Wednesday, October 28, 2009

60 Year Old Baozhong Stems

In May 2008, while tasting fresh spring Wenshan Baozhong tea (文山包種茶) with my friend Amin (阿民) in Pinglin (坪林) Taiwan, I asked my host "What is the oldest tea you have here?" Amin thought I wouldn't be interested but he answered "60 year old baozhong stems (包種梗)." I had him write out the number 60 because I wasn't sure that I had heard him right. Amin's dad (who I'd estimate was only in his mid-fifties) also told me that he thinks these stems are around 60 years old. After tasting them and considering the price (relatively cheap) I decided to buy about 5 pounds of them. My thinking was that some old tea enthusiasts (aka fellow puer nerds) or outdoorsy types (aka fellow hippies) might think these stems are pretty cool and, like myself, may enjoy their unique flavor.

This is what they look like.

It took me just over a year to sell out these stems (compare that to the myriad other oolongs that I imported, most of which sold out in just 2 to 4 months). I did however keep one 300 gram bag of these stems for myself and I do drink them from time to time.

I've found that the best way to brew these 60 year old stems is to toss a pinch of stems into a rustic looking bowl. Steep them for as long as you like using boiling hot water. This tea (like most good teas) responds particularly well to natural elements like wood and stone. For best results guys may want to grow a beard before sipping this tea and girls may want to wear something hand knitted. Also, if you have any rocks, nuts, leaves, shells or small bones lying around your house... it would be a good idea to gather them around you while you drink.

The flavor of these 60 year old stems is fantastic (in my humble opinion) but I can easily imagine it being a bit off-putting for some tea drinkers. When I asked my friend Lin Xiuyue (林秀月) in Yingge (鶯歌) Taiwan (who has a fantastic palate for high mountain tea) what she thought of aged stems, she answered by making a "yuck face."

The first sip is earthy, very very earthy... but after several sips the sweetness will start to appear. It tastes like roots with faint hints of licorice, ginseng and old-growth-forest-soil. If you drink this tea slowly while standing in one place for too long I imagine that roots may grow out of your feet and anchor you to the ground (which may or may not be such a bad thing). To me, this tea reveals a happy, and hospitable personality that reminds me of hobbits.

The liquor after about a five minute steep.


Nicole Manha said...

The stems! The stinky leathery stems! Happy Halloween!

David said...

Yes, Hobbits. Thats what it reminds me of. I feel like I should be in a cool earthy hole drinking this with Bilbo. I'll call it my Hobbit tea from now on.

TP said...

Yum, I call it my gardenening tea! it really is a loamy, grounding brew.