Saturday, June 16, 2007

1980's Aged Baozhong from Hou De

Class: Oolong
Origin: Taiwan
Year: 1980's
Vendor: Hou De Fine Tea
Price: $24.50 (2 oz)
Verdict: 8.5/10

For those who know tea, the word "aged" generally conjures up images of 40 year old raw puerh cakes. Puerh ages due to microbial activity within the cakes, so it is an active, biological process. Oolong teas, on the other hand, do not contain these microbes, which is why I was confused when I first heard of aged oolong. I don't know the science behind aging oolong tea, but the process involves air-tight storage and roasting every few years. From what I understand, the time mellows the tea and the roasting wakes it up again, keeping it from simply going stale.

Unfortunately this tea is no longer available, so I suppose this review is a bit useless to you, the reader. Lucky for you I have no qualms about being useless.

Dry LeafDry Leaf:

As you can see, this looks very much like Wuyi rock oolong (at least to me), and very little like a fresh baozong, except for the wiry shape. The small, twisty, dark brown leaves have quite an interesting aroma. Unlike the cocoa/charcoal aroma one often finds in Wuyi oolongs, this is much smoother, more like solid dark chocolate. I also noted some caramel and cherries, though I must credit the latter observation to Salsero, without whose help I never would have figured it out. There are no upfront or aggressive aromas, which would normally leave the tea a bit flat, but for whatever reason it seems to give the bouquet an added depth. It is an inexplicable depth though, since I honestly can't say it's an exciting aroma. On the contrary, it is quite muted-- I wonder if another roasting would turn up the volume, per se.


4.3g dry leaf; 90mL yixing teapot; off-boiling tap water; Rinse, 23s, 30s, 27s, 27s, 32s, 34s, 39s, 38s, 39s, 47s


InfusionThis was a nice, dark flavored dessert kind of tea. Not necessarily dark in color, as you can see, but dark in flavor, with a consistent blend of smooth dark chocolate and red berries. I picked up almost no smokiness whatsoever, which was unexpected because of all the roasting this tea has experienced. Though the aroma had hints of cherries (thanks again Sal), I thought the flavor was more raspberry-like in the first infusions and strawberry-like in the end. The tea was relatively unchanging in flavor, except for a slight change in emphasis from chocolate in the beginning to berries with a sugary/vanilla sweetness in the end. This was not a particularly thick-feeling tea, but it did give a nice coating sensation in the early infusions. Overall, quite tasty, but no real surprises.

I also thought I'd mention another observation I made. Some of you may have heard of "cha qi." I have no idea what it is supposed to feel like, and frankly I'm hesitant to put much stock in the concept of qi. Nevertheless, there is no better explanation at this time that I am aware of, so I'll stick with it for now. Anyway, the observation I made was a sweeping sense of warmth, starting in my sinuses, sweeping up to my forehead, and then flowing down the back of my neck and ending in my chest/upper back. It was quite nice, but I'm not sure if it was the tea, or some combination of the hot weather and my imagination.

Wet LeavesWet Leaves:

Stiff leaves (arthritic, perhaps?), and dark brown color throughout. Unlike relatively young Wuyi oolongs which are dark green/brown when unrolled, these are all brown, likely due to a combination of age and repeated roastings. [Sorry about the bad picture, by the way]


This tea reminded me of the Energizer bunny in two ways. First, it keeps going and going. This tea easily lasted 9 infusions, when it just started showing signs of weakness. Second, you feel funny after you drink what's inside. I don't usually get disoriented or "tea drunk" until I've had a lot of tea, but one session of this stuff made me feel positively loopy.

***Disclaimer: Don't eat batteries.***

Overall, I have to say I was quite pleased by this tea. I will certainly miss it when it's gone. Perhaps it isn't the most engaging tea I've had, but it is interesting enough to keep my attention without requiring it. Overall, this gets an 8.5/10.

Also see Hobbes' review of this tea.


tb. said...

Looks great! I'm actually kind of disappointed that I didn't manage to grab any before it was all snatched up, but now that's money to be but elsewhere :)

Thanks for the review!


Mary R said...

Hm. I'm almost glad Houde's out. Your review would have made it impossible for me to resist buying a bit! "Dark in taste?" Sounds right up my alley.

Salsero said...

Both Hobbes and Mal (in rfdt on April 3, 2007) experienced unseemly fits of rapture from this tea. I'm glad to see that at least one other reviewer shares my more pedestrian reading.

At 43 cents a gram I was rather hoping for ecstatic euphoria. Perhaps the anticipation poisoned the consumation.

perpleXd said...

mmm Sounds yummy :)

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