28 August 2011

China Cha Dao Shui Xian Grade AA+

China Cha Dao Yan Cha - Shui Xian - leaf

Jerry of China Cha Dao offered a free Wuyi oolong sample pack on Steepster recently, and always on the lookout for good yancha, I joined in.

I decided to start with the most generic and widely available varietal of this tea, Shui Xian. Shui Xian is highly variable in quality and characteristics, a trait it shares with its more illustrious brother Da Hong Pao. A suspicion bites at me whenever I see Shui Xian and Da Hong Pao that a particular store takes its least interesting yancha of any varietal and renames it Shui Xian, and takes its best tasting and thickest yancha of any varietal and names it Da Hong Pao. But I digress.

Jerry's Shui Xian carries the grade "AA+" which I interpret to mean "not just your average Shui Xian". I brewed it "gongfu style" using the entire 11g sample in my 100ml-but-functionally-90ml gaiwan and did very quick infusions to start.

The leaves above are long but not uniformly colored, meaning the tea is likely a blend of two roasts or oxidations--or more. I let them rest after their long journey from China, and they became more fragrant as they came to adore the dry, mild California climate, like any good tourist.

China Cha Dao Yan Cha - Shui Xian - brewed

The brew has mild fruit flavor and a punchy sourness in the first brew. The sourness becomes less prominent from the second infusion onward, which offers cinnamon notes and has a longer aftertaste. Throughout most infusions, the tea tastes a bit bitter on the front tongue. Third infusion tastes more balanced--less roast, more florals, with an even longer aftertaste that is really pleasant.

The Shui Xian offers a smooth mouthfeel and a slightly cooling sensation after I swallow. There is a sweet smell under the lid of my gaiwan; in fact, the aroma is more interesting under my gaiwan than the taste of the tea. This average complexity puzzles me, because clearly something (grain? candy? malt?) wants to be in the cup, and perhaps my brewing is to blame.

It lasted a good 10 infusions.

One nice feature about roasted oolongs is that they improve with 6 months or more of resting after the roast, and if this tea is from this year, that means its roasty aromas and flavors of this 2011 tea may calm into something even nicer by the middle of fall, which is perfect weather for roasted teas.

$51/500g is a good price for a Shui Xian I would call an A+ tea. I think AA+ sounds over-the-top, but I suppose not knowing how these are rated means I should respect their hyperbole in classification.


Unknown said...

Sounds like a good tea to try. In regards to the rating system, I've seen certain Chinese vendors use a system that absolutely baffles me, and I have seen no good explanation given as to what it actually means. I am talking about those times you see vendors say this tea is rated AAAAA+++. I guess I have never understood the multiple A system, (except for credit scores).

I almost feel that if a vendor wants to justify a more expensive tea is worth it, rather than putting it into writing, they just place on more A's or +'s.

Bearsbearsbears said...

I doubt there's an official rating system for what each A means, though I suspect it is not random, either. Too bad the vendor doesn't put in writing; they're missing a good opportunity to "sell" the tea on its merits.