Monday, June 16, 2014

Oolong Curiosity

As we get to know oolong tea, curiosity is a great mindset to have. This mindset of experimentation allows us to be open to all of the flavors that oolong has to offer. Brewing oolong is a constant experience in trial and error. In the beginning, it is common to brew the tea too weak or too strong. If the tea is too strong, the tea is bitter. But with high quality tea, even bitter tea has something to offer. This bitter flavor is less familiar to the American palate, but in Asia, bitter is a flavor that is also appreciated. Bitter flavor has the ability to remove heat from the liver. The heat of summer is the best time of year to go for bitter. When high quality tea brewed too strong, a string of deep rich floral and fruit undertones delightful to the senses can follow the initial bitter flavor. A pleasant surprise.

Industry practice for comparing tea:

When we compare two teas it is important to use the exact same standards for each tea. To compare teas fairly, it is important to use the same amount of tea. Often professional tasters will use 3g or 5g of tea. The same temperature water. For most oolong teas, tea masters in Taiwan will use water that has just boiled. Use multiple sets of the same tea ware. This way, differences in tea ware will not cause any unfair advantage to either of the teas. My favorite tea ware for comparing teas is the Jian Ding Bei, or professional tea tasting set. By using the same tea ware, it is easier to use the same amount of water. This is important, because the tea-to-water ratio should be the same for each tea. Finally, brew each tea for the same amount of time. Often, professionals will brew multiple teas at the same time. This is tricky at first, but gets easier with practice. This is a good practice because it is also important to taste the teas side by side at similar temperatures. Our senses are always in flux. Slurping is a technique used to enjoy a tea's entire breadth, as well as replace what was previously on the palate. By slurping the tea deep into the sinuses, through the roof of the palate it is possible to go through a line of several teas and make decisions and not become overwhelmed or confused about the flavors.  

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