Saturday, January 17, 2009

Oolong tea ware

I received this tea making set by the host over dinner.  This tea set is made up of 4 pieces of pure white porcelain; a bowl, spoon and a cup with lid.  the cup has no handles and has a small hole at the lid.  This set is used in oolong tea competitions in Taiwan and is primarily used by the teamaster while manufacturing oolong tea (more of this in later blogs).  

A spoonful of oolong tea leaves are placed in the bowl.  Fresh boiling hot water is then poured into the bowl and  you wait about a minute before the tea is tested.  Testing of the tea is done with a spoon.  You immerse and dip the spoon in the bowl.  Take the spoon out (no tea in the spoon) and while holding the spoon  upright in your hand, sniff the tip of the spoon for a couple of seconds....done.  Take the spoon away, and then repeat the procedure.  The scent (from sniffing the tip of the spoon) is one the most important quality of the oolong tea.  The aroma, or fragrance of the tea is the highlight of the high mountain oolong tea.  The fragrant scent will seen to be enhanced when you sniff the spoon a few more times.  Try to remember the scent as the various oolong tea from other parts of the world have their unique signature scents.  I am not promoting that you scent the tea with a spoon everytime you make tea, but doing it on a couple of occasions do make the tea making experience a unique art of tea appreciation.

Well you drink the tea by pouring the tea into the cup, and make more infusions by pouring boiling hot water in the bowl.   Before making another infusion, you can also examine the tea leaves.  Good quality high mountain tea is characterized not only by the scent but the examination of the leaves.  The tea leaf should be whole, not broken and be of a optimum size.  The color of the tea leaves  should be of a freshly green colour if it was just harvested yesterday.   You can also sniff the the leaves while holding the bowl, and give a further tap to the bowl with one hand so as to enhance the scent.  

The taste of the oolong tea is the highlight of the entire experience.  The taste of the tea as well as the aftertaste after drinking the tea should be a pleasant one for the tea drinker.  There are many write ups on the taste and is impossible to quantify in words.  The tea drinking experience is complete when you finish the last drop of tea and scenting the empty teacup for one more time before putting down the cup.   For me, its a happy and "at peace" sensation   when I taste a good cup of tea.  

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