Monday, January 15, 2018

Dong Ding finesse

Winter 2017 Top Hung Shui Oolong from Dong Ding 
It's difficult to brew tea perfectly. I confess that it doesn't happen as often as I'd like. It's a constant challenge and I'm the first to notice when I merely brewed a good rather than a great cup of tea. But that's also what makes tea so interesting. And that's what I try to show to people who come to have tea with me, that when we are brewing the same tea we get different results. If my cup is better, it's because I have been spent a lot of time to improve my brewing technique. I even wrote a  guide to share what I've learned!

When I notice in the blog that my cup is better, my point is not to show off but to make my readers realize that the brewing is essential. This is something that is difficult to experience when you brew alone, but it's something that I'm tasting at every tea class: a tea can go from flat, average to deep and excellent just through the proper way of pouring water inside the teapot!
But sometimes the problem lies somewhere else. Usually, for gongfucha, tea prepared in a small teapot, the more (roasted Oolong or puerh) leaves, the better, because the tea will taste more concentrated and intense. In that spirit, I brewed this top Hung Shui Oolong from Dong Ding with a fair amount of leaves last week. I found the result quite disappointing (too rough and to strong), even when brewing the leaves for a very short time with this same Duanni teapot.
 This time, I drastically reduced the amount of leaves for my brews. (See above). Instead of weighing the leaves, I use a very small antique qinghua plate to display the leaves I was about to brew. Usually, the rule is to roughly cover the bottom of the teapot with dry leaves. This time it was just half covered.
While pouring water in the teapot, this small qinghua plate can also be used to place the lid on it. This small plate must have had a different purpose when it was made some 100 years ago. Using it to display/measure the leaves and for the lid is what the Japanese would call a Mitate (見立て) whereby the tea master finds a new, tea related purpose in a Chaxi for an ordinary object.
With fewer leaves and slow brews, this Dong Ding Oolong was able to express all its finesse, sweetness combined with its underlying freshness. Now it's close to perfection, I thought! The roasting aromas and the tea aromas are in harmony and not overshadowing each other. And the tea feels alive, dancing on the palate, sweet in the throat and slowly melting away.
I also had a very beautiful Chaxi for my failed brews last week. But I was glad that this one is even nicer and that it includes the latest tea postcard that you helped me choose on Facebook as my newest gift for purchases on
On this postcard we can see Qilin lake and Oolong plantations that are part of the Dong Ding village where Dong Ding Oolong started!

Addendum: the open leaves after the brews. They are quite small and therefore well concentrated.

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