Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tea tasting with Wu's, Zhang's CZ pots and gaiwan

This is a long over due post, as most of you read my blog knows what had happened and how my time was spent for the last few days.

Anyways, back to business as usual, and blog as usual.

A couple of weeks ago, 3 tea drinkers and myself conducted a tasting test with 3 different vessels (left to right):
Wu's Chao Zhou Sandy Red Clay pot
Zhang's Chao Zhou Red Clay pot
White porcelain gaiwan
Tea we used was a commercial special grade of Da Wu Ye - Big Dark Leaf. DWY is one of my favorite tea with a ginger flower aroma when it's made well. The commercial grade is not as great in fragrance, flavor and texture compared to the old bush teas. When comparing to the same class/grade of tea, it's on top of my list.

I brewed with 2-3 grams of leaves in each vessel, used the same water, same timing.

Gaiwan being the first one: aromatic, sharp flavor with some dry throat feeling
Zhang's Chao Zhou Red Clay pot: very smooth-almost buttery, rounded, aroma subsided a bit
Wu's Chao Zhou Sandy Red Clay pot: aromatic, richer, smoother but not buttery, sweeter, thicker texture.

The initial brew was an open answer tasting. The second brew was closed "book" tasting. I switched the pots order to Gaiwan, Wu's then Zhangs. 2 people liked the Gaiwan, and 1 preferred the Wu's. Both people preferred the gaiwan like it because the flavor is richer, in my opinion, it's more flavorful with everything presented in the cup, the good and the flaws, but not necessary a better cup. The flavors (both good and not so good substance) are more detectable in a gaiwan.

The Zhang's muted the tea a little too much, buttery to the point it feels soapy slick, the aroma was missing quite a bit. A Yixing is even more so compare to the Zhang's conducted previous with green tea. I think this is why it makes great green pu-erh, young in particular, since most pu-erh are not as fragrant as DCs, some with sharp dryness.

The Wu's is the winner in my opinion. It has the aroma as much as a gaiwan, the texture is refined with rich full texture, sweeter.

I have been using a couple of Wu's pot to re-taste many of the dc teas, single bushes mostly. I found that it made roasting/toasty flavor disappear.

The 07 Po Tou - ginger flower was reroasted and I can taste the roasty flavor in a gaiwan and was not as desirable as I first had it in 2007. When I made it in the Wu's, the aroma came back although not as fresh as flowers after rain (that's how it felt in 2007), it turned into a matured sweet floral aroma, the after taste was amazingly sweet and clean. 2 tea tasters were quite impressed by the sweet after taste. It was actually more sweet and lingering than I had it in 2007. I am glad the Wu's brought Po Tou back to my favorite, at one point, I thought of writing it off my favorite list.

Chao Zhou pots are well known, or much more well known than Yixing in Southern China-Guang Dong and Fu Jian oolong drinking regions and many South east Asia countries. It's better suited for most oolongs. But you'd wonder why areas outside of those mentioned use Yixing mostly or unheard of CZ pots? It's because they are not made in large quantity, also not artistically made as the Yixings.

This is the reason why the more I know about Chao Zhou culture, tea culture and people culture all together (people culture reflects in tea culture), the more I love the region. It's rich, unassuming, not flashy, but full of substance in literature, culture, rites, food, tea, teawares. All of which are great without the fancy packages, most of which are designed for practicality for best use. The people are not as fashionable as Shanghai or Guang Zhou. Phoenix mountain is not as famous as most well known Chinese mountains such as Tai Shan, Huang Shan, etc. Dan Cong teas are not as well known as Long Jing or Tie Guan Yin. Tea pots are not as well known as Yixings. But over all tea culture known as Chao Zhou Gong Fu Cha is world renown although the components are not, which is quite weird. Chao Zhou tea culture is the richest, deepest and most fancy in technique and equipments, but at the same time, not that many people know of the actually details. Seems like a controversy in itself eh?

6 comments:

Herb Master said...

Mmmmmmn!

You have to stop waxing so lyrical - now I have to save up so that I can take advantage of your suggestion on a recent entry that we join you in Fenghuang to taste Single Bush tea on the farm!

And at the same time gain an insight into the further delights of Chao Zhou culture.

Maitre_Tea said...

Hi,
+1 with what Herb Master said...I'm quite intrigued with these pots also, and I must resist for now...

I'm curious if the conclusions you've drawn are typical of most/all Zhang or Wu pots. For example, are all Zhang pots going to be really thin and have that "make-up" clay on the outside? Are there Zhang pots out there which are "better" than Wu pots?

Imen said...

Herb Master,

It's a hidden old world if you can over look the modern economic development. :)


Maitre Tea,

My conclusion is base on what I have. It'd be fair to say there must be good pots made by the Zhang's, else they won't be one of the 2 best pot making families.

I doubt all Zhang's are as you described, as they are more recent modifications with various new techniques in pot making including clay formula. I have 1 old pot from the Zhang's that makes very nice pu-erh.

Too much to experiment, too little time.. :)

LACheesemonger said...

Imen, I have to go review my notes on the 'Stump the Chump" tea tasting you did for us :D.

Both T & I liked the 2nd infusion in the gaiwan, but for reasons, I at least, thought it might have been from the Wu pot! And I actually thought the 2nd infusion in the Wu, was the gaiwan, because it seemed less rich 2nd time around. JM, liked the Wu best, but I think his palate is a better tuned, more accurate than either T's or mine.

Eh, I got all confused about everything, you really need to concentrate, if you are not just 'casually' drinking. I demand a rematch, "do over" ! :D

How do you keep track of all the teas, I could not remember them.

Just to point out again, the Wu pot had almost 2x thickness, correct?

Imen said...

LAcheesemonger,

How do I remember my tea is a questions I ask my friend Sarah how does she remember all her perfume collection, or how does a wino remember what harvest/vintage/wineyard of their wine collection. It's a daunting task to accomplish if I had to remember the later two.

As for tea, they kinda sort themselves out and place themselves on my brain rack accordingly over time. Not so sure how does that happen myself.

The Wu's pot is the thicker wall type.

Jason Witt said...

The region of Dan Cong tea with its culture isn't fashionable but it also isn't vulgar or common. That's why it's considered fine or even elite by many, including those outside of China. It's certainly a remarkable tea. --Teaternity