I looked back through some of the recent questions that people asked, and thought they were worth sharing. Feel free to share your experiences as well.
I’m wondering if – for example – a li shan oolong that sells for about $68 for two ounces is noticeably better than a li shan that sells for $25 for the same quantity? Is there a point of diminishing returns?
Jason: You’re right to question whether price alone is an adequate indicator of a tea’s quality. Having said that, I have tasted significantly higher priced teas that were beyond compare with lower priced teas. In the end, it comes down to: 1) the trustworthiness of the purveyor in delivering value for price, and 2) your ability to perceive the differences in quality. Whenever possible, get smaller samples to determine if YOU think the tea is worth the price.
Several of my oolong-drinking friends from Taiwan tell me that I must do a preliminary steeping of a few seconds – and then discard that water – before actually brewing the tea. Yet in your video reviews where you use a guywan, you just pour the hot water in and wait. Is the answer that it doesn’t really matter?
Jason: I often hear that a rinse is needed to “wash” any dirt or particles from the tea before drinking. I did (and occasionally still do) rinse some teas. I rinse some pu’ers. In many cases, a decent quality wulong does not need a rinse, and I would be reluctant to toss out the rinse of a more expensive tea.
When you say there’s a buttery odor in the lid, buttery-popcorn, are you inplying the corn-buttery smell of popcorn, or a purer US butter, or a Normandy (French) grasssy butter smell?
Jason: Hard to say, as I’m not sure which tea you are referring to. Of the three options, I find jin xuan wulongs evoke more of a salty US butter over popcorn. That, and some of the artificial butter seasoning used on popcorn.
I’ve been attempting to learn the gongfu style of preparing oolong, but find that short infusions don’t give me enough flavor. However, I also find that steeping for too long results in a very bitter and/or astringent flavor. I’m looking for a sweet spot, but having trouble finding it.
Jason: First, you’ll likely be using a lot more leaf when going gongfu style. A LOT more. With a gaiwan, I’ve seen masters who have to use the gaiwan lid to push down the unfurled leaves during later steepings. As usual, the first steep will be weaker, 2nd and 3rd will be optimal. If these still don’t solve the problem, you may need to upgrade to a better tea. It is generally more difficult to mis-steep a higher quality leaf.
Just like above I’m having a really hard time nailing down the correct way to brew a good cup of sencha. I’ve tried a gaiwan, and a kyusu, messed around with water temps and steep times, etc. I just can’t seem to get this tea the way that I like.Jason: If you already experimented with lower water temps with no success, try cold brewing the sencha (about 1-2 teaspoons per 6-8oz cold water in the fridge overnight). If it still isn’t close to what you like, try a different sencha.
Questions and responses were edited for brevity.
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Walker Tea Review- a tea blog with tea reviews and tea tastings. Operated by Jason Walker.