TeaHub Organic Spring WuYi Da Hong Pao (heavily roasted), 2008
Created in my patented gong-faux style. Please do not try at home. Trust me.
ABOUT DA HONG PAO
Da Hong Pao is one of China's famous oolong teas, and is one of the world's greats. It's known in English as, "Big Red Robe," named when a Chinese emperor was so overwhelmed by the tea that he gave his robes of office to an underling and commanded that they be placed at the roots of the tree that produced this great thing he was tasting. It's been cultivated primarily in the WuYi mountains forever, and the volcanic rocky soil produces the tea's very unique flavor.
For the reader who is not as familiar with Chinese tea preparation, the gong-fu style of tea involves a large amount of tea leaf and a series of short steeps, rather than one long steep, as is common in British-style tea. When I drink Chinese tea, I have not been trained in Chinese gong-fu preparation, so it's obvious that my tea will not get the best results you would find with seasoned tea masters. Nevertheless, I try to be as careful as I can, paying close attention to the water, the pot, and such things as I an pick up by reading masters on the Internet. Thus, I am pretty certain I can make a pretty decent, if not mind-blowing, cup of tea.
Gong-fu tea is like reading a poem broken into multiple stanzas, or a book with a number of chapters, or a play in several acts. Or a multicourse French meal. Or some other metaphor divided into smaller, baby-sized submetaphors.
TeaHub's Organic Spring WuYi Da Hong Pao (heavily roasted), 2008, is a good example of how this can work to provide an interesting tea experience. You don't drink the tea to get a huge whallop of caffeine and go on with your day. Instead, you slow down just a bit and read the progression of the tea as it transforms slowly across the "Acts."
A TEA FLIGHT IN FOUR ACTS
Introduction: 25-second infusion
In the play's introduction, you get to know a little bit about the characters, and what type of story this is. Is this a drama? Comedy? Are the characters strong, weak, conflicted?
Strong, roasty flavor is predominant, with a high note of sweet honey and something sharp but difficult to define, sort of a buzz, up among the clouds. Suzanne, my wife, says, "It had a weight to it, without being bitter or heavy." Very pleasing, full mouthfeel, which coats the mouth and throat.
Act 1: 20s
Now we get into the story itself. A plot arises. The conflict emerges.
I taste a bright, hard edge, with very complex roasty base. Mm, second infusion better than first. A bit of charcoal, slight drying in the mouth.
Act 2: 20s
By the second act, we would get to the sexy love scene and maybe a murder or two.
The tea is much sweeter now. Still, there's this tingling buzz in the mouth, which is likely my response to the particular combination of astringency and sweetness in this cup, which has an unusually complex manifestation. The drying compliments the richly smooth mouthfeel.
Act 3: 30s
Ah, to the meat of the play. The conflict naturally moves toward its climax.
Roasty, sharp, excellent, best yet. Beautiful, exciting flavor that is complex without being overbearing, light but strong.
Act 4: 40s
And the finale, the conclusion, the dessert course.
Flavor profile receding, probably could steep longer. More mineral taste developing.
At this point, the main action is over, and it's all about getting the bill, the after-dinner mint, and hitting the streets.
Now the tea is weak enough that the mouthfeel has subsided almost entirely, and we've entered the realm of new decisions. How long do I want to drink this tea, as its flavor slowly fades into a whisper? For this tea, it would be difficult to push this terribly far, but interesting enough, perhaps, to try it. I'll probably keep steeping this into the afternoon, just to see what happens and how far it can go, but it won't have the same punch as those early infusions.
UPDATE: Now includes link to to TeaHub Web site, above.