Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Oriental Beauty (Bai Hao)

Bragger's Tea, Dong Fang Mei Ren, Bai Hao---Oriental Beauty. This is a tea with a rich, and entertaining, back story that I will not be talking about in this blog. The wise bloggers, Teamasters and Marshaln, have posted about Oriental Beauty with in depth writings far better than I could peck out on this blog. I will include links at the bottom of the page for those who are interested.

Oriental Beauty oolong cake.
With that out of the way, lets talk about the star of the blog today: Mountain Tea's(again, I know...) Oriental Beauty Oolong Cake! I was drawn to this tea due to Mountain Tea's unique way of offering the cha. It's pressed into a 'cake' form which is usually, from what I've seen, a popular form to offer Puerh cha due to the ease of storage and aging. That brings up the question, is this oolong made for aging?

Not wanting to wait a few decades, I decided to dive right into this cake with an open pallet. As you can see in the picture to the left, the pressed tea presents itself with beautiful earthy colors. Although the tea has darker leaves this is due to the high oxidation (60%), not the roast(0%). Due to how this tea is made, having bugs nibble on the tea leaves, there aren't any chemicals used in the growing process making it an organic offering. The tea is pressed into 3.8oz cakes and comes wrapped in paper just like puerh beengs. Mountain Tea is charging $22/cake making this tea ~$5.79 an ounce. Not the cheapest but certainly not the most expensive cha I've seen.

Cake packaging with yixing and cup 
I tried this tea in a few different brewing vessels to see which emphasized the notes of the tea. When brewed in a yixing pot, the oriental beauty was slightly muted giving the liquor a flat balanced taste. I preferred my porcelain houhin's brew over the yixing due to porcelain's ability to give more of the high notes and allow each note to "pop" a little more.

First infusion.
Third infusion

On to the tasting notes! As I do with all my tea, I weighed out 5g of dry leaf and added it to my houhin. Using off boiling water I started the infusions. After a quick rinse, the first infusion gives a light honey colored liquid that is inviting to drink. The flavor is in its infancy, possibly hinting at a nectary fruit to develop in later infusions. The flavor Bai Hao cha gives is hard for my mind to describe. Its reminiscent of puerh without the old leather boot and tobacco notes but is nothing like raw puerh. Its very hard to pin point... The second infusion's liquor was very different from the first. It's starting to lend itself towards a roasted tea, yet the roast is 0%. Can high oxidation give such a rich liquor? Must be.  The flavor opens up in this infusion; as most teas tend to do. I'm getting a strong apricot/rock fruit transforming into a nectar-like honey with a touch of spice. It's a little overwhelming to be honest. My tea to water ratio is fine but its teetering on being over brewed. I use a timer so I know this tea was brewed correctly... I'm starting to think that these leaves are in for a long session. The third infusion is similar to the second but is easing up slightly on intensity. I'm not tasting any new flavors, but the flavors are starting to swirl together a little more making it an exciting cup. The next infusion is exactly where I want my tea to be with flavor. The liquor is orange-yellow and the flavor is that of apricot on the sip and a semi sweet honey flavor with a dash of spice that lingers . From the 1st to the 4th infusion the flavor mellowed out dramatically into a very pleasing cup of tea.

Over the next hour or so I kept infusing the leaves with off boiling water, raising the steeping times when appropriate, to get a liquor as pleasing as the last. I lost count after 10 steeps with this tea but I would guesstimate that I had at least 12-15 infusions! These leaves have a wonder Qi and treated me nice as I sat immersed in a film. This tea would be a nice addition to anyone's tea collection or current drinking rotation. If you can get past the bull headed first few infusions, when brewing gong fu, you will be greatly rewarded with a long lasting fruity, nectary, shyly sweet tea that will aid in relaxing the body and mind.

More information about Oriental Beauty tea: