed, I had not used the word “gongfu” with any of the other tea brewing methods posted, but only with the Chaozhou one. This is because “gongfu” brewing used to refer to the Chaozhou brewing method specifically. Its a little queer whenever people talk about how they would “gongfu” a tea, and all they are doing are just multiple steepings of different durations, which can simply be done with a tea bag.

 

 

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Alex_Hart

Cheers - will check it out. Have actually read most of the posts on marshaln - I like him, too. 

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abcdefg
On 5/17/2017 at 11:27 PM, realmayo said:

Here's another link, from a site which personally I think is very sound:

http://www.marshaln.com/2011/02/principles-of-chinese-tea-making/

 

Agree, @realmayo -- That's a very good general summary.

 

I had the privilege of drinking good-quality rock tea in Chaozhou a couple years ago in the company of Chaozhou natives. They were doing the brewing and I was their guest. I kept wanting to butt in like a schoolteacher and remind them to pay closer attention to the process. They were eating, smoking, joking and generally carrying on like nothing mattered. Happily I was able to muzzle myself, because clearly they knew the drill and had just internalized its elements over the years it to the point that it was automatic.

 

I watched them pour just enough dry leaf into those little pots such that after the water was added and the steep was underway, it would expand to entirely fill it, but not overly tight. They manipulated the water temperature and brewing time so skilfully that it appeared effortless and casual; darned if the resulting tea wasn't terrific in the mouth. And they kept it just right from one steep to the next and then the next after that, juggling variables without seeming to give it a thought.

 

We also ate some incredible fresh seafood together. Visited Shantou and Jieyang as well as Chaozhou, to get a better feel for the entire Chaoshan Triangle. Everywhere we were awash in top notch tea and delicious, if subtle, cuisine. Later I returned to sample Meizhou and Huizhou as well. Eating and drinking comprise a big part of what they see as "the good life" in that part of Guangdong, and hence those activities get a lot of serious attention.

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