Previously, on “Diary of a Northern Teaist…” – click here to read part 1 of this post…
To just recap – these leaves originate from a newly established cultivation area in Shan Lin Shi, Nantou County, Taiwan, and are of the Chin Shin varietal, which is normally used in the production of Taiwanese High Mountain Oolongs. They were grown at about 1800 metres, and the combination of high altitude and a cooler, mist shrouded environment have resulted in the slow growth which is such an integral part of this tea’s character.
After waiting the whole weekend, I was pretty darned excited to see a package nestled in our mailbox early on Monday afternoon. I soon had it on our kitchen table, and carefully opened it up.
Putting the Tie Guan Yin I had ordered at the same time as well as a small baggie containing a 3 gram sample of Nepal Golden Meadow to one side, I cut the top off the pretty packaging the Shan Lin Shi came in, and transferred it into the caddy I had waiting for it, completing the task over a tea tray so as to safely capture any stray leaves.
The split second the packet was opened BOOM!…the dry leaf unleashed a veritable fragrance tsunami, all lychees and wheat cookies.
At times like this I always find myself wondering if this is what the dry leaf is capable of, just how good are things going to get once hot water is introduced into the equation?
|Weight of dry leaf:||6 grams|
|Infusion style:||Asian / Gong-fu|
|Steeping vessel:||150 ml porcelain gaiwan|
|No. & duration:||a first infusion @ 5 seconds, then @ +5 seconds until 30 seconds, then @ 40, 50, 90, then finally 150 seconds for a total of 10 infusions.|
This is what I’d been waiting for all weekend, a chance to give these leaves some gong-fu TLC. The decision to use 6 grams of leaf was made because this is quite a “fluffy” tea, and even this amount took up just shy of half the space in the gaiwan. Also, given my earlier experience steeping just 3 grams Western style, I was confidant that 6 grams in a gaiwan would be sufficient to serve up a super session.
Well, after sipping that first infusion I actually burst into laughter at just how ridiculously good this tea is. This was like that session with the sample dialled up to 11. The liquor boasted a deep ruby red colour even after such a rapid first infusion, and when considered together the aroma and taste where nigh on intoxicating.
The body was full and luscious – it almost felt as though one was drinking neat lychee squash.
In between rounds I couldn’t help sniffing the wet leaf. There was a spicy pepperiness there that made it’s way into the liquor once the leaf had really opened up after the second steeping.
I found that one really had to let the tea cool significantly in order to get the most out of each cupful. It was an agonising wait each time, but ultimately your patience rewarded you.
As the fourth infusion rolled around two things happened. Firstly, I broke out into a full-on upper body sweat! Secondly, a roasted, malty aspect became more prominent, as though the processing and the leaves’ Oolong heritage were storming the stage and trying to grab the microphone.
By the sixth round the tea was showing signs of slipping a bit, so to try and coax out whatever was left in the leaves I turned them over several times in the gaiwan with a bamboo spatula, and began upping the infusion times a bit.
Towards the end of the session, somewhere near round 7 I believe, a kind of sweet lemony citrus thing came out to play.
After the 10th round I called time on the session. I never like pushing my luck when the early part of a session has been so fantastic.
Another characteristic of this tea worth noting was how much of a tonic it had been. Before the session started I’d felt a bit lethargic and under the weather, but afterwards I felt fully alert and super focused.
Just out of curiosity I tried a Western style session using the same leaf / water ratio as I’d used with the sample, i.e. 6 grams in a 400 ml Ikea Upphetta pot, and using the same 40, 60, 90 second steeping times. Deliciously brilliant, as you might have guessed.
This really is an absolutely cracking tea, and from now on I’m going to make sure that my stash always contains some.