Monday, October 1, 2012

The quest for Oriental Beauty never ends (Part 3)

Today, I will review the last 3 cultivars from my Oriental Beauty quest. (See here for part 1 and part 2).

Left, Fo Shou
1. Left, Fo Shou - Buddha Hand

This is a cultivar I last selected in winter 2009. Its big leaf appearance and citrus taste is what makes it quite special in the Oolong world. Here, indeed, the dry leaves are big already and we see very few white buds.
The dry smells are woody and fruity, but not very concentrated. The leaves feel very dry and thin to the touch.

Middle, qingxin/luanze Oolong
2. Middle, qingxin Oolong (or luanze, soft stem Oolong)

This is my favorite Taiwanese cultivar for High Mountain, Baozhong and Hung Shui Oolong. (This cultivar's origin can be traced to Ai Jiao Oolong in Fujian).
The dry leaves are very small and we see many white buds, but almost no hair.
The dry fragrances are refined and perfume-like.

Right, qingxin Dapang
3. Right - Qingxin Da Pang

This cultivar is the most traditional one for Oriental Beauty in the Hsin Chu-Miaoli area, where farmers specialize in Oriental Beauty. (Note: I previously used Da Pa instead of Da Pang due to some misunderstanding. I apologize for the mistake.)
The appearance of the leaves is rather long. The buds are less numerous than with the luanze Oolong. The harvest was made at a later stage.
The first smell of the dry leaves is light and fruity. Unfortunately, the fragrances that come after are like plastic or even rubber gloves! There's something bad...   
From left to right: Fo Shou, Qingxin Oolong, Qingxin Da Pa
True to its nature, the Fo Shou OB tastes slightly astringent. Also the taste is quite light in terms of persistence. The fragrances lack strength and finesse.

The qingxin Oolong has the most intense, delicate aromas (thanks to its many buds). The taste is mellow and long. However, I also notice some dry notes in my mouth at the finish. It's not entirely comfortable. (It must be a problem of process, not cultivar).

The qingxin Da Pa's brew releases burned smells. An inspection of the open leaves shows lots of black spots on the leaves. The leaves must have been burned by excessive heat during the farmer's processing. It's an unfortunate and sad defect. I had kept this cultivar for the end to compare it with the others. But it doesn't really matter, since I already know that this cultivar can make some 'perfect' Oriental Beauty.  
Fo Shou, Qingxin oolong, Qingxin Da Pa

 The farmer who gave me these samples told me that he just missed 1 major cultivar: Tie Guan Yin! It is also used to make Oriental Beauty! But this doesn't surprise us anymore. What this study demonstrates foremost is that (when the demand is great) farmers can make Oriental Beauty with almost any cultivar. However, we have also learned that most cultivars aren't really suited for it. And that even if you have the right one, it's still no guarantee for success. This also shows how tasting/memorizing high quality standards is important to recognize what tastes right or wrong.

For me, the main discovery of this quest through 11 samples is the wonderful performance of the Bai Lu (No 17) cultivar. I'm looking forward measuring whatever I have left of it against my 2012 Oriental Beauty from Hsin Chu!

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