01 July 2008

Amateur Roasting...

I roasted a mediocre Zhejiang tie guan yin or TGY analog in my new yixing gourd roaster. Before the roast, the tea was unpalatable: slightly sour and metallic. It had a long finish and a thickness to it, positive traits that I wanted to highlight with a more savory flavor. I roasted the tea in a yixing pot on low heat for about 20 minutes, then let it quench for a few days, then roasted it again over a flame in a gourd roaster, pictured below.

Yixing Roaster

Yesterday I drank the roasted version. Today, I drank the unroasted version after a five minute "refresh" roast. My notes for each are below.

The Twice-Roasted

Tie Guan Yin Roasting Experiment - heavier roast - leaf Tie Guan Yin Roasting Experiment - heavier roast - liquor Tie Guan Yin Roasting Experiment - heavier roast - spent leaf

Dry leaf in the heated gaiwan smells burnt, but once wet, the leaf smells like roasted oolong, as well it should, sweet and toasty. The first infusion was remarkably fruity, like raisins, and finished toasty. The second infusion, displaying mostly roasted sweetness, had an oily texture and faded to a little citrus note on side of tongue. The raisin flavor disappeared in the infusions that followed, and the citrus did, too. I expected the tea to taste less roasted with time, but it remained consistently toasty, getting a little bitter, the finish lengthening. Well balanced at the 5th infusion, the flavor faded to sweet wateriness, and at the last infusion it hit me that the tea had a neutral mouthfeel--it didn't seem to have an affect at all. Or, I just didn't pay attention.

The Refresh Roasted

Tie Guan Yin Roasting Experiment - freshening roast - leaf Tie Guan Yin Roasting Experiment - freshening roast - liquor Tie Guan Yin Roasting Experiment - freshening roast - spent leaf

Dry leaf in hot gaiwan smells a little sweet. Wet leaf in gaiwan smells vegetal and a bit fruity. The first infusion is meek, sweet, and finishes buttery. This buttery finish I've come to associate with mainland fist oolong. The toasted-ness of the refresh roast is in the aroma and just a bit in the center of the tongue. It does hit sour if overbrewed, but with shorter steep times, under 15 seconds, the sourness doesn't appear. It also gets bitter in the middle brews, like the more heavily roasted tea. It's sharper, like the unroasted tea, and tastes less roasted over time.


The roasted and reroasted oolong shared many traits, from the obvious (roasted aroma and flavor) to the more subtle (fruitiness, tongue-centered bitterness, grain sweetness at finish). My guess is the quicker, higher temperature roast I did to both teas takes the lion's share of the responsibility for changing their flavors, while the longer roast seemed to prevent the roasted tea from tasting unroasted or less roasted in later infusions. Only more roasting experimentation will tell for sure.

Both teas tasted better than the staled tea, of course.

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