Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Expectation from a 80's Pouchong Oolong

Drawing wisdom from a recent tequila tasting in Mexico.... I am surprised how difficult for us to unlearn or undo our own experience in taste and senses. Expectation is one of the darkest enemy, and raw perception could end a good tasting session prematurely. The fact that most people are unable to understand new information, without the inherent bias of previous experience, a sort of made-believe knowledge to which ones have been exposed. Not only I saw the frustration on the tequila master, when he passed around a 7 years aged 100% blue agave to us and half of the group down the whole thing in record time: "It's only tequila, we drink the finest Patrón without all this fuzz in the States...." The cold reply from the Master was: "Patrón is a blend made in the US. It's the same as drinking a bottle of Vintage Champagne from Mexico."

We often embrace ourselves based on the raw perception we inherent, and it is very amusing to see how it carries in a group tasting. Seeing people changing from an arrogant attitude to disbelief and finally to humble. Of course, only a small percentage of people in the right mind could taste the humble but enlightening result. For me, it took many years to even step into the disbelieve stage. Luckily tea is one of the most forgiving gifts from the nature, along with the tea lovers who continue to rediscover and understand it.

Tasting this Pouchong from the 80's is one of those experiences that I had to completely reset my expectation. It has nothing to do with the aroma nor the taste, even the structure is not important. Notes of floral dry hibiscus with hint of orchid and plum seem out of context. I sometimes question myself as if I was involved in a perfume judging competition? Naming the right combination of a male Moschus moschiferus or a Female Biziura musk could win you a free spa vacation.

This tea sits on my palate for a good 30 sec. letting the whole mouth getting used to the taste and it's temperature, then rolled around for another 5 sec., so the saliva is reacting with the brew to create sweetness. Slurping exhibits more character and lets enough oxygen to let it blossom. Finally after a min, not drinking but letting the less than 20 ml of liquid dissolved downwards. It took 3 mins before the clearing of the mind and the minty refreshing wave that kept coming over and over again from within. Meanwhile, looking at the water to come to a full boil for my forth serving.... it helps to create a state of mind, without judgment and anticipation from the tea, the vessel, the water, or my brewing skill. A total surrender to the tea and its spirit.

Most of the aged tea that I come across including puerh and oolong share the same kind of quality, like a novel or a good play. Nothing matters from what the surface might bring but the result after an hour or even half a day. I missed out a lot of this fine Cha Qi moment in my early tea days, now I have the time to reflect on them. Often judging on some old treasure in less than 3 mins and giving conclusion to the host how this tea should be such and such.... I wish someone back then could have asked me about how good Mexican Champagne might be....

Giving an extra hour for a fine aged tea to speak for itself is the least we can offer, letting the expectation of those shallow perception go is one of the truly humbling experience.

Hong Kong Yixing Collector

Brewing Parameter:
40ml '80s Yixing / 3 grams of tea / full boiled 2 weeks aged spring water.
Flush rinse / sit 60 s. /1st - flush/ 2nd - 5s / 3rd - 5s / sit 1 mins / 4th - 20s / 5th - 30s. All boiling crab-eye temp.

Liquor Color and Aroma:
Clear and oily burnt amber with golden rim. Earthy dried shitak, flower, aged plum, sea salt, citrus peel. Clear refreshing minty character of clean, chewy and sticky mouth feel followed with long lasting sweet sandalwood on the palate.

Ending Notes:
Calming Cha Qi, complex and relaxing. Similar to an 20 years aged raw Yiwu. The cooling effect on the throat lasted for an hour plus. Warming effects on the forehead, palm, cheek and numbing the lips.


Matt said...


Wonderful reflections on life and tea.



toki said...

Thanks Matt. And when will we reflecting off each other's cup face to face? ~T

Scott Spolverino said...

Ok, shot in the dark here, but you wouldn't happen to know a man named Ki that was pouring at the NYC Coffee and Tea Festival for Fang Gourmet Tea, would you?

Bret said...

I have often said that one of the things I try to do when tasting teas is to not bring any pre-concieved ideas to the tea table with me. Ive often seen people dismiss a tea (lets say Lao Ban Zhang) because it was not similar to the ones they have had in the past. The first experiences with a given tea set the criteria for all tea's to follow? If this is the case then we would all be in for a life of disappointment and frustration.

toki said...

Scott~Ki is the Man! I am still learning from him. And Thanks for stopping by Bret. Can't agree more : )

Jason Fasi said...

Beautiful, insightful prose. Thanks, toki.

Justin said...

It's always good to be mindful of our perceptions. ;)

I really like your pot Toki. Ever since I bought the 60ml Tea Gallery gaiwan I haven't used anything else. This size is perfect for me.

Thanks for the great post.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.