Wen Shan Ping Lin Black Tea

wan shan ping lin - dry leaf

This was one of those impulse buys, tossed into my shopping cart during a “want!” moment of weakness when I was putting together my recent order with House of Tea that saw me also get my thirsty mitts on a pair of teas from Georgia, as well as a beeng of shou pu-erh.

This is yet another Taiwanese black tea – not exactly a hard sell as far as this teahead is concerned. No arms were twisted during the purchasing of this tea…

These leaves are of the Chin Shin varietal, one often associated with High Mountain Oolongs. They hail from Ping Lin district in the well known Wen Shan tea growing area near Taipei. Ping Lin is perhaps best known as the place where lightly oxidized Bao Zhong (AKA Pouchong) Oolongs come from.

House of Tea’s notes say that the tea was hand-plucked, and was produced by a Mr. Wong. Now, this is interesting, because when I was Googling around trying to see if I could find out anything else about this tea, I found another mention over at curioustea.com to a Mr. Wong producing a black tea from Chin Shin leaves in Ping Lin!

Assuming that they are the same Mr. Wong, curioustea.com note that the leaves grew at an elevation of around 400 metres.

Regular readers of this blog might be aware that as well as being rather partial to Taiwanese black teas I also like experimental teas such as this, where a cultivar that is usually processed in one way is given an alternative treatment. More often than not this results in something rather different and quite special. I was eager to see how this traditional Oolong cultivar would turn out when processed as a black tea, and how it would differ from Taiwanese black teas made from cultivars such as Red Jade.

After comparing the brewing guidelines from House of Tea and curioustea.com I decided to fall more in line with the latter’s suggestions, as they had more detailed ideas relevant to a gong-fu session.

After a few seconds in the warmed up pot the leaves smelled strongly of spices and lychees.

Steeping method
Water Used: Filtered tap water
Weight of dry leaf: 7 grams
Infusion style: Gong-fu
Steeping vessel: 200 ml ceramic teapot
Water temperature: 90°C
No. & duration: 8 infusions of 15, 20, 25, 30, 40, 60, 90, and 120 seconds duration

The liquor in the first infusion wasted no time in gluing my lips together. There was a sweet lychee thing that was dominant, but sat behind it was that spicy twang. I was left with the distinct impression that very soon that particular note would be leaping out from behind a bush and shouting “Boo!“. There was a bright dairy aftertaste left clinging to the roof of my mouth, which felt like ice-cream with the vanilla dialled back to barely noticeable levels, if that makes sense.

wan shan ping lin - a cup of

As I was filling up the pot for the second round what I can only describe as a volcano like eruption of a sweet, roses like floral aroma rushed up from the counter top to my nose. It was all the more surprising coming as it did with little warning – nothing up to that point had hinted at any kind of flowery stuff. The complexity of the liquor was growing in leaps and bounds. The mix of flowers, spices, and fruit triggered memories of one of my favourite pan-Asian mini-marts in town.

The third infusion saw the spice thing becoming better defined. As weird as this might sound, it was like a cross between 5 spice powder and the pungent back end of a Thai curry paste. The empty cup was left holding on to traces of burnt sugar.

It was as I was decanting the fourth round that I noticed that this was an exceptionally clean tea, especially when considering it was a black tea. Only a few almost microscopic dots of debris made it into my tea strainer. It was at this point that the liquor started showing a slight drop in intensity of flavour, meaning that from now on infusion times would be getting longer by more than 5 seconds with each new round.

As the other characteristics of the liquor faded, the floral note stood its ground, and for the rest of the session it was that fragrance that held sway in the empty cup between steepings.

Enjoyable as the session had been I’m never one for flogging leaves to death, and so I called time on the session before I stumbled upon the place where the quality of the liquor fell off the edge of the cliff. Still, 8 infusions seemed about right, and I had no complaints on that score.

wan shan ping lin - used leaves


Conclusions

As I said above these kind of tea experiments usually result in something a bit special, and that was certainly the case here. As you’d expect, this tea shares characteristics with both other teas crafted from the same cultivar, as well as the other locally produced black teas, but still has its own clear cut identity – that heady mix of lychee sweetness, flowery fragrance, and that ultra complex spiciness sat in the background directing things without once dominating or overpowering any of the other attributes.

Very, very nice. Highly recommended.

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