A Special tea from a special trip
Spring of 2012 was my journey to China. We tasted many teas, of course but there were a few standouts that we talk about and drink over and over again.
When you have such a positive experience with a great tea or even a great experience with a mediocre tea, your brain can transport you back to that moment with each sip every time you drink it.
The light fragrance of lilac, the sweet hint of warm butter. Laojizi Gao Shan Bao Zhong is a special tea. Just the aroma can take me back to my friend’s shop in Shanghai.
Bao Zhong is usually grown in Pinglin, Taiwan, often grown at higher elevations on Wen Shan. This Bao Zhong, however, is grown on Ali Shan and can carry the “gao shan” label being grown above 1100m!
The altitude creates a shaded environment in the mist for the leaves to lock in flavors and create that smooth, sweet and buttery flavor that Gao Shan teas are known for. Even the spring harvest is well-rounded while still retaining a bright and fresh flavor. I have not had the pleasure of tasting the winter harvest but I can only imagine the tea becoming more incredible.
The dry leaves are twisted with vibrant splashes of almost neon green while most of the leaf is a deep evergreen. If I saw a picture of the leaves without being able to spell them I would suspect it to be some mao cha. The aroma is powerful enough to fill a small radius surrounding the brewing vessel during the first infusion.
During our initial tasting in Shanghai, Jane, our host brewed 8 times in a gaiwan then brought out a special ladle. With a bamboo handle and a beautifully glazed scoop, the leaves were transferred to a big bowl where she made a “soup” by using much more water and letting it brew for a longer time (about 5 minutes)
The long infusion is subtle, but the flavor is still there. the water to leaf ratio creates a different mouth feel. The early, gongfu infusions were thicker and richer but as the tea mellows, you can have a new experience with the ladle.
The infused leaves a a reddish brown edge showing the slightest bit of oxidation. The leaves, being grown at a high elevation have thick, hearty leaves that are not easy to tear. Almost every leaf set is perfect, just a few stray leaves but no broken pieces.
Bao Zhong is a tea that is among the most common oolongs (even some non-teashops will sell this one) and therefore gets overlooked by many. Don’t let a tea like this pass you by. The Bao Zhong I’ve had are reliably good and yield many infusions for a nice long tea session. This one in particular is the kind of tea to share with special friends and family.