Aged Fo Shou Oolong - 2001 Fujian Oolong Tea
Harvest: Fall, 2001
Varietal: Fo Shou
Growing Region: Yong Chun County, Quanzhou Pref., Fujian
This Fo Shou Oolong comes from Yong Chun County, just north of Anxi County in Southern-Central Fujian province (Yong Chun Google Map). It was picked and processed in the Fall harvest season of 2001 and has been aging in Fujian since then. This tea was only roasted/baked once as the finishing step of processing, then it was packed away in air tight containers and left to age for 10 years.
Flavor & Aroma:
When steeped, this aged Fo Shou unfurls its quite large, twisted leaves and yields a clear, light amber liquor. Initial infusions are marked by an almost musty, peaty or aged flavor and aroma that reminds me a bit of certain aspects of a 10+/- year aged Pu-Erh tea along with background elements of the sweet, spicy, dried fruit (raisins?) and floral-type flavors more commonly associated with oolong teas. With subsequent infusions, the aged flavor fades, allowing the more classic oolong type flavors to take the lead. The hui gan (aftertaste) provides a distinctively aged/sweet feeling that builds slowly over several infusions.
About the name “Fo Shou” (佛手; fóshǒu):
Fo Shou (佛手) translates as “Buddha’s Hand” in English. This term can refer generally to Citron, which is a type/category of citrus fruit, or it can be used to refer to a specific citrus variety with distinctive “fingers,” known as Buddha’s Hand Citron. Sometimes Fo Shou is translated as “Bergamot,” another type of citron, the oil of which is commonly used in perfumes and in the flavoring of teas such as Earl Grey. From what I have been told, the name Fo Shou is given to this tea because the leaves resemble the leaves of the citron trees found in this part of Fujian, which makes perfect sense to me because I have never detected a particularly citrusy flavor in any of the Fo Shou Oolongs I have been lucky enough to try.
To steep this tea, I really only recommend Gong-Fu style steeping. I personally found that steeping this tea western style with a low leaf to water ratio didn’t make a very interesting or dynamic brew, and using more leaf and short steeps really allows the different layers of flavor to slowly reveal themselves, as well as allows the aftertaste to build in the mouth and reveal itself slowly. My preference is to fill my gaiwan about 1/3 full of dry leaves, use water just off the boil, do a quick rinse, and use a 10-15 second first steep followed by gradually increasing the time of the subsequent steeps.