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Alishan High Mountain
Taiwanese Oolongs from Norbu
I thought I had set aside unopened packages of each of these to use in
this comparison tasting, but realized that I'd twice dipped into the
collection at some point in the past few months, and hadn't dated when
the packages were opened.
Mountain Beauty Summer 09
(freshly opened today)
2) Alishan High Mountain Oolong
Winter Harvest 2009
(package already opened, date unclear)
3)2010 Spring Ali Shan High Mountain Oolong*
opened, date unclear)
4) 2010 Spring Ali Shan "Tsou Ma Fei"*
(freshly opened today)
5) 2010 Winter
Ali Shan High Mountain Oolong - 1,200m Elev.
*Because there was such a marked
difference in the teas, I stopped comparing the 2nd (Winter 2009) and
3rd (Spring 2010) after the first infusion, because I can't be sure
what changes are due to their having been opened.
2.5 grams of tea in the medium gaiwans with about 75mL water (2.5 oz)
per infusion, water 200-210 degrees
Sweet smelling, peas & grass, tightly rolled green leaves
First infusion 45 seconds, no rinse, all liquors yellow, but the
first two--the summer and winter 2009 harvest--were a little orange in
tone, and the other three a little more green
1 this one is VERY distinct today--unbelievably sweet, rich, deep,
2 sweet, floral, spicy, but none of the amazing deepness of the high
mountain beauty, and really lacking the high notes
3 basically, the same as 2
4 sweet, rich, floral, spicy undertones
5 very hard to separate from 4--equally sweet, rich, floral, spicy
I think I 'get' the difference now between the summer high mountain
beauty and the others, the difference triggered by the bug bites, and
wish I'd tossed a few more packets of this into my last order from
Norbu. (Here's hoping no one reads this and a few of them are
waiting for me when I next order!) As noted above, the previously
opened teas were markedly inferior to the others, so I stopped
comparing them to the others at this point (they were not wasted, used
to brew up a bulk thermos of tea for the rest of the morning).
Second infusion about 45 seconds again
Still tasting that strong difference between the high mountain beauty
and the other two: it is perhaps a little nuttier, reminds me of
mahleb, a middle eastern spice made from the pit of a black cherry, a
flavor similar to but not quite the same as almond extract. It
also coats the tongue a little more strongly than the other two.
The winter 2010 is a little more sprightly vegetal, a little greener,
than the Tsou ma fei, but the difference is very subtle. It
is the first time in a while that I have compared the Alishan oolongs
together, and such a delight to enjoy them in this depth.
Third infusion, about 1 minute, and they smell so good. The
taste differences are there in the color and the scent--that warm nutty
roundness, a hint of overripe peaches in the summer beauty, a more
delicate floral note in the winter tea, and something in between in the
Tsou ma fei. I hate saying the Tsou ma fei is just 'in between'
the other two, because that seems to suggest it is 'lesser' than the
others. It's just that it has no unique flavor that is stronger
more distinct than the other two--it has a hint of the mahleb/peach of
the high mountain beauty, but also a little more of the
floral/vegetal/sprightly flavor like the winter tea. And it is
4th infusion, about a minute and a half, the sweetness is fading a tiny
fraction, but otherwise the flavors are still the same, and the
difference between them holds up. I am drinking this infusion
buttermilk biscuit and nectarine jam for breakfast, and they
synchronize fabulously, oh my, yes.
Pleased tastebuds, contented
stomach, slightly tea-drunk brain: happy camper, me.
Woke up the leaves for a 5th and 6th infusion, 2 and 3 minutes apiece,
delicious, the sweet floral nature diminished as expected by this
point, and a rich spiciness and astringency to the fore. Still
the differences between them remain--the essential character of the
three teas are persisting even to this point.
The 7th infusion was weaker because I got impatient and didn't wait
long enough. 8th was better again because I was more
patient. The 9th
shows that the leaves are done; even at 10 minutes, the infusion is
weak, though still sweet, floral, pleasant.
The summer beauty leaves are smaller, and many do indeed have
ragged-looking edges as though bitten
And afterwards, this rather ambitious tasting led to quite a lot of
gaiwan-washing: some used for brewing, some as tasting cups, a
few extras being called into service as 'insulation' for later loooong
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