Friday, January 13, 2006

Shui Xian, Wen Shan, Fujian, China
Out of 5.
Overall - 4
Primary Flavors - 3 1/2
Secondary Flavors - 4
Aroma - 4 1/2
Finish - 3 1/2
Temperament - 4
I recently recieved a package of tea samples from my friends over at Tea Masters in Taiwan. I need to remember to return the favor! I selected the Shui Xian to try first, a loose rolled darker tea from Wen Shan. This was an interesting tea, unique in several ways from other teas I've had. First, it's almost black in consistency, with a fairly neutral aroma to the leaves, which seem much shorter than you'd expect, though they unfurled to normal long leaf dimensions. I brought my white crackle yixing into work to brew it in, it's a larger yixing that works better for sharing with Jocelyn and drinking tea throughout the day, but given the sample nature (I'm hoping to get 2 pots out of the bag) and the cooler water than at home (maaaybe 200 degrees from the tap, then transfered before pouring), the larger pot exacerbates the diluted nature of the brew, so my steeping times go up significantly. Still, it's a quality yixing and it comes with excellent wide-mouthed 1.5 oz finished yixing cups.

The tea's aroma has an acidic, almost smoky note to it, not like lapsang souchong, much more faint, and slightly sweet like barbeque. This acidic roastedness is prevalent throughout the experience, with the first flavor that greets you a toasted rice note matched with a rounded classic "dim sum" oolong taste. After a moment the secondary flavor greets you - unmistakably pu erh! The rich earthyness picks up on the toasted rice acidity and briefly eclipses the primary flavor, but the aroma of the classic oolong returns as the pu erh fades into a fairly sharp finish which leaves a sweet flavor on the palate. Overall a particularly complex, yet agreeable tea. The flavors work in much better concert than most muti-faceted teas, and it shows competency in each major area of the experience. For a classic oolong with some pu erh notes it has my recommendation - however in my opinion there are better teas available for an overall tea experience. With most things I'm a classicist-minimalist, I value simple things done exceptionally well over radical creativity, but tea isn't one of them. To evaluate a tea as truly world-class I look for a wonderful taste that I'd never imagined before, in addition to complexity and agreeability. So far I've never found a tea I couldn't find room for improvement on, and doing the basics exceptionally well put this tea in rare company. A delicious, if possibly somewhat uninspired tea.