Sunday, March 20, 2011

The beauty of Hung Shui Oolong

This is the Cha Xi I used most of this (cold) week, as I was brewing various Hung Shui Oolongs from my selection. I used a long sheet of calligraphy paper on top of a black piece of fabric. Elegance can be so simple! This sober background puts the focus on the simple, refined teaware. And this classic elegance is also a reflection of the character of these Hung Shui Oolongs: well balanced teas with a wonderful, long and mellow aftertaste. They combine a certain freshness with the deep mellow feeling of a medium charcoal roast.

All use the traditional luanze (qingxin) Oolong cultivar, which is the most suited for roasting (in Taiwan). And they come from distinct origins (Feng Huang/Dong Ding, Ali Shan, Shan Lin Shi) and seasons, that can still be felt. But most important is their roasting by real masters. It's both deep and light. Deep, because the long fire has completely altered the taste of these leaves. But also light, because a lower temperature has preserved the 'greenness' of the leaves: they still open up completely and don't display any burned tastes. It's a kind classic balance that fills you with ease and satisfaction.

Mozart, Michelangelo, Shakespeare, Hung Shui Oolong!

Hung Shui Oolongs are a little bit more difficult to brew than High Mountain Oolongs. The dimension of roasting adds a level of complexity. The strength of the hot water flowing into the teapot must be better controlled. Or maybe the leaves need to be aired in a special jar for a while...

The reason we study classics (in class) is not because they are easy, but because they are hard. Once you have mastered them, your education gives you solid foundations to face new problems. And the beauty of (tea) classics, is that they continue to shine as time goes by. Fresh teas loose their appeal within 2 years, but well kept Hung Shui Oolongs improve like grands crus wines. (I have tasted Hung Shui Oolongs close to a 100 years old that still tasted fresh and delicious).

In a world of constant change, Hung Shui Oolongs provide stability and refinement. They are subtle and harmonious teas that bring peace and happiness.
A warm blue bowl by Michel François.

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