1775 Tasting Notes
Hu Kwa is purported to be the top-notch Lapsang Souchong from Taiwan. Steeping one cup at a time, I use one teaspoon of leaves per cup, and I steep the tea for five and a half minutes in just-boiled water, as per Mark T. Wendell Tea Company’s website. The dry leaves have a very strong smokiness to them, as is normal with Lapsang Souchong. However, with this one, there is a slight undertone of sweetness that can be noticed in the dry leaves. The aroma of the steeped tea is also quite smooth. Past experience with Lapsang Souchong has exposed me to some that were so rough as to suggest that perhaps one should be sitting outside on the ground around a campfire while drinking them, not sipping this noble drink in a more civilised setting.
The five and a half minutes is up, so I decant the tea to remove the leaves and allow the tea a minute or so to cool slightly (scalded taste buds do not make for accurate tea tasting). Heavily smoked is a good descriptor of the taste, but not overly smoked. That strange line of sweetness that went through the scent of the dry leaves is still present in the tea itself. The smoothness of this tea made it quite enjoyable to drink. Smooth and not thick. This tea deserves an 87/100 on my personal enjoyment scale.
Another day, another interesting oolong to try. This Taiwanese oolong is purported to be incredibly flavoured, with evolutions of flavour at every steeping. I start off by rinsing, then steeping this tea first for two minutes in boiled, but not boiling water. This first infusion smells sweet, slightly tart, and, in general, fruity. I often find that the leaves, after steeping, have a different aroma than the liquor itself. In this case, the smell of the leaves is far more buttery and creamy, in contrast to the liquor’s fruity notes. This infusion is super smooth, tastes very clean and fresh, and is reminiscent of apples.
Infusion number two, steeped for another two minutes, leaves the leaves smelling more vegetal than before. The flavour of the tea has evolved. Still fruity, there are now spicier notes of cinnamon, as well as floral tones that I had not noticed before.
Steeping this tea for a third time, letting it infuse for two and a half minutes. Still containing notes of cinnamon, the mild fruitiness is quite delectable. Four Seasons is a great name for this tea, as it evolves and changes like the seasons of the year, with every infusion. I highly recommend this tea for lovers of oolong, and I would give it a 91/100 on my personal enjoyment scale.
I did a bit of background research on this tea, revealing that it was indeed grown in New Zealand and that this is one of three different varieties being produced there at the moment (the others are Zealong Dark and Zealong Aromatic). Unlike the other two, this Zealong Pure features “sweet, fresh-tasting leaves” that are “unroasted, bringing out the pure, natural flavour of the tea” (zealong.com). Their website suggests 1 tsp of leaves per cup of water, infused for a minute (at least at first).
Opening the package, I take in the aroma of the dry leaves. Sweet, very clean-smelling. They are rolled into balls, reminiscent of a ti kawn yin oolong. I prepare the water, freshly boiled, but not still boiling. The first minute of infusion goes by. The steeped liquor smells fresh and slightly floral. The leaves have a very vegetal aroma and still smell quite sweet. Sipping this first cup is a joy. From the smell of the liquor, I expected a much weaker brew than what now dances around on my tongue. While not strong, this oolong does have a full body – floral, fresh, and with just a touch of that natural sweetness.
Eagerly, I go ahead and steep the leaves again, for the suggested one minute. The leaves now have taken on a fuller aroma, more “juicy,” but in a floral sense. The smell of the brewed tea is still subdued, but after the first cup, I know this subdued aroma could hold great flavour. I can tell that the flavour has gone, somewhat, from the leaves, in comparison to the first steeping. It is, however, still there with the sweetness becoming a bit more prominent and equal with the other flavours.
The third steep is for two minutes (as per the suggestions from zealong.com). The longer steep-time has brought the flavours and aromas back in line with the first steeping. Full bodied, perhaps even a bit stronger flavour-wise than the first infusion. Ah, it is still delicious, regardless. I go ahead and put this tea through several more steepings. The zealong.com website makes the claim that it will last six to eight infusions. I am satisfied, and gladly would rate this tea a 92/100 on my personal enjoyment scale.
After preheating my teaware, I opened the package of loose tea, breathing in what seemed to be a fragrant and bold pu’erh. Beginning by rinsing the leaves in the gaiwan, I took in the aroma of the wet leaves and had much the same impression as when they were dry. Then came the first thirty-second infusion. I was just a bit disappointed. The flavours were bold, yet at the same time were flat. Initially, the tea had great mouthfeel and the taste concentrated at the front of the mouth, but that was about as far as things went. Continuing, I steeped the leaves again for another thirty seconds. This time, the brew came out darker looking, earthier in smell, and stronger in flavour. The third infusion was much like the second, but the flavour was a bit fuller. Finally, for the fourth steeping, I left the leaves sit in the water for several minutes. This time, the tea came out stronger, but no more flavourful. Overall, I would say that I was disappointed at the lack of any sort of full flavour. However, the flavours that did exist were bold. On my personal enjoyment scale, I would give this tea a 68/100.