Wednesday, July 27, 2016

China Life Oriental Beauty (Bai Hao, Taiwanese oolong)

beautiful tea; that's pretty much the right look

A great example of this tea type from China Life; site link for this tea here. One of my favorite versions of oriental beauty is from Thailand,  a tea I just gave away the last of, so it's especially nice to try a version just as good.  Or this one may be better, depending on preference, since it's a little different.  That's really how the type goes, spanning an interesting range of related characteristics, so different in character there may or may not be one clear optimum.

The standard description of an oriental beauty (Bai Hao) fits this tea as a starting point:  good sweetness and complexity, tastes in the range of muscatel, citrus and other fruit, and spice (the package general type description trades out honey for spice but close enough; honey works too).

This version is on the more oxidized side, which works well with how the tea comes across.  Of course OB typically is on the more oxidized side of medium, but this one is a bit towards a black tea from upper medium.  It's still a very soft, sweet, fruity and complex tea, so the extra oxidation just adds some extra earthy undertone to the flavors context, and changes everything around a little in a way that works.

a very silly tea taster

There is a lot going on with this tea, starting with that type description (muscatel, citrus, honey, other fruit that's not so easy to clearly identify).  Someone really good at teasing out an extra long list of component tastes might add a lot more than I will here.  As can be typical for me the spice is an intriguing element.  It's not clearly cinnamon,  but in that range, maybe closer to nutmeg or cardamom, but I'm not sure either is a perfect match.  A pronounced honey component is layered in with the other tastes too, very strong as a scent in the empty cup.

I asked for some input from my tasting assistant and she guessed banana, but I'm going to have to say she missed it that time.  Or maybe if she meant dried banana she might be on to something; I could see that, a taste quite like the softer dried version of small bananas, not the hard chips.

Across some infusions the tea doesn't shift a lot. Some of the more forward taste elements diminish a little to let the base stand forward more but the taste range is still sweet and bright.  The fullness thins a little but the flavors stay clean and as complex, a good sign and a pleasant attribute.

not really black tea, but a good bit oxidized

China Life made a great introductory video about the type,  linked here, explaining that terpenes are the compounds responsible for the flavors complexity.  I've researched the type background for posts before (especially here) but that part wasn't familiar.  I don't think I've mentioned that they make great videos that span explaining the basics of tea brewing, to others going into types background, like this one on Dan Cong, or on lots of tangents, like how slurping works in tasting

 As Don mentioned in that video this is a tea type that does well brewed different ways, good across a range of preparations, not touchy or easy to screw up.  One could draw out different balances of nice flavors based on slight changes in approach.  Since this tea is on the darker / more oxidized side body could change a lot, drank as wispy and subtle, emphasizing the fruit aspects and complexity, or brewed stronger, as a substantial tea with lots of body and full earthy / mineral flavors.  I'd have more to say about that after trying this tea a couple more times, and could fill in a longer flavor-aspects list, but I'm getting behind in finishing post drafts and tasting teas, so I'll go with that more basic description here, my initial impression.

It would seem a shame to use Western style brewing for a tea this good, and there is no way I'd brew it grandpa style, as covered in a recent post, but Western style brewing would work since the tea is flexible.  To me the tea type doesn't transition as much across infusions as some other types of teas do, more about flavor aspects that seem more forward and more of a base shifting in proportion, so there might be less to miss of that aspect--the transition itself--using simpler brewing.

My wife gave me some fresh pineapple to have with breakfast after drinking the tea for several infusions and it occurred to me that a similar sweetness, citrus character, and pineapple taste range could have been one part of what I had been tasting. Or maybe that was just the power of suggestion, and a vaguely general range, but I could swear I was "getting" pineapple after I had both in front of me.

I might mention that pineapple really isn't one specific taste, that versions of the fruit share common aspects, but there are lots of types of pineapples in tropical countries that definitely don't all taste the same.  My understanding is that Dole chose the one type familiar to Americans as canned fruit not for sweetness or specific taste but because that fruit shape was closest to that of a can.  The one my wife had bought was nice, bright flavored, citrusy, honey - sweet and complex (some general character shared by the tea), and of course it tasted like pineapple.

No comments:

Post a Comment