Friday, September 05, 2008

What is detail Tasting?


Per Eileen's request, I am explaining step-by-step method of "Detail Tasting". This is by no means a traditional method, practiced by tea master. It's simply a method I and Michael developed, based on our try with success and errors.

First of all, you need 3 vessels. A brewing pot/gaiwan and 2 tall cups which hold the same volume of the pot. Why two cups? The 1st is to pour the brew in, then transfer the brew into the 2nd cup for drinking. After the transfer, 1st cup becomes the smelling cup which one can appreciate dry cup smell of the fresh brew. The second one is for slow drinking, after consumption, you can then compare the dry cup smell from the 1st cup to the 2nd cup.

Always smell and look at the tea after a overnight or 2 days brew. Smell the lid first and look for signs of oil or mold developing at the surface of the filled pot. Instinct and intuition play a big part in tea drinking, at least for me. If your gut feeling tells you not to drink, then just try a tiny slurp and discard.....


A step-by-step pic. for a flush steep after a overnight session. From Left to Right:
1. Pour out the overnight brew to the first cup and drink slowly. Enjoy the smell of the dry cup afterwards.
2. Refill the pot with boiling water.
3. Close lid and seal the pot with another pour.
4. Observe the surface of the pot, until all the surface water is sucked up dry. (You kinda have to feel it for timing)
5. Pour and drink the flush brew. (Traditional Cantonese Kung Fu will always dry up the previous pot by hanging it vertically (as shown on the far right pic. This is to drain out all the remaining water from the pot before the next steep.)


PeekABoo! What's in the tub?


After the first flush steep, probably after the 3rd day of "detail tasting". I will then do a double vessel brewing for the overnight or 24 hr. steep. This double heating technique can extend the high temp. inside the pot for a longer period of time. Tea addicts will apply this technique to vintage puerh. Also works with good quality Long Jin, instead of boiling water and a yixing pot, I will use luke warm water for the brew and a gaiwan. Then fill half way up with boiling water for the outer vessel. (That will be another pots next May : )


This is the 7th weeks brew at the tea gallery. Michael used 18 grams of this 04 SX tea in this large Gaiwan for the test. The back is the 2008 harvest, on its 2nd weeks.

27 comments:

eileen said...

Thanks Toki! Such detail makes my head spin. I've reread several times and looked at the 2006 post trying to deconstruct. What tea are you using? What about the water? You and Marshaln were the first to make me really think about water for tea — its source, the vessel in which it's stored. It's a deceptively simple but thoroughly complex process at the same time.

Lewis said...

After the first flush steep, probably after the 3rd day of "detail tasting". I will then do a double vessel brewing for the overnight or 24 hr. steep. This double heating technique can extend the high temp. inside the pot for a longer period of time.

If the goal is to maintain the high temperature, I think you'd agree that a Thermos would work better than this.
I know Michael of The Tea Gallery has done this. Would you like to say why you think the virtue of a Yixing trumps the thermal efficiency of a Thermos?

toki said...

Hi Eileen - Thanks for you kind words. If you put love to a child, even is hard work, it will feel easy at the end ; ) the tea I am drinking is a Wuyi/Water Fairy/2004.

And Lewis, some tea might reject a thermos by giving out nasty protest.... Like the Qing Brick Mike is still brewing at the gallery. He try it in the thermos and tasted totally not natural.... After transfer it back to the pot, it came back good : ) I think some tea needed to breath more while brewing. And a fine Yixing will do just that.

btw. Have you try the qing brick brew yet?

~ Phyll said...

Would a tub with several tea candles (or alcohol burner) underneath to keep the "bath water" hot longer be desirable, then?

toki said...

haha... Phyll, that only works on a vintage puerh at the last stage : )
I usually boil the last pot and drink it before really trashing.... I don't think it will work on a oolong : P

~ Phyll said...

Then, I guess the next natural question is: why? Why does it only work on vintage pu'er but not oolong (or even younger pu'er for that matter)?

Very curious...

toki said...

I think the reason might be: puerh is not being process "Crafted" like a high fired oolong. Over in Yiwu, from my last visit. The local still drop fresh maocha into boiling pot over open fire to make a cup of brew. I think that's the traditional way of drink it. Comparing to Wuyi, the local do not boil it over open fire.

Perhaps like cognac still in the barrel comparing to its in a bottle? The puerh is still alive and the High Fired oolong is done...

I don't know if this make sense to anyone. Toki

eileen said...

Toki, you are someone who lives his life steeped in tea. Why is the puerh considered still alive? I've read some about this but I'd like to hear it from you. Thanks again for the detailed posting.

~ Phyll said...

I think I understand the comparison. Thanks!

"Toki, you are someone who lives his life steeped in tea."

...also marinated in fine tobacco smoke. :)

toki said...

I think the simple answer to: "Why is the puerh considered still alive?" is for raw/sheung puerh, they were never when thru the process of fully heated/kill/burn/decompose or cooked all the living enzyme or cell? The living enzyme will still develop the tea to maturity. I am by no means a representative on this Scientific subject, but only my 2 cents.

toki said...

I truly hope my wife is not reading this, phyll..... : P Thanks for letting me know the cognac thang make sense : ) Cheers -T

eileen said...

Can you expound on the meaning of "the living enzyme will still develop the tea to maturity?" And back to the thermos, would it make a difference if glass or stainless. I would think that glass might work but stainless definitely would not. Eileen

toki said...

eileen- I think the breathing quality of the vessel is very important to this SX. Michael at the Tea Gallery did the same test, but in a giawan, the tea ended yesterday, after more then 7 weeks... and mine is almost done after a week in a yixing. I think Mike's technique result in more cups and longer brewing because of his vessel, mine ended with a lesser cups but a livelier soup due to the breathing of yixing.

I would highly recommend to read the Grand Daddy of all Puerh site: http://Pu-erh.net/

Mike is the forefather of all the internet puerh info. in English. And I've benefit so much just visiting his site. Enjoy : ) Toki

~ Phyll said...

Eileen, if I may with my 2 cents, I believe what Toki means by the living enzyme is the "good" bacteria and microbes that are active on the raw/green/sheng pu'er and continue to promote the development of the tea. Also, I believe he means the changes that raw/sheng pu'er still go through from the slow oxidation and post-fermentation process during storage (given a proper storage method).

On the thermos, if I had to choose between the stainless steel and the glass, I'd opt for the glass because it tends to be more neutral to taste. I mean, SS is neutral, too, but from my personal experience if the SS thermos has been used many times before for different kinds of teas, then old tea substances tend to get stuck on the inner surface and it lends a taste to the next brew. At least that's what I think with my SS thermos (I guess I should scrub the inside real well after each use, instead of just flushing it with water). I tend to think glass keeps itself cleaner better.

My humble 2 cents.

~ Phyll said...

Toki -- Today (9/9) is the 9th day of my detail tasting. From last night your tea has taken an herbal tone, tasting subtly like ginger and lotus root. My Yixing pot breathes well. When I open the pot before pouring out the cool brew inside, it's always not full as when I left it. Clay sucked the tea and evaporates into the air? La part des Anges?

eileen said...

Phyll, thanks for the explanation about the microbes, etc. I was half-expecting that. I keep reading around it but what I found would approach then skirt the issue, so it's good to hear an explanation so to the point. Are these microbes also present in cooked puerh or to a lesser extent there?
Also, the stainless is often hopeless. Not only does it absorb odors, flavors, not all stainless is the same quality. Ever heard of a stainless gaiwan?

~ Phyll said...

Eileen, I could guess that there are microbes and bacteria on the surface of shu/cooked pu'er. But I don't think that they will promote much more development to the already fully-fermented tea.

Toki and others could correct me if I'm wrong.

Haven't seen an SS gaiwan yet, but I've used an unglazed Yixing gaiwan, which is worse than SS at keeping tea residues off.

eileen said...

Toki, thanks for sending me to pu-erh.net It's a very informative site, lots of my questions are answered there but the scroll on the side gives me a headache. It has an abundance of information but is lacking in artistry, which your site has in abundance. But I guess we can't have everything, can we? Why not? As Marie Antoinette said, I think, "Let them drink tea!"

~ Phyll said...

Substance over form, I always say :)

eileen said...

Phyll, Point well taken, it is a greatly informative site (I don't mean to knock that) and I'm studying it intently thanks to Toki sending me there, but sometimes form introduces substance in subtle yet memorable ways and beautiful form often evokes memories and generates reflection in powerful ways. By the way, I've looked at your blog many, many times but don't think I've ever left a comment. I find it extremely well written, the photos well-taken and airy. You had a long hiatus sometime back and I welcomed your re-entry. Thanks again.

toki said...

Thanks again Phyll and eileen ; ) - Toki

~ Phyll said...

Thank you, too, Toki and Eileen.

eileen said...

Toki, I'm not trying to beat a dead horse so to speak but am completely intrigued by this entry, "puerh is not being process "Crafted" like a high fired oolong. Over in Yiwu, from my last visit. The local still drop fresh maocha into boiling pot over open fire to make a cup of brew. I think that's the traditional way of drink it. Comparing to Wuyi, the local do not boil it over open fire."
Were you able to photograph this dropping of the maocha into the boiling pot? Were you able to sample? Tell us a bit about this. And the Wuyi, not boiled, was it kung fu style?
Eileen

toki said...

Hi eileen,
I did posted some images from both trips. But mainly, I video taped all the process, from the picking to packaging. It's only for my own doc. regarding "Real" insight from many old masters. Some masters have passed away since, so this documentary became very valuable to me as a tea and tea pot addict.

Yiwu Open Fire brew:
http://themandarinstea.blogspot.com/2006/05/where-smoky-aroma-from.html

Wuyi Kung Fu tasting:
http://themandarinstea.blogspot.com/2006/08/wuyi-rock-oolong-tasting.html

eileen said...

Thanks Toki! I looked back at both posts. Those are from before I knew of your blog. I've started looking at the old posts however and had looked at the second already because of an earlier reference. Do you still remember how the freshest maocha tasted?

toki said...

"Do you still remember how the freshest maocha tasted?" Eileen - Funny, it tasted like floral yellow tea, but with a lot of Young Yiwu terroir. Very refreshing.

T.alain said...

Fantastique...
Splendid post
I'd like to find such a "warm up system" to test Wu Yi rock teas in longer infusions (1 or 2 hours).
I also practice with smelling cup and i appreciate a lot diving my "big nose" in...

 
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