Saturday, September 22, 2007

2004 Aged Wuyi Bei Dou

Class: Oolong
Origin: Wuyi Mountain, Fujian Province, China
Year: 2004
Vendor: Jing Tea Shop
Price: $18.60 (100g) / $5.60 (25g)
Verdict: 7/10

The development of Bei Dou ("North Star") is an interesting story, which I have blatantly copied from Teaspring's description of their "Bei Dou No 1":

"In the early 1950s, Mr. Yao Yue Ming started a Da Hong Pao research laboratory. Using a few stems from the original 800 years old Da Hong Pao tea bushes, he successfully created two new tea varieties. However, Mr. Yao's laboratory was later closed down and his research was destroyed during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Yet, he continued his research in secrecy and through his dedication and determination; he finally perfected his creation. He named this tea, Beidou No. 1."

Though I wouldn't say I have enough experience to correctly identify a lineup of the various styles of Wuyi yancha in a blind taste test, I'm pretty sure I can taste some Da Hong Pao character in this tea. Whether or not I would have tasted such similarities had I not read the story, though, is hard to say. :)

2004 Bei DouI think this tea was a good lesson for me. I had purchased it thinking "aged" necessarily meant dark and heavy. Stubbornly, I kept brewing it thinking that it must fit my expectations for an aged Wuyi, and I figured I just hadn't figured out how to unleash its true potential.

At least I was right about the latter. The dry and wet leaves are fairly green, which as I understand, indicates a lower level of roast and/or oxidation. My guess is that without heavier processing, this kind of tea won't develop an aged profile quite as quickly, or at least not in the same manner, as their darker brothers and sisters. (Once again, I plead to you brave readers for any insight you may have, as this is nothing more than a guess.)

Though the aroma of the dry leaf was of very rich dark chocolate and brown sugar and the liquor was moderately dark, the flavor was surprisingly exuberant and bright. My notes mention tart tropical fruits, some moderate roast/charcoal, cocoa, and at times blueberries and a mildly aged character. There was a mild, cooling hui gan after pretty much every infusion, and at times my tongue was ambushed by a strange and sudden (though pleasant) dryness.

I had the most success with this tea when I used lots of leaf and short infusion times. The parameters I've had the most success with (so far) are 7g in my 90mL Yixing teapot with infusions starting at around 10 seconds, including water in/out. Using less leaf and longer times, as I would normally employ for Wuyi yancha, I just didn't get much body in the liquor. Whether this is a characteristic of the tea or of my brewing, I can't say.

This tea was quite good, but it's not my favorite. It was interesting and multi-dimensional, but I tend to enjoy heartier Wuyi more. After hearing such glowing praise of this tea from Adrian and its somewhat more subdued approval from VL, I find it likely that I have misjudged this tea. For now, though, I'll give it a 7/10.

Edit: After brewing this tea according to several different methods, I have come to appreciate it more. As VL has noted, it makes a pleasant brew when brewed with small amounts of leaf and longer infusions. I also managed to get MarshalN's method (see his comment below... but ignore my response :D) to work once, and while it produced excellent results, I have yet to reproduce them a second time— I guess there's more to this than I thought... :)


Space Samurai said...

Man, I do that with oolongs like dong ding and ali shan all the time. After months of failing, I've come to believe that the problem is with my expectations.

MarshalN said...

Try stuffing your pot, literally. It should be 75% full of DRY leaves. Short infusions, but even then, it doesn't have to be very short. If it's a properly made Wuyi it should not come out bitter.

Try it and see if you like it. Throw out all your preconceptions of what's the "right" ratio of leaves to water. :)

MarshalN said...

Oh.... and the 75% is after you shake the pot with the leaves in it so it settles.... (and then adding more). If you just throw leaves in and not shake it to settle the leaves, then it's really only 1/3 or at best 1/2 full... not the same. :)

Brent said...


As much as I respect you, I think you're nuts. :) Perhaps I overestimated what 3/4 full looks like, but something went wrong. The first infusion was great, but even keeping the infusions as short as I could, it became harsh pretty quickly. I wonder if it's just not very well made... I'll keep trying with other Wuyis.

Thanks for the tips, however crazy they may sound. :)

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