The conference starts at lunch time, which gives me time to look around the pretty town of Harrogate. At this point, I am reminded of the fact that the famous tea company "Taylors of Harrogate" is based in, erm, Harrogate. A brief Internet search later, and I'm in their main tea-room [pictured].
The service is fair, the surroundings are attempting refinery, and the tea-menu is about twice as long as most other tea-shops, but it's still... a bit English. Fair enough, looking around at the clientele, which are either students, tourists or the elderly.
I am served by a pleasant lady with an Eastern European accent. I ask what the real name of the "Good Luck Green Tea" is, which she tries to find out but fails. She assures me it is a black tea. I ask if they have any "oolong" (tearooms tend to use the non-pinyin name, of course), and she points me to a Ceylon. I end up with a "Yuluo" white tea, and the "Good Luck" green, both of which are fairly fine grades, but rather unimpressive. Most people are here for the cakes.
Let me give you a review from my archive - a baozhong that I rather enjoyed before I left.
From Houde, this is supposedly from the qingxin [green-heart] varietal of wulong, which possibly isn't saying too much for an early 80s tea as the non-qingxin hybrid varietals (cuiyu, sijichun, etc.) were not in widespread cultivation at that time.
Caledonian Springs @ 90C in 12cl qingxiang pot; ~5g leaf; 1 rinse
Short, dark twists not more than 1.5cm in length. The aroma is very quiet, being a gentle roast scent when the nose if right up against the leaves. Adding the leaves to the rinsed pot discovers the deep, pungent scent of rich sultanas. Delightful.
The roast seems high, which means I have picked exactly the wrong pot for this tea...
12s, 15s, 20s, 30s, 45s, 60s, 90s, 120s, 120+s:
These leaves come from Houston, and so I feel no shame in writing, "Houston, we have a problem." The soup is a rich orange. I have, most definitely, picked the wrong teapot. Given how many re-roastings this will have had over the decades, I was perhaps rather daft.
O, heavenly aroma! My cold body shivers as I inhale from the wenxiangbei. A wonderful spicy-butter beidixiang hands over to a particularly enduring sugary lengxiang. A real treat.
The flavour is malted, dominated by the roast, but not such that it becomes aggressive. I am reminded of an old master painting (perhaps the brilliance of the blue dress in Hughes' April Love), in which the amazingly deep colour is the result of many, many layers of light addition. The multiple roasts over the years have given this a smooth, unragged roasted flavour, under which there is a little generic "tea" sourness. The patience is excellent; this tea is clearly in no hurry.
It isn't a thick tea, but there is a gentle huigan. The actual flavour of the baozhong is hard to grasp, flirting as it does behind the thin, silken curtain of the roast.
Some honey, but the roast is dominant, which is a shame. Perhaps the baozhong (always a delicate leaf) just does not have the legs to make itself shown above the thick, encrusted accumulations of the years.
It marches on forever, so unlike many younger wulong, and when it does fade, it is a gentle, dignified and graceful recession, rather than the ragged ending of so many.
Living up to its name, this baozhong [wrapped kind] is rather hard to unwrap. The repeated roastings have fused and dried it. The leaves are excellent: a small tip-grade, which have been hand-picked. They chose a good tea to keep for aging.
The roasting is smooth, but too dominant. There is little to this tea except the smoothness of the roast, masking the subtle quality of the leaf which is only glimpsed in occasional teases in the nose, or aftertaste. Fine, but rather a one-dimensional experience. This is definitely a tea to enjoy in the wenxiangbei.