2009 high-fired roasted Nan Tou Fo Shou from Hou De

With the realization that a bit more balance was necessary in the cup, my attentions of recent have turned back to an old love of mine. As such, arriving packages have been a touch puerh deficient, oolong heavy. New additions to the table have come from Hou De, Postcard Teas, and Tea Habitat. A Tea Masters blog selection order is currently winding its way to a rather anxious me.

I had thought of returning to the ‘fold’ several times over the past couple of years. Yet I felt as if I had betrayed old friends after falling so deeply into the puerh wormhole that they would refuse me upon return. And why shouldn’t they? I had all but stopped paying them any attention, even browsing vendor selections had come to a screeching halt.

My fear seemed realized when my first handful of sessions yielded nightmarish steeping results. Too much leaf, too little leaf, etc. it seemed as if my memory had attempted to draw from ancient unknown history.

It was the most anticipated, a 2009 Nan Tou Fo Shou from Hou De, where I really missed the steeping mark. So much so that I decided it was best to put it aside for a while to focus my attentions on newer, less temperamental acquisitions that required only slight adjustments.

This past Monday as the rain and wind increased through the morning hours, and we waited for hurricane Sandy to fully arrive and pass here in the North East, the Fo Shou found itself once again in the pot. What was once read as a dimensionless cup of bitter roasted charcoal, however, had now become pleasingly complex and well-balanced. It seemed the ways of old love are never completely forgotten.

Scents of biscuit, dried dark fruits, and smoked wood rose from the pot. Once poured, its broth was notably thick and clean in the cup. The body of the liquor in the mouth was full, complex, penetrating. It sat notes of caramelized walnuts and malt in the mid of the cavity. A roasted backdrop of baked currants, and ripe-berry-leaning coffee essences hung from the back of the soft palate into the top of the throat. Cooling sensations developed quickly at the front of the mouth and the lips, and blossomed into the sinus cavity.

It exhibited an engaging mid level acidity, which contributed to the full profile. The warmth of its roasted aromatics moved deep into the throat and intensified with inhalations, on exhalations it suggested a cooling like warm skin coming into contact with cool air. The strength of its roast also clung to the hard palate and front teeth at various stages during the session.

A malty sweetness settled into the curvature of the soft palate as the roasted foundation began to dissipate by later steeps. At this point the liquor began to take on faint cinnamon and root-like medicinal tones as the session winded down.

The cha qi of this Fo Shou set gradually, yet deeply, into the body. I found it quite easy to drift. I felt calm, euphoric, near to feverish as I finished this successful exchange.

Its essence lingered in the mouth and throat for considerable time after the final cup –easily in excess of an hour– though I didn’t take note to when it had fully dissipated. The body returned to normalcy in a shorter period of less than an hour. At a mere $17.50 for 2oz. this tea provides in excess of its price. I couldn’t recommend it more to those with a taste for elegant roasting in their oolong.

High Mountain Song Zhong from Tea Urchin

Following a successive string of rather uninspiring tea’s last weekend, I took a few days off from serious drinking in hopes of clearing the mind and the palate.

Today, I decided to change gears a bit and took a second run at a High Mountain Song Zhong sample Eugene and Belle of Tea Urchin kindly gifted me with a recent cake order. I had certainly enjoyed this tea on my first exchange. Today, however, it was something altogether quite special.

I’ve not written about oolong tea previously on this site. And I had really only taken the occasional note here and there over the course of the years I actively romanced them before falling head over heels for puerh. So bear with me a bit here… though it was like rekindling an old love affair, the words weren’t coming easily.

The nose of the dry leaf was heady with melon and stone fruits, rounded out with a dark honey sweetness and traces of never-to-be-named flowers. Aromatic oils visibly streaked the first steep of liquor like clusters of veins.

As the first sip entered the mouth, it blanketed the mouth. Its’ essences quickly reached deep into the throat, and flooded the lungs within the first two cups. Honestly, and not to sound corny, it was exhilirating.

Yielded broths moved with deftness in the mouth as the exchange progressed, alternating between high and glossy, to low and dense, often within a single cup. Its complexity intensified with grace, developing an intriguing pine like note –what my head suggested at any rate– at the meeting point of the palates. This note gradually filled and perforated the soft palate, reaching gently into the sinus cavity.

A full sweetness lingered on the tongue and pushed through the teeth.

I pushed these leaves easily in excess of 15 steeps. They never once hinted at any bitterness. Around the 18 mark even though they produced what was greatly honey sweetened water, shadows of their former selves lingered in the background. Essences still blossomed in the mouth, which now felt purified.

It was nice to find contentedness with a tea once again following a long week of disappointment. I have Eugene and Belle to thank.