Friday, May 11, 2012

On Using Enough Leaf: More Hong Shui Oolongs

When first starting to brew tea with attention, I had the tendency to shoot for maximum potency in brews.  Something about wanting the tea to make a grand impression on my senses, something about not being at all subtle.  I quickly learned to be more conservative when starting to experiment with young sheng puerh.  After a few nausea-inducing sessions, I changed my whole approach to tea and erred on the side of leaving plenty of open space in the pot for the leaves to relax and unfurl.  Insipid brews encouraged longer steeping times. 

But each tea requires its own peculiar parameters to coax it into giving up its best.  In the case of two more Hong Shui oolongs from the Lugu environs, a thicker brew proves better.  I acquired both teas from Stephane of Teamasters blog.        

One is a winter 2010 high mountain oolong from Feng Huang.  I had a few sessions with this tea and the finest was when I added a little extra leaf to the pot.  (Covering the bottom plus a small heap more)  The more leaf-laden brews yielded a bright fruit taste during the first few infusions that was either non-existent or subdued in more judicious leaf-to-water ratios.  Being over-generous with leaves might ravage the mouth and throat- as is the case with certain potent Bulang bings sourced by the Essence of Tea folks- then again one might just uncover something that was hidden before by pushing things a bit.

Here's this Feng Huang oolong with it's pretty winter-gold stems:

The other Hong Shui oolong was grown at lower elevations on Yi Guang Shan, which Stephane writes is halfway between the heights of Shan Lin Shi and the lower reaches of Zhu Shan.  This tea is quite affordable (half the price of the Feng Huang), and very smooth and pure.  I often dislike the lower elevation Taiwan oolongs.  More often than not they seem a bit empty of anything other than a candy-sweet quality that I find unpleasant.  Not so with this tea. While it lacks the content of the Feng Huang and the Shan Lin Shi that I wrote about earlier, it has a soothing honeyed fruit flavor that is greatly enhanced when a decent amount of leaf is used.

Yi Guang Shan
 Thanks to Stephane and the farmers for the abundance of pleasure they have provided through the years.

ALOT of strawberry plants grown with garlic to ward off insects in Zhunan, Miaoli CO.



  1. I recently had an insight regarding quantity of leaf used in a gaiwan. I am often left with too cool a tea after the third infusion or so due to the poorer heat retention of porcelain. But, I realized, if I use more leaves, with less time, I can retain the heat through six or seven short infusions without a perceiving a loss in complexity. Thoughts?

    1. Hey Ben,

      Interesting. That makes sense. For one, you've got more potency with the higher leaf volume. Second, since your infusions are brief your water and brewing vessel have less time to cool down. Do you re-heat your water once it cools? I usually end up bringing the water back up to brewing temp after a couple of infusions. It tends to lose heat quickly and that has a big effect on what you're getting out of the leaves.

      Porcelain is swell, but, like you say, it's tough to keep it warm. Perfect for delicate greens that tend to do better in cooler water. I find that if I want to keep a gaiwan sizzling, I have to re-heat that brewing water frequently. I usually add a tad of fresh water to the boiled stuff each time I re-heat it just to freshen it up with some O2. Some teas seem to like a lot of unflagging heat and that's part of the reason clay pots can be helpful. (Though by no means necessary).

      Come on over. There's lots of fresh tea.