Saturday, December 31, 2005

Geraldo on Generation Tea’s Tieguanyin

[from an email to corax. posted by permission.]

Here is what Generation Tea's ad for this tea says: “Tieguanyin -- This oolong of Fujian Province offers a balanced cup with a dark amber hue. This quality tea has a refreshing taste that lingers in the mouth. Gongfu style brewing with less water and more leaves will enhance this tea’s bouquet. Use 4 or 5 times Gongfu style or two to three times with standard teapot brewing. All oolongs help in any weight loss program and have been used for centuries.”

This oolong came as a surprise free sample with a recent purchase of cups and Tianjian. I know next to nothing about TGY, having little experience with it in its many versions, and so I shall not hesitate to pontificate from the innocent stance of the truly ignorant.

I note that Generation Tea offers several TGYs for sale to the public, and this iteration is the least expensive, but lucky beggars can’t be choosers. I am grateful for the gift, and eager to drink this sample of oolong. To continue with clichés, I shall give this gift-horse’s mouth a scrutinizing squint.

I am using one gram of tea to one ounce of water just off boiling in my Zylindro glass infusing mug. My infusions will be as follows: 1m, 45s, 1m, 1m15s, &c.

The fisted balls are fairly large -- and this usually is a good thing in the Taiwan oolongs with which I am more familiar. I rinsed the tea quickly in very hot water to wake it up.

In the first infusion, the leaves quickly expanded in their agony. (From whence come these tea terms?) The tea is not very lively yet (having been given only one agony thus far), but I expect big flavors in the second infusion. Today has been a day of Dancong, Tianjian, and Dong Ding. As happens so often during Christmas break, students from years ago are stopping by to say hello. I’ve been displaying my skills as a gaiwaneester to the admiring fans and showing off photos from my recent journey to Asia. In Guangzhou’s Fan Cun market I watched teashop employees carefully stemming huge piles of TGY. I learned that big bags and boxes of oolong -- some of them look to weigh a at least fifty pounds -- often come from the processor with large stems attached, and the Chinese shopkeepers or their family members patiently break the stems off of each little fist of tea. The price that the shopkeepers can charge then per weight unit rises commensurately.

Below are two pictures I took in the Fan Cun market, the first showing the stemming process, and the second depicting a typical Fan Cun Tea Market storefront with bags of loose tea (in this case, loose cooked pu’er) on the sidewalk.

It’s time now to infuse the TGY again. I expect the flavors to be much larger in this go-round.

(Your reviewer runs upstairs to his kitchen.)

The tea’s aroma in the second infusion is very pleasant, a powerful oolong bouquet I associate with orange juice and flowers. The liquor is tart and sweet. It has a nice sharpness. The flavor travels through the mouth, and the sides and back of my tongue carry the strong and good aftertaste. Hmmm -- I note that this tea is twelve bucks for a quarter pound, and for that price, this TGY seems like a great deal. I am also wondering if the Generation Tea oolongs costing twice as much are twice as good. I would hypothesize that they have more subtleties, nuances, dimensions, distinctions, flavor-tones, and spectra.

I am wondering how TGY differs from, say, Mao Zie or Li Shan. What strikes me most at this point is the floral aroma. The flavor is not as startling in the mouth as Li Shan can be, and it is less sweet than Mao Zie. It is a very tart tea. The aroma is exceptional -- both directly from the cup and as experienced during swallowing. The tea continues to communicate in the mouth after I swallow it.

Some reviewers refer to a metallic tang in TGY, and I am searching for it in this cup. With my limited experience in this tea, I am not sure I would recognize it.

Time now for a third infusion. It is a little more subdued, perhaps, than the second infusion, but not significantly, the aroma still redolent of flowers, the flavor still reminding me of citrus juice with perhaps pear nectar mixed into it. I expect that this tea will produce several more good brews for this evening’s session. I hope that an iron goddess of mercy will wear kid gloves as she whisks me off to the Land of Nod and astral travels, but I expect to be awake into the early hours, eyes wide, alert, and reading as a result of drinking all of this tea.

I note that the leaves in the wet state are medium-sized, despite the large fists in the dry state. For the most part, I see two leaves to a stem.

The fourth infusion is as tasty as the third. It is a good session-tea, a tea to enjoy, perhaps, while studying, correcting papers, or catching up on correspondence. I have not pursued TGY in more than a year, and this tea serves as an excellent re-introduction. I carried home so much tea from Asia, including various exotic oolongs garnered from shops and friends in China, Singapore, Malaysia, and Taiwan, that I will not run low on oolong for the coming year -- at least. But when that day does arrive, and I find myself shopping for an oolong, I will remember this tea and think of its pricier cousins. I am grateful to Generation Tea for this Tieguanyin. It does indeed have a “refreshing taste that lingers in the mouth.”

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