Saturday, June 5, 2010

Back to Tung Ting: Spring Harvest

May was an interesting month for us.
Much of our work took us out of the tearoom and into large, beige conference rooms. We did a tea presentation and tasting every week for corporate sponsored Asian heritage events; I spoke from podiums and lost my voice a couple times. It was a huge relief when I showed up at our tearoom and there was nothing to pack, no lectures to hurriedly edit. I almost cried with happiness as I joined Michael and Winnie at the tea table, something we hadn't done together in several weeks. Winnie sat in the host's chair while Michael was leaning his elbows on the table.
Master Lin's spring harvest TungTing had finally arrived and this would be my first chance to sample it. This was also the first of our spring harvests to come in. Early April frosts in Asia had pushed back the delivery dates on many of our teas so our eagerness was ratcheted up this season. The afternoon light pouring through the windows was golden and hazy. It cast a glow over Winnie and the tea table. The blue and white porcelain took on muted shades and softer edges. I couldn't help but anticipate something special.
The tightly rolled leaves look very similar to the previous winter harvest TungTing.
They look like sleeping baby tortoises. They turn a rich, glossy green once they get wet with thick, woody stems.

The leaves didn't start to unfurl until the third infusion.

Winnie was brewing and she has a lighter touch than Michael. She used about 4 grams in our medium sized gaiwan.

After she rinsed the leaves and reserved the liquid in a separate pitcher, we could smell delicate orchids and a faint, pear aroma coming of the heated leaves. The first brew had just a hint of color. I was almost afraid Winnie had brewed it too light but one sip banished my worries. There was a surprising amount of sweetness and a creamy yet refreshing texture.
By the third brew, the color was a rich, buttery hue with a touch of green. A slender body with a lovely dry note brought the fruit and flowers to a sophisticated level. Although, light roasted oolongs like this don't carry the same depth of flavor that heavier roasts offer, Master Lin's masterful roasting techniques and the care he puts into his gardens are evident in the abundant layers we found in his tea.

Winnie demonstrates traditional tea etiquette: Her hand covers her mouth as she sips tea from her cup.

After the fifth cup, our mouths were practically exhaling a bouquet of sweet TungTing flowers, Winnie shared the reserved liquid from the rinse. It was a soft, shadow of the first cup. Elusive tropical notes washed over our taste buds.

There were still a few more steeps left in the leaves but the brewing time was getting longer. To keep the water hot enough while the leaves steeped, Winnie transferred the tea leaves from the gaiwan into a heated, Yixing teapot she designated for light roasted Tung Ting oolong. She left a couple leaves out for us to inspect. I played with one, pulling and testing the resilience and thickness. The surface of the leaf was silky soft. When I was done, I let it drop into my empty cup not realizing Winnie had one more steep to serve...


Brandon said...

Brew some strong and then rinse your mouth with water - this will reveal the elusive Granny Face Powder on your soft pallet!

yumcha said...

Hey Brandon,
That's so true and we all love that granny face powder :)
See you soon!