Hong Shui

hong shui - dry leaf

Looking back over my recent tea purchasing history it suddenly dawned on me that I hadn’t placed an order with Stockholm based House of Tea for several months.

Thinking that they might start to panic and send out a search party, I browsed a bit, thought a bit, and put together a small order, the contents of which I’ll be looking at in upcoming posts.

As they usually do, they kindly included a small, 3 gram sample for me to try, and once again it was an Oolong I hadn’t previously tasted – Hong Shui (Red Water).

The raw material is of the Jin Xuan cultivar, and was grown at an altitude of 500 metres on Zhushan (Bamboo Mountain), in Nantuo county, Taiwan. The leaves were hand plucked and roasted during the spring of 2019. In House of Tea’s notes the oxidation level is given as 40%, and the roast is described as medium.

Knowing not a lot about this type of Oolong, I decided to dig a bit deeper. As per usual my first port of call was the rather wonderful Babelcarp, which describes Hong Shui as “…fairly high (60+%) oxidized, low-roasted Oolong…“.

After a bit more Googling I found out that the name Hong Shui seems to typically refer to any Oolong made in the style of a Dong Ding Oolong that is not actually produced in the Dong Ding area itself.

Although this particular example is made from Jin Xuan cultivar material, the reading I did suggested that some consider the Chin Shin varietal more traditional than others. Other sources suggest that any cultivar can actually be used. What-cha have a Hong Shui made from the Si Ji Chun cultivar, for example.

Steeping method
Water Used: Filtered tap water
Weight of dry leaf: 3 grams
Infusion style: Western
Steeping vessel: 200 ml ceramic teapot
Water temperature: 100°C
No. & duration: Three infusions of 3 minutes, 3 minutes, and 4 minutes duration.

This liquor was one of those that came across in an almost musical fashion. It felt mostly composed of high, clear, bright notes, with very little bass, if that makes sense.

hong shui - a cup of

As expected, given the levels of oxidation and roasting there was just a hint of dark, warm tones here – there was very much a “green” feel to everything.

The dominant taste here was a sweet floral one that lingered as an aftertaste. A mineral aroma clung to the empty cup.

The mouthfeel was milky bordering on creamy, and interestingly enough there was a brief flash of milky flavour that showed up during the final steeping once the liquor had cooled down quite a bit.

As so often happens when dealing with samples, I came away from this mini session with a feeling that these leaves would perform exponentially better if there were only more of them getting some gong-fu TLC in a gaiwan. I’ve got a hunch that a larger cargo would tease out more of the subtleties of the processing, particularly the roast, as well as allow me to explore the boundaries of that unexpected milkiness, which I only got a tantalising glimpse of here.

hong shui - used leaf

So, in conclusion, yes, I just might well have to pull the trigger so that I can see how these leaves do when they get a bit of gaiwan action.

And then there’s the fact that my reading up on Hong Shui has managed to shove my head down yet another tea rabbit hole, with all those possible combinations of cultivar and roast to explore.

Watch this space, etc…

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