I woke up to another snowy day, after the most mild climate-change-winter Imaginable, so with the weather change I needed tea to help myself aclimate. The choices as such were either fermented puer or oxidized oolong. I went with the later as to finish off a bag of Yunnan Sourcing’s Wild Da Hong Pao I ordered late last year. Compared to the Shui Xian I reviewed in my immediately previous post, the DHP smells much smoother and greener, with stronger grilled vegetable aromas and a somewhat lighter tea soup. The first sip floors me completely. The gaiwan is probably a bit overpacked because I wanted to finish the bag, but there is hardly any harshness to this tea. Instead, there is a big, round mouth filling sweetness that goes all the way down the throat and doesn’t quit. Notes of grilled zucchini, caramel, sea salt.
The second infusion yields a dark orange soup, lots of sweetness but otherwise nothing really changed from the first. This profile likely indicates a slightly lower level of oxidation than the Shui Xian, with sweeter and more vegetal tones. The leaves have a tinge of green as well, so this is more in the middle of the rock tea spectrum (remember these are a particular subset of oolong which come from an area of China known for its mineral rich soil). The third infusion happens to more reflect this minerally nature, with a drier, more textured and subdued soup. Here are the charcoal, earth and creek silt I had been waiting on. There is some bitterness also, but like I said, I probably overpacked the gaiwan…
I reheat the water for the fourth infusion, and the Da Hong Pao continues its progression towards textured earthiness, though it’s vegetal notes still linger. What I enjoy most about the tea though is its texture and full mouth feeling. This is, of course, why we practice gongfu tea brewing- to appreciate the subtle changes and nuances hidden n the tea, and to draw them out as a new dancer takes center stage in each subsequent infusion. The fifth infusion is smooth and mellow, with more friendly floral flavors than any of the previous ones. Looking back, we can appreciate the evolution of a tea over time. Just as with biological evolution, one stage is not better or worse than the last, or superior or inferior to the next; the tea doesn’t “build” to anything, it just changes, and we sit with the changes, taking note and appreciating that this change is the nature of things.
But to return to the world of value judgements, I prefer the more roasted Shui Xian just on a personal level. I found it to be richer and more nuanced, though there’s certainly nothing to complain about here. This is just lighter on the Yan Cha scale, and I happen to prefer darker. See how relative truths of preference can coexist with absolute truths of change and thusness?
Thinking such thoughts while drinking awesome tea, my mind is filled with joy. May all who ponder with their tea be thusly inspired.
Bonus picture of sugar gliders eating yogurt: