09 April, 2007

2006 Alishan Jinxuan

With the coming of Easter, so begins the local pastime of punting. It's a simpler version of Venetian gondolas, without the $500/hour price tag or the irritating singing. With the Easter visit of my parents, we took advantage of the unseasonably good weather, and drifted around on the river for a while.

Watching the banks slip past gently on either side without much of a goal is rather akin to the tea spirit. Quiet participation.

Today's tea is from Stephane's "Teamasters" venture, which I've found to be consistently excellent.

It's from a 1400m plantation around Alishan (or on the mountain itself?), which makes this a "gaoshan" [high mountain] if one follows the definition of it being higher than 1200m. As is my understanding, the jinxuan variety (also "27-son") is one of the cultivars bred in the 1980s (the other being Cuiyu / "29-son").

10cl qingxiang wulong pot; mineral water @ 90C; less than 2 scoops; 1 rinse.

Dry leaves:
heavy balls of tea, a healthy mid-green. The light roast was the first aroma out of the sealed sample packet, though this is rapidly replaced by the pleasing scent of pure wulong once sitting in the chahe.

12s, 15s, 25s, 40s, 60s:
Elegant and crisp soup, which is light yellow/green. A little fur suspended within hints at the presence of at least some young leaves.

The aroma is very fine indeed: opening with a beidixiang of tasty butter, almost milkiness, it cools to a lengxiang of rounded brown sugar, as if from a newly-opened packet of muscavado.

Classical wulong tending to the more leafy end of the spectrum are the initial flavours, with a delightful cooking-spice tang at the end, similar to powdered ginger. This spiciness lingers long in the nose; the aftertaste is very long, and pleasantly sour. There is something of smooth gingerbread, without the spicy heat.

"The precise aroma of guihua [osmanthus flower]."

The third infusion marks a turning point, and we have seen the best of this tea in the first two brews. The later infusions are a retreat into light, generic wulong flavours.

"The guihua has withered, but there is still the coarse taste of the bush."

Used leaves:
Full branches, going back two or three stems, minus the tip system. These are up to 10cm-long branches! Leaves are the full range from second-grade 2cm all the way down to 6cm big leaves. They are all exceedingly soft, and lacking structural strength, reminding me of growing a plant without feeding it minerals. They crumble easily in the hand. Mostly whole, with some chopping around the edges.

A fine initial flavour and spicy character, which are sadly short-lived. The lesser grade of leaves (apparently missing the tips) becomes clear as early as the third infusion, by which time the potency is fading quickly. A pleasant daily tea. It has none of the delicious texture and rarified finery of Stephane's Dayuling teas, but offers a broader, spicier, down-to-earth appeal.

Having rooted around in my old photographs, I came across this diary entry from the previous encounter with this tea, in August 2006.


Vladimir Lukiyanov said...


The relatively rare rays natural sunlight do seem to bring out the best in tea pictures. Great pictures by the way, they certainly communicate very well and are nice to look at :)

It is a pity that lighter oolong teas tend to last only relatively few infusions, they're really tasty in those first few...


Hobbes said...

G'day, V.

This rare sunlight brings the best out in everyone, not just the photos! Is it my imagination, or is everyone generally... happier? Perhaps it's just me that is more happy, and that's colouring my perception...

Thanks for the kind words regarding the photos, I like to read a colourful blog. :)

Lighter wulongs... hmm. I think that this particular wulong is short-lived because of its grade; it really is long, long branch systems, with lots of leaves except the young ones. I mentioned the Dayuling in the entry itself, and that's a great example of a lighter gaoshan wulong that has excellent endurance. It lasts as long as many of the shengpu samples that I come across. If I haven't sent you some, do tell me - I've only got a paltry 25g left of the best one, but you definitely need to try it.

So far, there seems to be a strong correlation between endurance of the tea and its "quality".

I certainly agree that paying a high price doesn't guarantee a quality tea, but paying a low price definitely guarantees you a lower quality. I guess our task is to find the better teas from both categories. :)



TeaMasters said...

Thanks for the nice note about my tea. You're really lucky with the weather, as I see. It's been raining in Taipei for almost a week with hardly any interruption now. Watching your new blog is really a feast for the eye. It has the warmest and widest color range from all the tea blogs out there, I think! Excellent.

As for this tea, it must be noted that it's a jinxuan oolong, one of those new varieties of oolong that has conquered the tea market: it grows fast and often (better yield for the farmer) and it smells fragrant more than it tastes (fitting the trend for more and more fragrance). This explains why it's not that lasting in the mouth, compared to a traditional luanze (qingxin) oolong.

Jinxuan is therefore not really my style of oolong, but this one still made it to my selection because for 2 reasons: it is a gao shan jinxuan harvested at the higher limit of where you would plant jinxuan (the very high ground remains dominated by luanze oolong). This gives this tea a nice gao shan feel for a low price. And secondly, it was more roasted than most jinxuan on the market, which are almost kept completely green. Here, I must say that I was thinking of a comment Guang made to me during a conversation on Tea-Disc when I chose it. He said that also not only luanze oolong could be roasted, and he was right! That additional roasting gives this tea a little more depth and aftertaste, and helps preserve its freshness much longer. So long that you still felt its freshness even after a year (and coming from a sealed bag that was not vacuum sealed).

Zai Jian!

Hobbes said...

Salut, Stephane!

Thanks for the additional information - it's definitely still retained its freshness. I've had multiple possible explanations of the relationship between luanzhe and qingxin - 3, in fact, and all contradictory! I'll send you a private e-mail; I'm keen to find out which is correct. :)

Merci bien, et toodlepip,


Unknown said...

I like and also some experiences with the Jinxuan high mountain Oolong tea though it is quite short-lived fragant.

In Vietnam, this breed is called Kim Tuyên and this kind of tea is packed in 300g withlabel High Mountain tea (GaoShan. They were planted in Cầu Đất (Earth Bridge) region, Blao town, Lam Dong city.

To me, there was a mistery / problem is : these are two kind of tea is being sold in market. One kind is priced 1.5 time more than the other. But, in my taste, the cheaper kind is better. After drinking to kg of two kind, I don't understand why? Maybe my taste has problem ...


Hobbes said...

Hi tnp,

Thanks for reading. Your post underlined how little I know about Vietnamese tea, which is an ignorance that I should definitely change.

Regarding why the cheaper tea might taste better - there are a lot of variables. I wonder if it's down to differences in the way you brewed each, perhaps even differences in your mood. When I'm feeling low, even a good tea is likely to be unimpressive to me; conversely, when filled with the joy of life, even a so-called mediocre tea might strike me as being delicious.

Drinking tea tells us a lot about ourselves.