Friday, 21 January 2011

five times the tea

The more practice I get at steeping larger quantities of Oolong for shorter periods of time, the more I get out of this tea. I think there's going to be much more Oolong from Taiwan in my near future, but for some reason I've come across quite a lot of Himalayan Oolong lately. Whether it's from Nepal or Darjeeling, my experience has been that it's more sensitive than the Taiwanese or Chinese Oolongs that I know.

I've had much better results from using water at no more than 75°C. No idea why this is, but just by using water this little bit cooler means that I get the tea to steep as many as two or even three additional times. Am coming to the end of a Nepalese tea that I've written about before called Jun Chiyabari Oolong, and I wanted to write about it now in case I don't find this again for a while.

The leaves looked nearly identical to the high mountain Oolongs I know from Darjeeling (no surprise there). Although there were quite a few green leaves mixed in, this looked like it had a relatively high oxidation. The appearance of the leaves don't always tell, but once I started brewing it, it was obvious this was not a light tea.

Slowly, I've come to expect very little from the first infusion. This was no exception. Having said that, I must say that I love the scent of the leaves in the pot and the tea itself once it's been poured. So fresh and vibrant. It's a wonder that something can smell so delicious and lack a distinctive taste.

The next steep was thankfully the exact opposite. If anything it was a bit too bitter. There was a bit of a burnt taste at this point even if the leaves continued to be overly fragrant.

I took photos of each infusion, but they didn't differ much from cup to cup. This tea that's grown so high in the mountains has a very dark coppery cup colour.

As the bitterness lessened in the third infusion, the taste of vanilla started to come out. this is exactly the kind of thing I never experienced brewing this tea in a big conventional teapot. By the fourth and fifth infusions, the strength of the tea was noticeably diminished. Nevertheless, I could finally taste the floral notes that I could only smell before. Ordinarily, I would've tried to squeeze out one last cup of tea, but the five infusions I had in the late morning/early afternoon seemed to be as good as this tea was going to get.

What a marvel that I got five very different tea experiences from the same little handful of tea leaves.


  1. Oolongs..yes, I do enjoy drinking a good Oolong. My favorite is Taiwanese, having said that I haven't yet tried a Himalayan. Would love to sip all your Oolongs one by one.

    Remind me, was your Nepalese Jun Chiyabari from your Hamburg tea company? Please link back to it, so we can read what else you wrote about it at the time. Hate to miss a good article. :)


  2. It seems you are getting better at it. :D

    Good article.

  3. Jackie-it's really interesting because I've written about it several times, and the most distinguishing feature was that it wasn't at all bitter. Gong Fu brewing and/or my tastes have really changed.

    Here's the original post:

    Interestingly, I didn't get this from Hamburg, but from a little shop in Landshut (a little more than an hour northeast of Munich) called 'Ambiente'.

    They're website is here:

  4. I've found that in general, teas from Nepal and other regions near Darjeeling are very similar to Darjeelings.

    If you're finding that the first infusion is weak, you may want to try a few things. If you enjoy that infusion, then great...but if you would like it stronger, just steep it longer. I've settled on brewing many teas with a longer first infusion than the second or third infusions, and then lengthening again for the later infusions.

    Another technique you could try is to make sure to wash the leaf with a discarded first infusion, if you're not already doing this. If you are, try waiting longer before making the first true infusion.

    I think what happens is that if the first infusion isn't flavorful, it's a sign that the leaves haven't unfurled.

    Oddly though? I tend not to have this problem as much with Darjeeling oolongs as I do with Chinese or Taiwanese oolongs, which seem to unfurl more quickly, at least from my experience. But every tea is different and also, different people are looking for different things in the flavor and aroma of their tea!