Sunday, April 04, 2010

Da Hong Pao Wuyi Oolong. Vintage 1985

Many teas come through the tea room every season, many of them only last for one session, and some are revisited over a period of days, months or even years. This harsh discrimating tasting process let only the choicest to be selected and pampered. A final Paring test will then conducted for concluding the result.

Most of these early candidates are found from my trips to the farmers or teamasters in China, not by random samples sent by vendors. Many times, in my experience, a newly acquainted master shows you their special selected. I will then test the 1st batch for a season and acquire the same tea on the next. Troubling to said, 1 out of 3, these 2nd acquisitions usually prove disappointment. Not only they are missing 30-50 % of its luster, farmers cheat by blending lesser grade to the batch. Sometimes, specially for high fired oolong, they over roast the lesser grade to become fillers. For me, being bold and asking them the right question after repetitively testing, and learning from the same good batch are the only ways to arm oneself. I always give them the benefits of the doubt, and a second chance... which prove to be more constructive.

This 1985 DaHongPao was acquired from a tea farm/factory owner in Fujian. I am very skeptical on anything labeled DaHongPao, because it's the most faked Wuyi Yancha in the market today. Even third generation of these tea can commend a hefty sum, leave alone the aged ones.... I remember the same owner showed me a tiny pewter box of the original mother tree DaHongPao from the 80s, which roughly costs US$3000 per gram on the current market.

Using 5 grams of tea in a 40 ml yixing, my third tasting of this tea begins:

Weather: Easter Sunday afternoon. Clear sky with 62 % humidity / 60sF.
Water: Fresh Polandspring water / not aged.
Method: Traditional Chao Zhou/ Hong Kong Kung-Fu style.
Tea vessel: 80s yixing zisha teapot / late Ming dynasty's QingBai tea cup.

1. Separate the larger/whole leaves from smaller broken leaves. Crush the broken leaves by hand.
2. Preheat all the vessels with rolling boiled water. Carefully place the broken leaves and line the bottom of the pot.
3. Follow by layering the whole leaves on top.
4. gently tap the body of the pot with the palm of your hand and with a tea-pick to settle the tea leaves, creating an even surface (the heavier whole leaves on top will act like a filter to settle the crushed powder).
5. Softly pour water (212F) from a low height around the rim of the opening, letting the water slide from the wall into the pot until overflow.
6. Slowly pour out the rinse without tipping the pot more than 90 degrees. Proceed to first brewing, steeping time 15 seconds.

Clear, bright and oily liquor, burnt amber copper color. Light Chinese medicine, with subtle lingering floral of orchid and aged pomelo peel. Calming and warming chaqi. Nothing aggressive nor intruding.... peaceful and zen for this Pre-Ming celebration.

Still too early to decide if this could be a Mandarin's tea.

5 days later. Conclusion:
After some intensive evaluations, this tea did not make it to the list. Unfortunately, the age of this 1985 Da Hong Pao is much younger than what I was told. At least 5 to 10 years younger.


Trent said...

Tim, I must have less yancha experience than you - I though the tea was excellent.

Aside from the notes you listed, I noticed roasted marshmallows and myrrh.

Adrian Baxter said...

I'm curious about how you came to the conclusion that it's younger?

Adrian Baxter said...

Can I ask how you came to know that it's younger than advertised?

toki said...

Marshmallows and myrrh, yum! Have to try my luck again on it Trent : )

ABX - That's a truly loaded question my friend.... the texture of the spent leaves, the mouth feel and how its changes in the aftertaste, the later (6th on) brews. How the youth of the taste came up earlier then later.... all in all, just have to drink and experience more, specially with tea friends, so to build up the knowledge I think. ~ Enjoy. T

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