Thursday, March 15, 2012

Cupping Experiment - Broken Baozhong Leaves

Have you ever notice how the last few grams of tea in any tin or bag is usually a sad-looking mix of broken, dusty tea-crumbs? In my experience this is especially true with long twisted leaf teas such as Wenshan Baozhong (文山包種) or various Wuyi Mountain Cliff Teas (武夷山岩茶).

Case in point:

What you're looking at here was poured from the bottom of an extremely good bag of Winter 2011 Wenshan Baozhong. This broken melange weighed in at just about 8 grams. What would you do with this stuff? Drink it? Toss it? Sift it?

I'm a pretty frugal fellow so I'll use a colander to gently separate the dust from the larger leaves.

This time I'm left with ~6 grams of dust and ~2 grams of whole leaves.

Feeling curious, I decided to conduct a little tasting experiment. I set up three small tea bowls. In one I put 1 gram of large leaves, in another I put 1 gram of broken leaf dust, and in the third I put a mix of 1/2 gram dust and 1/2 gram leaves. Next I steeped each sample for 3 minutes with 120 ml of 180° F water.

Mix is at the top.
Unbroken is in the bottom left.
Dust only is in the bottom right.

This cupping was interesting. Surprisingly, I found myself liking the dust-only infusion (shown above with the brightest yellow color) the most. It was just as buttery as the whole leaf specimen but it had better mouth-feel. It wasn't bitter but I expect it would have been if I'd used boiling hot water.

The infusion made only from intact leaves was the sweetest and the most floral. I liked it quite a bit too. I'm betting it would have otherwise been better than the dust-cup but in this particular instance it was "under-leafed."

The mix was easily the worst of the three. Instead of tasting like the sum of its parts, as I would have guessed, the 50/50 mix of dust and whole leaves came out flat and stale tasting. The balance was off and it was hard to find any redeeming qualities in the liquor.

Like all such casual cupping experiments these results don't really mean anything in the larger scheme of things. It was really just an interesting diversion. That being said, it does inspire me to sift the "bottom of the bag/tin" leaves and crumbs more often.


ankitlochan said...

we plan to have a darjeeling first flush online tea tasting session .. any ideas on how we can work on it and have more and more people participate so we can make people aware of single estate high end darjeeling rare exclusive teas ... also more and more discussions would help us interact with each other ...

Green Stone said...

That's really interesting, odd that the dust and leaves together don't work.

Alex Zorach said...

This is actually intuitive to me, that the dust and leaves together don't work well, and it fits with my own experience. Dust infuses so quickly that I'd imagine it would be hard to find a brewing method that works well for both the dust and the intact pieces of I've found that when it's mixed like that, the outcome is nearly always either bland, harsh, or somewhere in between the two.

Miss Tea Delight said...

Being frugal with tea leaves, especially the good ones. It's a virtue ;)