Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Gui Fei Mei Ren Oolong 貴妃烏龍茶

This tea is from Nantou County, Lugu Township. In 1999, following the devestating earthquake in this area, many of the tea farmers in the area used an excessive amount of nitrogenous fertilizer which in turn attracted many of the aphid type leaf hoppers. The Flavor of this tea depends on the transfer of pollen from nearby flowers to the tea leaves, giving the tea its unusually sweet flavor. My favorite varietal of Gui Fei Mei Ren is made Qing Xing Oolong, but it can also be made with Jin Xuan Oolong and possibly other variatals as well.
Gui Fei Mei Ren is named after one of China's four famous beauties, Yang Gui Fei. She represents a sexy juicy version of beauty due to her plump nature. Gui Fei is a title given to a kings wife that is his favorite wife just after the queen, indicating a second tier wife position. Yang Gui Fei lived in the Tang dynasty and was the wife of Tang Ming Huang. There are many stories about Gui Fei. I will convey the ones that I know. It is said that she bathed in milk. She was one of the king's favorite wives. Her favorite fruit was Li Zhi (I am not sure of the English name), a fruit that grows in the south of China. Gui Fei lived in central China. The king assigned the fastest horse to transport his beloved wives favorite fruit so that it would not spoil before it arrived. Eventually she brought great turmoil to the kingdom as her jealous boyfriend, An Lu Shan, took it upon himself to kill the king, although he never did. Another name for this tea is "Noble Concubine".

Shan Lin Xi Oolong Tea 杉林溪茶

Shan Lin Xi Oolong Tea 杉林溪茶
Both of these Shan Lin Xi Oolongs were hand picked and hand crafted, in the Shan Lin Xi mountain range. Shan Lin Xi is in Zhushan township of Nantou county. Oolong tea has been grown in Shan Lin Xi for the past 50 years, but it was only since 1981 that the area's oolong tea production increased to meet an ever growing national demand. All of the tea grown in this area is "Qing Xing" Oolong, the most sought after varietal for high mountain oolong. These High Mountain Oolong Teas were grown at about 5,900 feet (1800 meters). The quality of the tea cannot be graded on the altitude alone. Other factors such as tea type, area of growth, production and crafts person's skill all contribute to these tea's amazing substance and aroma.
These Shan Lin Xi Oolongs were produced by a small family farm. This farm is the home of a master tea craftsman who has produced "special winning" Oolong in the past. The area is a beautiful array of cedar forests and running brooks in the area that enhance the environment for tea production. The temperate climate is cool. The sun shows for only a very brief time throughout the day. Fog coats the hills and fields of tea the rest of the time. These conditions ensure that the tea will grow slowly, struggling for life, and eventually produce a heartier plant with leaves that are robust, thick, and soft, which inevitably results in a more elevated tea experience.
In Taiwan, Taiwanese oolong is almost always made in a small gong fu tea pot or a guy wan. This is especially true when brewing a tea of considerable value such as these Shan Lin Xi Oolongs. Suggested water temp is around 194 degrees Fahrenheit. Tea should fill the kung fu tea device to 1/3 full of tea for a strong brew of tea and 1/4th full for a moderate strength. Brew the tea for 45 seconds and pour out for drinking. Repeat for eight to ten infusions.
Recommended brew device: White Guy wan or an unglazed clay teapot fired at extremely high temperature so that the clay can sustain a very thin wall.

Mu Za Tie Guan Yin 木柵鐵觀音茶

Mu Za Tie Guan Yin 木柵鐵觀音茶
Provence: Taipei
Taipei City, Mu Za Area

AKA Iron Goddess
The Mu Za tea plantations are from the time of the Japanese occupation of Taiwan. The beginning of Tie Guan Yin in Taiwan was when two brothers were sent by the Mu Za Tea Company to China to bring back a Tie Guan Yin (TGY) plant. The brothers made the journey to An Xi County in Fu Jian Provence where they were able to aquire to correct strain of Iron Goddess. The conditions in Mu Za area were ideal for this kind of tea so the transfer was very successful. The Mu Za area grows Tie Guan Yin tea exclusively and it is known as "Zheng Chong Tie Guan Yin" 正欉鐵觀音" The difference between this kind of Tie Guan Yin and other TGY's is the tea plant's ecology. This kind of TGY also grows out a bit more to the sides, the leaf surface is wrinkled, and the pith of the leaf does not run directly down the middle of the leaf. Thus, the tea leaf that comes from Mu Za Area has a naturally curved shape as it grows on the tea plant. It is often compared with a piece of fruit. The leaf teeth are of all different sizes. In these ways, this Zhen Chong TGY is completely different from any other kind of TGY. Zhen Chong TGY is much dryer than other TGY and the width of the plant is wider and fatter. Zhen Chong TGY has a stronger flavor with a darker color as well as a stronger scent when compared with other TGY.
The altitude of the Mu Za growing area is 300-350 meters (984-1148 feet). The tea there can be harvested between 4 and 5 times a year, although the spring and winter harvests are the best. It has east and west exposure, resulting in long days in the sun. Therefor, the tea when harvested has a tendancy to be very bitter, but after a period of oxidation, and a baking process, the bitter flavor dissipates, the tea's alkali changes during the baking process, so that the end result is a tea that is good for older people, or those with delicate stomachs.
The amount of tea when brewing should be one third of a gung fu tea pot or less. The temp should be around 203 degrees and the infusion time should be quick from 20 to 30 seconds. If the tea amount is less, one should extend the brew time. From the second to the fifth brew the temp should be from 176 to 194, and the brew time should be from 10-20 seconds.
Oriental Beauty also known as Bai Hao Oolong 白毫烏龍茶 also known as Dong Fang Mei Ren 東方美人茶
The name Oriental Beauty is said to come from Queen Elizabeth I of England who reportedly remarked, "What an oriental beauty?" upon first tasting the tea. This is a summer harvest tea that relays on a tea leaf eating aphid that transfers pollen from nearby flowers to the tea leaves, resulting in the classic Oriental Beauty honey taste. This is a heavily oxidized tea leaf that results in a reddish liquor that is especially sweet and intoxicating. In Southern Taiwan, where I lived in Taiwan, most if not all of the rain would happen in the summer. The summer rains were part of the course when a typhoon that was passing through the area. I always welcomed the typhoon's ability to cool the area considerably, but later I learned that typhoons can wreak havoc on the tea growing mountains as landslides cover plantations and viliages under their massive rubble. The tea fields are in part to blame but often more heavily criticized are the bing lang plantations that cover vast hillsides, providing only the most shallow of roots. It was on these rainy days that I loved drinking Dong Fang Mei Ren. Production of this tea is in Xin Zhu County's Bei Pu.
Dong Ding Oolong Tea 凍頂烏龍茶
It was in 1855 that tea from Mainland China was planted on Dong Ding Mountain. This is a very famous Oolong tea from Taiwan. The name "Dong Ding" or Frozen Tip/Frozen Summit is a play on words because the old stories of picking tea on this mountain tell of numb fingertips and tips of toes that went along with harvesting the tea in this area. The mountain is located in Lugu "Deer Valley" Township which is in Nantou County. Traditionally, this tea will be oxidized about 30%, it is then baked over a high temperature for a long period of time. This baking adds to the rich texture and aroma of this tea.