In this post I’ll be looking at the first of a pair of Oolongs I recently bought over at House of Tea.
These leaves hail from the Wudong mountain area of Guangdong province, and are of the “Ya Shi” cultivar. Ya Shi, as you might be aware, translates as Duck Sh!t. The meaning behind this name has several backstories apparently, but the most widely circulated seems to be the version where the farmers who first discovered the cultivar liked it so much they wanted to keep it exclusively for themselves, and so gave it its less than appealing name in order to discourage others.
The raw material, from the Winter 2017 harvest, was grown at an altitude of 600 metres, and was hand picked.
The dry leaf wasn’t giving an awful lot away, bar a few vague, nondescript floral suggestions.
All that changed however once the leaves had been given a few seconds in the closed, warmed up gaiwan. Now I got a much more distinct, pungent, hothouse flowers thing, complemented by a “bread fresh out of the oven” aroma.
|Water Used:||Filtered tap water|
|Weight of dry leaf:||6 grams|
|Steeping vessel:||150 ml porcelain gaiwan|
|No. & duration:||10 infusions of 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 40, 60, 120, 300, and 600 seconds duration|
Before sipping the first infusion, I stuck my snout into the gaiwan to see what the wet leaf was telling me I should expect to find in my cup. Floral things, and lots of them, came the answer.
The first infusion had a definite feeling of overture about it, although even at this early stage in the session it was clear that good things were waiting just around the bend, as the mouthfeel was already getting into its groove even if the taste and colour sections were still tuning up.
Things really got into gear in the second round. The body continued on its upwards trajectory, and the intensity of the aroma exploded, with those hothouse flowers being joined by roses.
The third round saw me taking a quite noticeable Qi shove, which I mentioned in my tasting notes as “slightly intoxicating“. This ushered in a somewhat serene, contemplative mood, and I spent the rest of the time sipping that steeping wondering whether I was experiencing the whole “roses” aspect of this tea as a part of the aroma, or if it was actually coming through as a taste instead. Weirdly enough, I couldn’t isolate the sensation, unable to pin it down as to nose or tongue as organ of origin.
By the fifth round things were turning rather dark and sweet, which together with the thick body and sticky lips gave a strong impression of dates. There was now a clear and persistent feeling of fruit and flowers that clung to the roof of the mouth and back of the throat. It felt like something that had been slowly building up during the session, layer by layer with each infusion, like the way a stalactite grows.
Just one round later the tropical blooms were on the back foot, leaving the roses dominant, and the session was now swimming against an ebb tide.
I kept on going, wanting to extract every last drop of the good stuff from these leaves, but after a final 10 minute long infusion I had to admit that the session was over.
I’ve often mentioned on this blog how tea, for me at least, has the power to push all kinds of memory buttons, and this tea is, and I suppose always will be, associated with the first time I drank it, at Mei Leaf, 2 years ago. I strongly suspect that every time I steep this current batch of leaves, as well as others like them in the future, for the time it takes to quaff a couple of sips I’ll be back in that shop on a rainy afternoon in Camden, listening to old school jazz, and getting my first taste of the wonderful Oolong with the silly name.