Thursday, October 8, 2009

阿里山 日出商店 綠觀音茶

In my recent post Alishan Photo Gallery, I talked a little bit about drinking tea at the Sun Rise Tea Shop (日出商店). Sun Rise is one of several open air tea shops specializing in Alishan High Mountain Oolong Tea (阿里山高山烏龍茶) located in Zhong Zheng Village (中正村). It has a beautiful wooden tea bar that is stained and shiny from years of tea brewing. According to Ming Chuang (a photo of whom can be seen in my Tea Basics - Oolong post) the shop sources most of its tea from Shizhuo (石桌) which it then roasts in the shop to create a handful of signature products. Because of this the tea shop always has this amazing smell of baked oolong and sweet mountain air.

Ming Chuang has a special technique that adds a bit of razzle-dazzle to his tea brewing. He brews the tea in a large lid-less gaiwan which he fills about one quarter full with dry leaf. Then he smoothly pours in boiling hot water from his big steel kettle to whip the leaves into a cyclone. The gaiwan is filled to the point where it is almost about to overflow and the "skin" of the hot water is bulging over the edge but not breaking loose. Next he takes two Asian soup spoons from a pitcher of hot water and uses the spoons to break the surface tension of the water thus making a dramatic fountain. After this he'll mix the leaves gently with both spoons like he's tossing a salad. At this point he will offer his guests the spoons to smell and pour the tea soup into a decanter before serving. I tried several times to get a good video of myself preparing tea in this style but I was unable to do it justice. However, I did just manage to spill a whole gaiwan of tea all over my pants. You'll just have to settle for this picture for now.

My favorite tea at Sun Rise is (usually) their "Green Guanyin (綠觀音)" which is a high mountain oolong using the Tie Guanyin (鐵觀音) tea cultivar. It has a slightly higher oxidization level and amount of roasting than many Alishan teas. The tea yields a clean, fruity high-mountain taste with a warming, nutty finish. I have recently broken into my last 150 grams of this tea which I purchased in May, 2008.

The 綠觀音's dry leaf and its original train canister.
(Trains are a very popular mascot for Alishan tea.)

The 綠觀音's liquor

Good quality baked oolongs such as this one are very satisfying this time of year.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ah, the fountain- and tossed-salad soup. I can picture the fellow doing it. How did that tea turn out? Does it taste better for all that bartender-type care? --Teaternity