Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Chinese Tea Appreciation Festival 2007

On December 2, 2007 I hosted a Chinese Tea Festival in Seattle! The weather, which was cold and rainy, was perfect for the meditative afternoon spent tasting teas. The tea festival was held at ArtXchange, a downtown gallery showcasing inspiring art by artists from all over the world. The corresponding art exhibition was David Cole's "Unexpected Arrivals." It was amazing and really enhanced the tea drinking atmosphere. The highlight of the festival was the sublime music provided by guqin (古琴) expert Professor Wu Ziying (吳自英). He played a half-hour set of beautifully serene music on his 2000-year-old instrument. The tea festival was masterfully catered by my wife Alanna. The all-vegan spread included lychee-coconut cupcakes, basil-cucumber tea sandwiches, almond cookies and miscellaneous fruits and candies.

The 3 teas served were: 2007 Spring Jin Xuen Oolong, 1999 Aged Rougui Oolong, and 1986 Aged Xia Guan Factory Green Puerh Tuo-cha. Below you will find descriptions of these teas.

*2007 Spring Jin Xuen (2007 春金萱):
Jin Xuen, meaning golden lily, is a modern tea varietal developed in Taiwan in the early 1980's. The varietal is known to produce a very smooth, sweet, oolong tea with a buttery and flowery aroma. Also, Jin Xuen grows well and generally has a high output. Usually I do not get too excited about Jin Xuen oolong; while the aroma is consistently great, the broth can often lack character. That is certainly not the case with this stand-out tea. This tea was produced in Fujian, China by the great folks at the City and Country Fine Tea Company. It was imported and stored in Bellevue by a trusted tea mentor named Mr. Chen. Mr. Chen gave me two tips that have greatly improved my results while brewing this tea: Use water at only 180 degrees and leave the lid off of the gaiwan or pot between infusions. Obviously these unorthodox tips won't work for most oolongs, but you should try it with this Jin Xuen. Its warming, floral bouquet may make you forget about the cold winter weather!

**1999 Aged Rougui (1999 老肉桂):
Rougui, meaning cinnamon, is one of several famous oolong varietals from China's Wuyi mountains. This tea was made in 1999 and has long, dark, twisted leaves which are characteristic of most Wuyi oolongs. The tea soup is really smooth with a satisfyingly thick, clear broth. There is a subtle aged flavor that I'd describe as "ripe peach in a used bookstore." The careful aging on this tea pays off with an ambrosial flavor that seems to have a relaxing effect on the body.

***1986 Xia Guan Tuo-cha Pu-erh (1986 下关沱普洱):
While visiting the warehouse of the previously mentioned Mr. Chen, I was invited to see his special "pu-erh storage room." Wow! I was blown away by his collection of fragrant pu-erhs. In particular he had several stacks of beautiful Xia Guan tuo-cha. He told me that he has been personally storing these tuo-chas for 15 years and he believes that they were already 6 years old when he bought them. As I type this blog I am rembering this tea, brewed in a gaiwan with short, hot steeps. Each cup is amazing. I'd say it's one of the best tasting pu-erh teas I've ever had. The color is clear and reddish orange and the broth is sweet, brisk and complex. Flavor notes for me would include clove, cedar, and sherry.

Delicious Little Treats:

Serving tea for guests:

Prof. Wu plays the Guqin:

1 comment:

T.alain said...

You were lucky this day.I appreciate Rou Gui teas.I have one 1994 (high roast) wich is wonderful.Unfortunatly it does not smell cinnamon...