Monday, August 15, 2005

Aged Bush Shui Xian

Today's review is the first of a few teas I tried from Imperial Tea Court. First I'd like to point out that their name isn't a stupid pun involving the word tea, a major point in their favor. Their tea comes in little shrink wrapped green packages however, which have 2 problems... they don't reseal, and they're translucent. Tea hates light, which is why most higher end companies put tea in opaque packages. Anyway, their prices are about average with some being quite reasonable, and this one at $180/lb is pretty middle of the road.

The concept of using an old bush as opposed to a young bush hadn't really occured to me, and I remain skeptical that it is gimmickery. At least we're back to Fujian province, makers of some "good-assed teas", second only to Wuyi as a region.

Aged Bush Shui Xian, Imperial Tea Court

Out of 5.
Overall - 3 1/2
Primary Flavors - 4
Secondary Flavors - 2
Aroma - 3
Finish - 3 1/2
Temperament - 2

This was an interesting tea in that it had properties and primary flavor of a straightforward classic oolong but acted more like a complex, fickle oolong in other ways. The initial flavor was similar to a staple like their Aged Oolong that had been made with too few leaves, but after a moment it passed and allowed the undertones to come through... a subtle chocolate with smoke taste that hung around for several seconds, albeit understated. It was pleasant enough, but the flavors didn't entice the way a really good monkey-picked coaxes you to chase them, burning through pot after pot. This is a good tea if you're tired of an agressive dim sum oolong but still want that toasted flavor.

One downside of this complexity is that you can oversteep this tea, both with leaves and with time. This makes it a fairly difficult tea to work with - you want to be liberal enough to bring out the primary flavors but not to overdo it so the undertones stay in bounds. A long leaf, it worked well at 45-45-1:00-1:15. The 4th steeping was usually just to fill up the pot, this tea is only good for about 2 steepings before you're left with weak straightforward oolong which trails off quickly. Considering the care you have to take with it this isn't the end of the world though, you'll burn through it at a normal rate.