of the Lazy Literatus

Tag: Oolong Page 2 of 7

Looking for Hui Gan in High Mountain Oolongs

“This tea had quite a bit of Hui Gan,” someone said to me once.

“Who’s Hui Gan?” I asked, thinking they were referring to a Chinese scholar.

Clearly, I’d never heard the term before. Several people had used it in my presence, and I nodded as if I knew what they were talking about. Of course, I didn’t. I had to consult a more knowledgeable tea blogger friend to have it defined for me.

“Hui Gan” can be translated as “comeback sweetness”. And—like everything else in Chinese—what that means is a tad esoteric and abstract. Finding a definitive answer online was even more elusive. Some people referred to it as the lingering sweetness found in some teas after sipping. Others claimed it was the reflection of that sweetness later down-the-line. As in, a mental reflection, followed by a craving. Like tea drinker déjà vu . . . or something.

The last time I heard the term, it was from Greg “Norbu Tea” Glancy. We were discussing his Ali Shan offerings, and he mentioned that his new Winter ’16 oolong had “great Hui Gan”. I was interested in doing a back-to-back comparison of that tea with a batch of the Spring 2016. Both were greener style, high mountain Ali Shan oolongs, and I thought it’d be interesting to do a side-by-side. The whole Hui Gan hullabaloo became an added side-quest.

One fine day off from work, I got to brewing.

Both teas looked exactly the same—large, ball-fisted green leaves with li’l necktie stems. The Spring smelled buttery and floral, whereas the Winter had more of a “sweet bread” smell. And, I’ll be darned, that sweetness did linger, but it didn’t “come back”. But I wasn’t sure Hui Gan was supposed to show up in the aromatics or not.

These were my findings after the first infusions finished steeping.

Editor’s Note: Forgive the redundancies between the video and the narrative. The Lazy Literatus filmed the tasting notes before undertaking the write-up. That . . . and his attention span is quite short. 

 

I filmed about six minutes worth of additional material with two more infusions . . . but I screwed it up. Royally. I over-steeped the second infusion on both by a good ten seconds, and they turned out tasting like burnt salad. The third fared way better—the sweetness came back!—but the leaves were still a bit shaky from the earlier abuse. That and I accidentally thought “lingering sweetness” was “comeback sweetness”. Nope . . . totally different.

But then I let a few minutes go by . . . and then a few more . . . and then a few more after that. Then I suddenly had an itch in my right index finger. I grabbed my electric kettle, filled it with water, and put it back on its little ol’ heating pad. Once I saw those little fish-eye bubbles, I stopped the heat, and did a fourth re-steep of both.

And then a fifth.

I think I got a good two or three more infusions out of both those sets of leaves. In all honestly, I had planned on doing an entirely different tasting session after those two oolongs. But I lost track of time . . . by a good two hours. The tasting session started at around 11AM, and I carried it on until about 4PM. The only reason I finally stopped it was because I had to leave the house to meet friends in the early evening.

Did I find the elusive Hui Gan? I still have no clue. Its like the Carmen Sandiego of taster notes. Once you think you have it pinned down—whether by sensation or semantics—you find you’re nowhere near it at all.

Perhaps I’ll reflect on it more, at a later juncture.

Sweetly.

To buy the Winter ’16 Ali Shan oolong I test-drove, go HERESee if you can find Hui Gan.

I “Heart” Doke

I “heart” the Doke tea estate.

Photo by Rajiv Lochan.

No, I’m not ashamed to use the word “heart” instead of “love”. Especially today. Okay, I winced a tiny bit at the grammatical incorrectness of it (and the cutesiness of it) . . . but the sentiment still stands. And, given when this blog is going up, the cutesy incorrectness is fitting.

The Harendong Estate

Four years ago, I “discovered” the Harendong estate.

Image owned by Harendong

I put “discovered” in air-quotes because . . . it’d been there for eight years by the time I ran across it. Perhaps I should say, it was new to me. They had a booth at the 2013 World Tea Expo—under their Banten Tea brand—and the thing that excited me about them was where they were from.

Once Bug-Bitten, Twice Shy

Well . . . I guess it’s time to put a certain theory to pasture.

And it’s all because of these two.

team-unytea

Who are they? I’ll get to that.

What theory? Oh, I had this hypothesis that tea and dating (or courtship, whatever) didn’t “blend”.

Hugs, High-Fives, and Farmer Style Sencha

A couple of years ago—on a visit to the Jasmine Pearl Tea Merchants shop— I tried a Japanese tea (that wasn’t sencha) that just . . . blew me away.

yuzu

It was a black tea blended with yuzu rind. Yes, the Japanese orange.

When I described it to people, all I could muster was, “It’s like an Earl Grey that followed the Bushido code.” The astringency was balanced, there was a malty kick, and of course there was that effervescent blast of citrus at the top note. Never tried anything like it.

The Jasmine Pearl folks told me that it came from one particular farmer in Kawanehon-town in Shizuoka prefecture.

Dong Ding Near-Death Experiences

In 2009, Shiuwen Tai—the plucky owner of Floating Leaves Tea in Seattle—made her first trip to Dong Ding Mountain in Taiwan . . .

Shiuwen Tai on Dong Ding Mountain in 2016. Photo by Jake Knapp.

Shiuwen Tai on Dong Ding Mountain in 2016. Photo by Jake Knapp.

. . . And almost died.

A Totem Tea Story

The definition of the word “totem” is thus: “A natural object or animal believed by a particular society to have spiritual significance and adopted by it as an emblem.” It is derived from the Native American language, Ojibwe; the word, dodaem.

The concept, however, is not limited to just Native American cultures and religious practices. Many cultures worldwide also place such significances on totems as well. Totem poles, on the other hand—at least to the tribes of the Pacific Northwest—use these objects and animals as family crests and as a way to recount stories of that family group’s past.

So why did a tea company use “Totem” in their name?

totem-tea-logo

I’ll get to that.

The Great Guan Yin Duel

Over the years, I’ve had some fun at the expense of Guan Yin—the Bodhisattva of Compassion.

guan-yin

Whether portraying her as having an illicit affair with Scottish botanists, or depicting her as a scorned goddess seeking vengeance against the writer of the illicit affair (me), I can’t say I’ve dealt with her fairly. Hilariously, yes . . . but not fairly. However, there is one area where her namesake is applied where I have held back my more idiot tendencies. That, of course, is in regard to the tea bearing her name—Tie Guan Yin, or “Iron Goddess of Mercy”.

Dark Tea from Taiwan

In late 2013, I thought I tried the rarest, weirdest, most unheard-of tea unicorn out there—a heicha (dark tea) from Taiwan.

dark tea

After three years of palatial growth, though, I’m now convinced that it was a Yunnan grown puerh that was merely stored in Taiwan. Still unique, but not quite the unicorn I thought it was. However, I learned of a group who might have created one.

Da Hong Pao: My Old Nemesis

Seven Days of Seven Cups, Day 7 – “Da Hong Pao: My Old Nemesis”

Da Hong Pao (“Big Red Robe”) . . . my old nemesis . . . we meet again.

Now, I’ve gone on record several times over the years as saying that Da Hong Pao was one of my least favorite oolongs. Sure, I had a few I liked, but the amount I disliked far outweighed that. That all changed in November of last year when I had an original “mother bush” Qi Dan Da Hong Pao. And for some reason—as I stated in earlier entries—it forever changed my palate. Wuyi oolongs were now welcomed to my tea tray.

However, I still remained hesitant toward commodity Da Hong Pao. What’s the difference? Allow me to explain.

The six (allegedly) original Da Hong Pao (Big Red Robe) tea bushes; image owned by Seven Cups.

The six (allegedly) original Da Hong Pao (Big Red Robe) tea bushes; image owned by Seven Cups.

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