Sunday, May 19, 2013

Tea diaries - Tie Guan Yin TGY storage (I)

My inspiration for writing flows from good teas and out of a bottle. Winter was a tough 5 months and from the looks of of this near empty bottle, it must have been a wordy period on this blog, in part thanks to vodka!

With the ongoing seasonal change, I am feeling more energised and enthusiastic about my tea studies. The subject of my study today lies in my Russian blue-white tulip jar : a batch of light TGY Oolong from China.

Petite Russian tea jar
My task to find out what kind of chemistry has taken place inside this jar over the past year. First impression after sniffing the contents of the tea from its original pouch was a dry and light sweet but weak scent. The jar presented me with a dampness and hints of soya bean. This dampness is due to having had insufficient tea to begin with which allowed tea inside the jar to absorb moisture form the air that is present in the unfilled parts of the jar. My guess is that a completely filled jar would have yielded dryer, more refined and sweeter scents. Tea from the original bag seems darker whereas the tea from the jar comes across as more oxidised with its yellow green appearance.

Left: Tea from the bag
Sniff, sniff, sniff, let the brewing begin. For this experiment, I am using porcelain teaware to minimise the influence of teaware material. Porcelain is neutral.

Two bulky competition mug sets dominate my cha xi. They are scientific tools used for judging. During my early years of serious tea studies I use them a lot when trying to make objective comparisons between two teas.

Right: Tea from petite jar - 1 year storage
If you are already an expert in tea tasting, brewing three or more teas at once using these porcelain tasting sets is most definitely a piece of cake.

Personally, I keep to testing on average two teas at a time so as not to spread my attention out too thinly and diffusing unnecessary pressure if I had to cross compare more than three samples at once. For each tea, I would take mental/ visual notes of the dry leaves' appearance and scent. Then comes the colours of the infusions, the smells and tastes.

With so much going on at once, comparing teas for first-timers could pose as an overwhelming and potentially stressful situation. My 2 p is to keep enough samples for a repeat of your tea experiments in at least three tea sessions. This way, you become more confident about your findings. If you are in an adventurous mood, you could even add one additional sample to your tea test, each time you repeat your experiments to gather more knowledge and work your way up  through the ranks of tea experts and masters ;-)

Tea tasting: fitness tests for your senses
Left: flowery scent at first but short-lived. Right: smells of soya bean followed by a flowery and longer-lasting fragrance
~3 g of tea with a 10 minute infusion (Adjust as you see fit, but keep conditions identical)
2nd infusion: colour and scent differences grow harder to detect
Left: tea from pouch is greener, right: tea from jar displaying signs of further oxidation.
Playing Sherlock, closely examining spent leaves: this batch of TGY is made from a blend of leaves
Cross comparing TGY to a batch of Shan Lin Xi Oolong tea made from a single type soft-stemmed leaf. A stark contrast that plays an important role in the reasoning behind why some teas can taste purer than the others.
To be continued

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting! And good timing as I plan to drink/store the TQY I just brought back from Taiwan. ;-)