The Christmas holiday season is a good time to enjoy an exceptional tea that marks the occasion. So, today, to fight the grey and cold weather with warmth, I chose my 1990 San Hsia Hung Shui Oolong. For such a tea, I dedicated 2 hours and a full scale Cha Xi.
You'll notice that the leaves aren't tightly rolled anymore. As they age, the leaves tend to open up a little.
I even used charcoal to make a fire in my Nilu to heat my water. I recently asked a tea friend how he feels the charcoal boiled water impacted his tea. He wasn't sure if he felt a difference in the taste of the water, he said. However, the simple fact of using a fire instead of electricity is transforming the whole tea experience, he told me. It feels more authentic, natural ; and it heightens your attention, because a fire can be dangerous if you are careless.
With a small fire, it's best to have a small kettle, otherwise the water takes too long to boil. That's why I switched from my silver kettle to this white clay kettle. Its walls are particularly thin, so that it heats water quickly. The cover feels so light and fragile! And the handle is hollow, which helps it to remain cool.
For my 1990 Hung Shui Oolong, I pick the small zhuni teapot. Since the tea is very high quality, I don't want to loose any flavor with a more porous clay. The pour is quite strong, since the leaves are old and need to wake up.
The tea has a beautiful brown color and is completely clear. Thanks to the clay kettle, it feels even older, more earthy than with my tetsubin or my silver kettle. Also, it is much smoother and doesn't have the metallic 'zest' of my other kettles. The old sand scents of the clay mix well with the tea, but tend to make it a little dull. Luckily, the zhuni teapot helps restore brightness and sharpness to it all. I should use the kettle more often to get rid of this old smell...
The sweet taste seems to last forever... This is tea bliss! It seems so miraculous that a 22 years old Oolong should taste so pure, rich and sweet. It warms my body and lifts my spirits.
The leaves open up very well inside the teapot. They even show signs of green. This Hung Shui Oolong has only been roasted once, 22 years ago. And since then, it has rested and aged well protected against air. It started in a porcelain jar and now I use a small pewter tea caddy.
With an old tea, it feels like reminiscing about happy old Christmas times, the innocence of youth, the sweetness of a cozy winter life...