Notes of apricot, molasses, and burnt sugar.
Oolong tea from Taiwan・April 2015・梨山紅水鐵觀音・Unsprayed
This tea was grown on Lishan, a mountain range located in central Taiwan. The garden sits 2000m above sea level. Traveling to the garden requires a two and a half hour drive from the main road, with numerous ascents and descents through narrow mountain passes.
The Tieguanyin cultivar traces back to 19th century Anxi County, Fujian Province. When settlers from Fujian arrived in Taiwan, they brought the cultivar with them. The Guanyin in the cultivar’s name refers to the bodhisavttva associated with mercy and compassion, and “Tie” is the Chinese word for iron.
The “red water” in this tea’s name refers to the darker color of the tea liquor, a result of traditional crafting techniques that take both time and skill to perfect. Each leaf cluster was picked by hand in early May. The picked leaves then underwent a 20 hour oxidation – first withered in shade, then rested indoors for 10 hours, followed by bruising and more resting before the tea was roasted and rolled. The resulting tea is mid-oxidized to intensify the cultivar’s unique fruit and floral notes. At this stage, the tea is a “maocha” and is ready for a finishing roast.
To achieve the sugary, molasses quality, the tea was first convection baked for three days at low temperature, then finished over longan wood charcoal. The result is sublime – a tea that embodies the depth of a well-oxidized and precisely fired traditional oolong imbued with the character and texture of a high elevation oolong.
Red Water Tieguanyin has incredible depth and range. The first brew is sugary, picking up caramel, baked apple and brown sugar notes from the long roasting. The cultivar reveals its characteristic tang in subsequent infusions: with distinct notes of ripe stone fruit and citrus peel.
Brew: 5 grams・150 ml・205° F・2 min
Red Water style oolongs, traditional Tieguanyins in particular, take well to long, high temperature steeps that result in intense aromatics and very long, persistent finishes. This tea is no exception. A longer second and third steep of this tea will develop that sought after "tang" that is specific to this cultivar.