Wednesday, April 7, 2010
I love the Wuyi style of oolong tea. Though I do not drink it as often as I drink the more green, fresh, less heavily oxidized Taiwanese formosa oolong, Wuyi definitely has its place as a tea of contemplation during the day or evening, even to wake you up in the morning. Wuyi mountain is located in northwestern Fujian province, where the tea plants are grown on rocky cliffs. Upon harvesting, the leaves are then allowed to oxidize up to 50% or slightly more prior to being twisted and pan or oven roasted to remove moisture. Finally, a well produced wuyi will be roasted on trays over a charcoal fire (using various types of wood as fuel) to add complexity to the final product. As you may imagine, there is a degree of subtle smokiness to the finished tea, but when it is well made this is in balance with the flavor of the tea. Even the strongest of teas are, when properly brewed, much more mild, subtle, and layered in flavor than coffee. After a few infusions, I love to observe the smokiness recede into the background as the character of the particular tea varietal become apparent, which in turn recedes to leave a mineral core. You can appreciate this evolution over the course of multiple infusions within a half hour or so, depending on how quickly you drink the tea.
Perhaps the amount of infusions a tea will deliver interesting flavors can provide you with a sense of how it might age if you cellar it? This is the wine drinker in me proposing this theory. That having been said, I have drunk few aged teas and have yet to appreciate them as much as I do younger ones. Surely this will change with some more exposure, I suspect. For now, though, I will keep drinking the current vintage Wuyi.