Saturday, January 21, 2017

Winter Alishan Zhuo Yan Oolong


I'm ready to head south for my little family's traditional Chinese New Year vacation. I'll be back around February 2nd to resume the delivery of your orders.

But before I leave, let me share another wonderful find from this winter season: a jassid bitten Qingxin Oolong from Alishan. The bites are not as numerous as in this Oolong from Shan Lin Xi, the oxdition is lighter, but it delivers very unusual fruity and fudge notes with a very powerful sweet taste and aftertaste. DEEP! A Beethoven symphony or a Pearl Jam concert! It's the kind of Oolong that lingers in the mouth with just the right mix of dark sugar sweetness and bitterness (a nicer word would be tannins).
There's a ray of light with dark undertones, just like the sight of the brew on this dark blue Chabu. (This is a wonderful Chabu, by the way, and it is a great example of how a well matched Chabu can create a fitting atmosphere for a tea session.)
 Since it's a recently made tea, I recommend that you be careful not using too many leaves. Instead, make rather long brews to let its aftertaste shine!
 Have a wonderful Chinese New Year!
I'm heading for the sea and the sun tomorrow. This is also the theme of this year's new tea postcards. They have just arrived!
Thanks for helping me select them.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Baozhong Zhuo Yan d'hiver 2016


A Taiwan, une vague de froid, c'est quand les températures passent sous les 20 degrés Celcius! Ce fut le cas ces derniers jours, mais aujourd'hui le soleil a fait remonter le thermomètre et m'a donné envie de goûter à mon Baozhong Zhuo Yan d'hiver. Il a été récolté le 20 novembre au Wenshan dans une plantation mixte de Qingxin Oolong et de Manzhong, 2 cultivars de qualité avec une bonne longueur en bouche et des petits rendements. Sa particularité est que ses feuilles ont été mordues par les mêmes petits criquets verts qu'on trouve dans l'Oolong Beauté Orientale.
L'infusion est un peu plus orangée que d'habitude, mais l'oxydation de ce Baozhong reste faible, bien loin de celle d'une Beauté Orientale. Néanmoins, on peut un peu ressentir l'impact de ces morsures et les arômes plus murs et fruités que pour un Baozhong standard.
L'infusion a une belle limpidité et on ressent beaucoup de douceur. Ce nouveau Chabu aux connexions multicolores symbolise les liens entre thé, terroir, météo et insectes. Tout influence le thé et chaque saison produit des situations nouvelles et des arômes inédits.
Note: Je serai en vacances du Nouvel An chinois du 21 janvier au 2 février. Derniers envois postaux ce vendredi.

Friday, January 13, 2017

A taste of the 18th century thanks to Medea Bindewald

On this CD, Medea Bindewald plays music by Jacob Kirkman on a 1756 double manual harpsichord by Jacob Kirkman (the composer's uncle)! I found this idea of playing on a historical instrument intimate to the composer so daring and meaningful that I helped crowdfund this CD last September. It's fabulous to be able to make the past alive again!

The CD has arrived this week and I could make my own project come true: brewing and enjoying 18th century invented tea in a zisha teapot contemporary to the music and the harpsichord it is played on. And when I read the booklet, I found out that Jacob Kirkman was born in Bischwiller, just next to the town where I come from!!! The music world is even more connected to my life than what I thought...

This music calls for a special Chaxi and a video! I hope you'll enjoy it despite my wandering eyes on several occasions.  



Note: I wish you all a Happy New Year of the Rooster! At the end of next week, I'll start my Chinese Lunar New Year vacation (for almost 2 weeks). This week, I've added several winter Oolongs and updated my tea promotions. Send me your tea orders this weekend or next week, or wait until early February before I ship again!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Cours de thé francophone

Dans une semaine ces étudiants rentreront en Europe après un semestre d'échange à l'Université Nationale de Taiwan. Vu leur attention, leur nombreuses questions et la foison de notes qu'ils ont prise, on dirait que je leur ai donné un cours super intéressant! C'est le bonheur de débuter, d'avoir tout à apprendre. Aussi, on a commencé le cours/dégustation avec ce Si Ji Chun Oolong de Mingjian, le Oolong le plus populaire de la plus importante région productrice de thé à Taiwan.
DYL contre DYL
Puis, nous avons comparé 2 Oolongs de Da Yu Ling, la montagne où se trouve la plus haute plantation de Oolong de Taiwan. Le mien, de cet hiver, est en haut à gauche. Celui de mon étudiant est en haut à droite. Infusion en set de compétition. J'ai un peu sous-dosé le mien (n'ayant pas de balance sur place). Cela explique la couleur moins concentrée de l'infusion. On remarqua aussi que ses feuilles sèches sont plus grande que les miennes et ont l'air plus fraiches, moins sèches que les miennes. L'examen des feuilles ouvertes nous montre que la récolte de son DYL comprend plus de feuilles sur une tige que sur mon DYL. De plus, à taille égale, mes feuilles sont plus tendres et fraiches. Cela nous permit de comprendre pourquoi ces 2 thés de haute montagne ont des goût assez différents.
Alishan Zhuo Yan Oolong d'hiver
Après 2 Oolongs faiblement oxydés, nous avons dégusté cet Oolong Zhuo Yan d'Alishan. Il a des morsures d'insecte et une oxydation un peu plus élevée qu'un Oolong de haute montagne. C'est un exemple de thé cultivé en respect avec la nature, puisqu'il n'emploie pas de pesticides. Mais l'homme se doit d'intervenir pour cultiver le thé car son on laisse libre cours à la nature, les mauvaises herbes se développent très rapidement dans le climat Taiwanais et envahiraient les théiers (voir la photo ci-dessus: le thé a les feuilles sombres et se trouve presque asphyxié).
L'infusion est plus orange et on y trouve des odeurs de courge, des fruits murs de la fin de l'automne. "Très gourmand, c'est délicieux!" Après m'avoir observé et pris une grande quantité de notes, c'est le moment de l'application pratique.
C'est la première fois qu'il manie un gaiwan, mais il n'a presque pas mis une goutte à côté! Bravo! Pas étonnant qu'il étudie à HEC vu qu'il est tellement doué!
 Pareil ici: Observation et attention aux détails sont au rendez-vous.
Mais il y a la grâce et la douceur féminines en plus!
Le raffinement et la fraicheur de ce Chaxi trouve toute sa raison d'être en si charmante compagnie!  
J'espère que la dégustation du Oolong permettra à ces étudiants de garder la mémoire de leur séjour à Taiwan!

Friday, January 06, 2017

The Dong Ding Oolong and WuYi Yan Cha Connections

After their visit to the Dong Ding Oolong competition, it was interesting to let the 3 Penn State Tea Institute directors taste the connection between Dong Ding Oolong and Wu Yi Yan Cha.
This was also an opportunity to let them brew and give them advice to improve their technique. (It was mostly details: I was impressed by how well they are already handling the gaiwan. See also how graceful it is to use your hand to put the leaves in the brewing vessel!)
2009 spring competition Dong Ding Oolong
The first tea we brewed was a top 15% competition Dong Ding Oolong from spring 2009. It tasted much less roasted than the winter 2016 competition Oolongs we tasted in Lugu. Time had made the tea more mellow. 
The second tea we brewed is my winter 2008 Hung Shui Oolong from Dong Ding. This tea didn't participate in the competition. Its roasting was slightly adjusted for my preference: longer and lower temperature. We all felt it tasted so much sweeter and harmonious! It tasted wonderfully fresh also, despite 8 years of age. The advantage with this tea is that we know its exact origin (Feng Huang village) ; with Dong Ding competition, the leaves could come from anywhere in Taiwan. It's a quality label rather than a label of origin.
Winter 2008 Hung Shui Oolong from Feng Huang
The third Oolong we tasted is this 2003 spring Dong Ding Oolong kept in a porcelain jar. With this tea, we could feel a change of aromas due to its age. This means that it takes 10-15 years for such aged fragrances to appear.
The links of Dong Ding Oolong with Wuyi in Fujian are numerous. First, the qingxin Oolong cultivar that is used for such tea can be traced back to the Aijiao Oolong cultivar in Fujian Province.
The Dong Ding Oolong competition was started in 1976 by the Tea Extension and Research Station (TRES) together with the Lugu Farmers Association. Dr Wu, Zhen Duo was the director of TRES at that time. He had come to Taiwan from Fujian in 1948. On the Mainland, he had studied tea in WuYi's tea research center.
2003 Dong Ding Oolong
Since Communist China and Nationalist Taiwan were in a state of war, it was impossible to get tea from Wuyi in Taiwan. Dr. Wu missed his Yan Cha so much that he pushed the Dong Ding Oolong farmers to make tea with similar taste as in Wuyi. This meant similar oxidation and roasting levels. 
2011 Shui Xian Wuyi Yancha
We finished the lesson by tasting a  Wuyi Shui Xian from spring 2011. The color is darker than for the Dong Ding Oolongs and it displays a dry, rock taste that you don't find in Dong Ding. But there are lots of similarities in terms of emphasis on the aftertaste, the mix of fresh and roasted aromas, the coating of the palate...  
The ShuiXian leaf (left) is larger than the qingxin Oolong leaves. This explains why it can't be rolled like qingxin Oolong. Its color is very similar to that of the 2003 Dong Ding Oolong. The 2008 and 2009 were greener.
While WuYi Yan Cha and Dong Ding Oolong are clearly different teas, we found there are many connections in history and taste for these Oolongs.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Winter 2016 Dong Ding Oolong competition


Almost half the 6561 competing lots were rejected from this winter's competition (46.3%)! The roasting of this season's Oolong was also much more intense than in the spring. Most of the dry leaves we saw were very dark, almost black.

I served as guide for these 3 Tea Institute (@Penn State) students. The highlight of our visit was that we could taste the 11 best Oolongs of the competition. 
Local politicians, tea judges and farmers gathered around us for pictures! This was a cheap price to pay for the privilege of tasting these very different teas. Amazingly, the winning lot doesn't come from a high mountain, but from a new plantation at an altitude of 800 m only! The preference for a higher roasting level this winter probably also helped the chances of this tea.
The reason we heard for the higher roast level is a customer feedback asking for Oolongs that are more stable and can be aged longer. However, I think that it has more to do with the warm and humid weather this october and november that didn't produce very fine and light aromas. Such leaf material had to be processed with a heavier touch.  

The top prized Oolongs were really sweet and tasty (of course), but the lower, more affordable grades we tasted with the farmers lacked persistence and strength. Luckily for the farmers, most of the competition Oolongs sold out rather quickly (before lunch), helped by the approaching Lunar New Year festival and the need for prestigious gifts. (I didn't select anything).
In the afternoon, I took the 3 Tea Institute members to the organic  tea plantations managed by the National Taiwan University at the Feng Huang garden. This is one of the highest point in Dong Ding.
This area was already active for tea during the Japanese era. That's why we can find a few hundred years old Assam tea trees. They are several meters high now:
Their leaves are very large and are still harvested by the university. They serve as exclusive red tea gifts!
The Dong Ding Oolong competition dates back to 1976, but the history of tea production in Dong Ding can be traced much further back, as these Assam leaves show.

Friday, December 30, 2016

The year 2016 in 12 pictures

This review of my favorite pictures of the year has become one of the articles I enjoy doing most. It gives me the opportunity to look at all the pictures I've published and remember the great teas I've had in the last 12 months.

12 years ago, I started this blog with a simple point and shoot camera. 5 years later, I moved to a Nikon D5000 and this month, 7 years later, I've made a new upgrade to a Nikon D750!  I hope that this will allow me to share the joy and beauty of tea at an even higher level. Maybe I'll even start to make more videos again!?

Like last year, I would like to ask you to like your favorite picture on my Facebook page. This will help me decide which pictures I should use to make postcards in 2017.

December: Merry Christmas - Frohe Weihnachten - Joyeux Noël

November: The wine tasting approach for tea

October: Man in blue strikes gold, by Vandy Rattana

September: Vacances pacifiques

August: The making of Baiwen red tea

July: Vacation in Alishan

June: Fêter le solstice d'été à Taiwan

May: Mount Emei International Tea Culture Exhibition

April: When a cup of tea is a trip to nature

March: Hymne au printemps, Biluochun de SanHsia

February: Raw energy

January: Class 10: What Yixing teapot is suited for aged Oolong?
Merci d'aller sur ma page Facebook afin de Liker la photo que vous désirez le plus voir transformée en carte postale. Cela m'aidera à faire mon choix. Je vous souhaite une excellente année 2017!