30 August 2011
China Cha Dao Qi Lan Grade A
"Qi Lan" means "Strange Orchid" and at grade "A" this yancha stands a good grade (and a half?) below the Shui Xian. A link to the tea is here.
The sample measured just over 10 grams, and I used all of it, tapping the gaiwan to use the "Brazil nut effect" to my advantage to sort the broken bits to the bottom of the gaiwan, where they would be the least agitated from pouring and decanting.
The dark dried-seaweed green of the leaves often indicates, in my somewhat limited experience with yancha, a higher oxidation combined with a middle-high to middling roast, my guess on appearances alone being the former. I enjoy higher oxidation Chinese oolongs and also often prefer a middle to middle-high roast, so despite the shorter and more broken leaves that have little aroma when dry, I am looking forward to this tea.
My expectations drop, however, when the leaves have little aroma even when wet, and very little aroma evaporates from the lid. The taste is tart and the texture thin. I want to disregard this first brew as a mere rinse, but I rinse my nose with a neti pot to rule out my sense of smell as the problem.
The second infusion was still tart, but offered a grainy flavor and some gan, a term best explained as "the return of sweetness to the back of the tongue and throat after swallowing something." The only Western food I can think of that has gan is coffee, particularly espresso, but an accustomed mouth can find it in foods like grapefruit and rapini. It's also obviously present in bitter liqueurs like Campari.
By the third infusion, the sourness has calmed down some, the texture has thickened some, and the aftertaste lengthens some. It is floral in the middle infusions (orchid!), tasting strongly floral of jasmine when cooler. The next infusion balances these tastes with the roast and finishes fruity, confirming my suspicions about the oxidation.
The remaining infusions, which brought the total infusions of this tea to only 7, were thin and mostly fruity, leaving me the impression that the tea was well oxidized but not well roasted, or too weak in leaf structure to stand up to the roasting process. The oxidation is visible in the purpling apparent on many of the wet leaves in the picure above.
I think this tea might improve some with resting, but I was unimpressed sufficiently to not want to find out.
The remaining teas from the sample pack are mostly all higher grades, so I am hoping they are more like the Shui Xian and less like this Qi Lan.