by Little Yellow Teapot (a tea steeping marvel and occasional contributing author to this e-zine)
Your faithful little teapot here, reporting on the latest tea adventure featuring my humans and some prime oolongs. Grading Tie Guan Yin oolongs from Anxi county, Fujian province, China, is said to be quite an art and takes skill to detect subtle differences in the leaves and in the aromas and flavors of the liquid infused from them. Having received a total of six of these grades, ranging from 2A thru 7A, we thought that some comparisons were in order. We started with the first two here (on the old blog) and now address the last four in this article.
We’re using the new gallery feature in WordPress so you can see each tea fairly close up. Click on an image to open the slideshow, use the arrows to scroll through them, and press Esc key to come back to this post:
The Process: 209°F, infused in gaiwan 3 times (45, 60, and 90 seconds) with first infusion being discarded as a wake-up infusion.
The Comparison: Just as for 2A and 3A that we tried earlier, each of these grades were very close in quality. Based on pricing, we are assuming that the grade quality is higher in the higher numbers. So, 2A is the lowest grade and 7A is the highest grade. And one thing is for sure: the differences are very subtle, barely detectable. Each had a floral quality to the aroma and flavor, was mild, smooth, and free of any bitterness.
Our Conclusions: For those of you who are real oolong connoisseurs, give these teas a try and compare them for yourselves. For those of you who just want a nice oolong to sip and relax with, any of these grades will do. Get the most out of them with a set of sipping/sniffer cups. The sniffer cup is the taller one (about 2 inches tall) and confines the aroma into a more compact space so you can experience it more fully. Fill the sniffer cup, then pour the liquid into the sipper cup and inhale the tea aroma from the sniffer cup. You can see by the slides that the dry and infused leaves of each is very similar to the others.
Anxi County is coastal and separated by a narrow sea from the country of Taiwan, home of many fine oolong teas.
In 1660, due to warring factions, many of the best tea growers and processors were forced to move to the Wuyi area and continue their tea making, according to a poem by monk and tea advocate Zhao Quan (aka Ruen Wen Xi) who was 33 years old at the time and was part of that group. In 1682 these people were allowed by their emperor to return to their homes (their lives belonged to the emperor the way they now belong to the government). They were needed to produce the tea being exported to other countries, especially Britain. They brought with them the technique of roasting the tea before final baking (drying) to make it look (at least to foreigners) like the Wuyi Bohea (a rough black tea) those people were used to. Over the years, though, more types of oolongs were developed and the quality overall improved as they focused on these factors instead of cranking out just large quantities of low-quality tea for export. Some of their teas today are price record setters, especially the top grade of Tieguanyin (“Iron Goddess of Mercy”).
Our thanks to the vendor for furnishing the full array in this sampler. Always so much fun to do more than just steep a tea and say “It tastes good or bad” like so many tea reviewers do. We are trying to give you more info than that. TOOOT!
Disclaimer: all items were furnished by the vendor but all opinions expressed here are totally unbiased.
© 2014 A.C. Cargill photos and text