Getting a good cup of tea can be achieved in many ways. Dipping a tea bag into hot water or using a tea egg are certainly practical ways to make tea (although not the most recommended from my side).
But there are so many other ways to get to the finish line. As part of my studies I focused on different angles and techniques. I would like to share with you three of these angles – Cold brew, Multiple infusions and the type of container to use. I am sharing with you some of the tasting notes, and as my teacher would say: “Tasting is the tea professional’s most valuable skill!”
I am using the same water, filtered water using a Brita filter. The tasting notes describe every single element of the tasting , the leaves in different condition, the tea liquor, the aromas and the flavors. It’s very hard to find the right words, but you can choose descriptions you are most comfortable with.
Experiment 1 – Cold brew
Cold brewing tea is becoming more and more popular in recent years, most of all during the summer months. I really enjoy using this method as it brings out the amino acids and sweet tastes.
For this experiment I am using a Taiwanese Oolong tea, and comparing a hot brew of this tea and a cold brew of this tea.
Cold brewing a tea takes quite some time but one is rewarded with a unique, sweet and elegant tea.
The infusion has more aromas as the catechins are released very slowly and unfurl the complex flavors. I am using a cylinder pot to brew the cold tea and a standard cupping set for the hot one.
Name: “Four Seasons” Type: Oolong Tea, Origin: Nantou, Taiwan Weight:5 g Time: 180 min,Cultivar/Grade: Si Ji Chun, Water temp: 25 C
Appearance (Dry): Tightly rolled leaf, color ranges from mellow olive green to a forest floor brown, some stem at the end of the rolled tea leaf, dense consistency. (Wet leaf): Fresh appearance, most leaves have opened up but are still in the rolled shape, medium green color. (Liquor): Light citrus yellow clear color
Aroma: (Dry): Fresh mountain spring, delicate floral rose and lily nose. (Wet leaf): Fresh floral , lily and lavender aroma. (Liquor): Fresh and sweet nose with a hint of lily.
Liquor Flavor/Mouth Feel: (Hot:) n/a as this is a cold brew (Cool): Balanced flavors of peach and cherry, the sweet aroma components really shine not even a hint of bitterness with a smooth and rounded mouth feel , refreshing and thirst quenching aftertaste.
Finish & Overall Impression: A well balanced and refreshing cold tea. It shines with an elegant and vibrant mouth feel with a cherry and peach aroma being front and center while bitter and sour components are not even on the stage. It has a delicate and soothing finish. Good for the summer combined with some ice cubes.
Here is the same tea, using a traditional cupping method, hot brew as a comparison:
Name: “Four Seasons” Type: Oolong Tea, Origin: Nantou, Taiwan, Weight: 5 g Time: 5:00 min, Cultivar/Grade: Si Ji Chun, Water temp: 80 C
Appearance (Leaf): Tightly rolled leaf, color ranges from mellow olive green to a forest floor brown, some stem at the end of the rolled tea leaf, dense consistency (Wef leaf): Still very much in a rolled and shaped stage with few leaves are opened up. A dark green fresh and vibrant color with a bit of a shin. (Liquor): Amber colored and clear liquor
Aroma: (Dry leaf): Fresh mountain spring, delicate floral rose and lily nose. (Wet leaf): Rose and lily aroma. (Liquor): Rose aroma with a fruity peach and apricot aroma.
Liquor Flavor/Mouth Feel: (Hot): The first thing I noticed is the elegance and balance of the mouthfeel swirling around the flavors of peach, rose and lavender. (Cool): A well balanced mouthfeel. Compared to the cold brew there is a different complexity, even deeper with some of the bitter components are in the mix.
Finish & Overall Impression: A well balanced sweet and inviting Oolong. The flavor composition is a combination of fruity and floral undertones. An impressive sweet finish wanting to take the next sip.
Experiment 2 – Multiple infusions – Dan Cong Oolong
For this experiment (or more a wonderful experience) I have selected what I call my ceremonial tea.
I like to drink this tea with my family as part of a full gong fu ceremony.
The tea is called Huang Zhi Xiang (Gardenia Dan Cong), a wonderful Oolong from 100 year old tea plants picked at a high altitude on Mt. Wudong, part of the Phoenix Mountains in China. This amazing tea can easily take 8 infusions.
To prepare the tea I am using my special Yixing teapot which I only use to brew this tea over the past years. It has such a wonderful coating inside, contributing to the infusion with a collective memory of all previous infusions. It is my plan in many years to hand this tea pot over to my kids as a generational piece.
I am comparing 3 different infusions: the first one, the fifth and the tenth one.
Name: Huang Zhi Xiang (Gardenia Dan Cong), Type: Oolong Tea, Origin:Mt. Wudong, Phoenix Mountains, China. Weight: 4 g Time: 45 sec, Cultivar/Grade: 1st infusion, Water temp: 95 C
Appearance: (Dry leaf):Large, tightly twisted leaf, dark chocolate brown with vibrant copper streaks on some leaves, majestic yet elegant consistence, large volume. (Wet leaf): Still twisted leaf, long flowing leaves with a dark olive green to light brown appearance. (Liquor): Electric orange to amber color with a vibrant golden undertone.
Aroma: (Dry leaf): Earthy, cherry wood nose with a hint of honey, cherry and apricot. (Wet leaf): Earthy cherry wood undertones with a delicate honey and apricot fragrance, slight floral lily hint (Liquor): Honey aroma with apricot and nectar tones
Liquor Flavor/Mouth Feel (Hot): Enters the mouth with a flavor firework. The honey flavor is paired with a hint of pineapple and lily, buttery and confident mouthfeel. (Cool): a small film on the surface of the liquor , flavor still sweet, no signs of bitterness or astringency
Finish & Overall Impression: A fresh and vibrant infusion, bringing to the table all the flavor compounds this tea has to offer, lingering aftertaste which is keeping the sweet and floral composition, a symphony of textures and flavors
Name: Huang Zhi Xiang (Gardenia Dan Cong) ,Type: Oolong Tea, Origin: Mt. Wudong, Phoenix Mountains, China, Weight: 4 g Time:45 sec, Cultivar/Grade: 5th infusion, Water temp: 95C
Appearance (Dry leaf) Large, tightly twisted leaf, dark chocolate brown with vibrant copper streaks on some leaves, majestic yet elegant consistence, large volume. (Wet) Leaves are still twisted a bit more open with a dark green to brown tones, a bit more flat in appearance (Liquor): Marmalade yellow a little less vibrant yet fresh tones.
Aroma: (Dry leaf) Earthy, cherry wood nose with a hint of honey, cherry and apricot. (Wet leaf): Earthy undertones with sweet honey aroma still dominant (Liquor): Sweet with less of a floral tone.
Liquor Flavor/Mouth Feel (Hot): More brisk but sweet honey flavor , mouthfeel a bit more thinner yet rounded (Cool): sweet honey taste with a light and delicate mouth feel , retained its sweet complexity.
Finish & Overall Impression: Even after the 5th infusion a vibrant even it bit less tea to drink. No signs of bitterness or astringency with a sweet and a bit lighter taste. Lingering at the finish is there but less intense.
Name: Huang Zhi Xiang (Gardenia Dan Cong), Type: Oolong Tea, Origin: Mt. Wudong, Phoenix Mountains, China, Weight: 4 g Time: 45 sec, Cultivar/Grade: 10th infusion, Water temp: 95 C
Appearance (Dry Leaf): Large, tightly twisted leaf, dark chocolate brown with vibrant copper streaks on some leaves, majestic yet elegant consistence, large volume. (Wet leaf): Leaves are mostly untwisted and open , green to brown color. (Liquor): Light yellow to orange color more faded color and less vibrant then the infusions before.
Aroma: (Dry): Earthy, cherry wood nose with a hint of honey, cherry and apricot. (Wet): Light sweet honey aroma. (Liquor): Light sweet honey aroma with a slight hint of floral lily
Liquor Flavor/ Mouth Feel (Hot): watery mouth feel but sweet undertones with a light and uplifting finish (Cool): a bit watery taste but still sweet, very little lingering aftertaste
Finish & Overall Impression: As expected the tea will be much lighter with a delicate aftertaste and still sweet lingering.
Experiment 3 – Container
Choosing the right container can have a significant impact on the aroma, taste and mouthfeel of the infusion.
For this experiment I am choosing a Long Jing from China and use two different types of containers. For the first infusion I am using a simple aluminum tea egg (and I am only using this for this experiment) and a classic Chinese gaiwan.
As to be expected, the tea egg keeps the tea captured and not allowing the leaves to release all the flavour components properly.
I actually had to bend the metal open to have a glance at the infused leaves as the expanded leaf was quite dense. A gaiwan on the other side allows the leaves to dance in the water to release all components needed for a wonderful flavor.
Name:Long Jing (Dragon well), Type: Green Tea, Origin: Hangzhou, China Weight: 3 g Time: 60 sec, Cultivar/Grade: Brewed in Gaiwan, Water temp: 80 C
Appearance: Light to medium olive green color. Flat pressed, medium sized leaves with a dense consistency (Wet) :Bright, fresh vibrant light green leaves and leave pieces, a slight shin with a creamy consistency (Liquor): Bright yellow to orange color with a golden rim
Aroma: (Dry leaf):Vegetable aroma with spinach and pea undertones . (Wet leaf): Vegetal spinach and pea aroma with some grass undertones. (Liquor): Sweet honey and jasmine aroma
Liquor Flavor/Mouth Feel: (Hot): a combination of vegetal spinach and broccoli flavor and a sweet jasmine and honey undertone. Rounded and smooth mouthfeel, elegant around the palate. (Cool): The vegetal components are a bit more dominant in the cool version but still a rounded mouthfeel with a sweet finish
Finish & Overall Impression The gaiwan allowed the complex flavor components of this tea to solve into the infusion. It is a great balance between vegetal initial flavors and a sweet flowery jasmine and honey finish. A bit of sweet aftertaste.
Name: Long Jing (Dragon well), Type: Green Tea, Origin: Hangzhou, China, Weight:3 g Time: 60 sec, Cultivar/Grade: Tea egg, Water temp:80 C
Appearance (Dry leaf): Light to medium olive green color. Flat pressed, medium sized leaves with a dense consistency. (Wet leaf) Very compressed (to be honest I had to crack the tea egg open as it was quite condensed) , leaf opened up but seems to have a dry and flat appearance. (Liquor): Light and pale yellow color
Aroma: (Dry leaf):Vegetable aroma with spinach and pea undertones. (Wet leaf): Light vegetal aroma of spinach and peas. (Liquor): Very light hint of sweetness but not really a strong vegetal component.
Liquor Flavor/Mouth Feel (Hot):Light watery taste , sweet honey and a hint of jasmine but not as fully developed as the gaiwan option . Light and watery mouthfeel (Cool): Watery mouthfeel with a flat finish a hint of sweet at the end.
Finish & Overall Impression: The tea is drinkable and has a sweet flavor, but this version does not bring out the vegetable components and lacks a bit of the complexity of the other version. It does not provide for a strong finish or any type of lingering aftertaste. Sweet but flat.