Jan 20, 2011

Zhang Ping Shui Xian mini cake (漳平水仙茶饼)

I've been longing for this tea for a few years, but missed it again and again. Finally, got this 2010 autumn tea.

It's wrapped in paper, the traditional way, as it has been since it was invented in 1930s.

Each small tea cake is about 2"x2" and weighs 8g. It leaves the drinker less flexibility and urges one to use 8g in each tea session. This also makes drinking this tea a little expensive, since almost all Zhang Ping Shui Xian products are a little expensive, due to its complicated processing procedure. However, the tea doesn't cause any market hype and therefore is never on the most expensive end of oolong either. The producer said, if you wish, you could break it in half and brew half a cake each time. But I didn't feel like to break such a nice little cake. I used a 150ml small porcelain teapot to brew the whole cake, which turned out a good leaf/volume ratio.

When I first looked at the dry tea leaves, my impressions were 1) it looks quite green; 2) the tea leaves seem a little broken.

After the first infusion (that's after the tea was rinsed and I drank the rinsing water), I could see the tea is in a traditional light roast style, with medium level of oxidation. When the mini cake dissembled in water, the leaves started to look very silky. Many people would prefer to use a gaiwan for this tea. I was just on teapot mood. But anyway, using a porcelain vessel is a good idea. After the first infusion, the aroma under the lid is amazing.

The tea liquor has a well balanced flavor with combination of floral, honey and bright fruity aromas. It's more floral than most traditional light roast style oolong I recently had, but it's not too vegetal.

After about seven infusions, the leaves expanded more and filled the entire teapot.

Afterward, I had a few more infusions. Then I pulled the spent leaves out of the teapot. It surprised me how silky and succulent the leaves felt between my fingers. Some leaves were crushed when the mini cake was made, but there were also many whole leaves.

Traditionally, leaves of southern Fujian oolong were described as "green with red edges". Nowadays, many oolong product with modern processing don't look like this. But Zhang Ping Shui Xian always has green leaves with red edges.


Sir William of the Leaf said...

Not a concept tea...? Never seen an oolong tea cake like that before!

Brett said...

I've also had the pleasure of tasting this product and I believe it was the same factory as your specimen (mine was a 2008 sample generously sent to me from active Xiamen-based tea exporter and blogger Daniel Hong). My experience with the tea was very positive. Its floral notes were unique and pleasing.

Xiexie for posting :)

Jackie said...

Your photos make me want to brew up a pot right now. Like Sir William, I also haven't had an Oolong cake tea like this one yet.

7 infusions, - that's a lot. Which infusion do you consider it's peak, so to speak?

Interesting that you drink the rinsing water. I always just pour it out. Do you drink it right away, as a "tea"?

Thanks for another interesting blog post.


Sir William of the Leaf said...

Also, is there a good place to purchase this tea? I would love to get my hands on some!

Gingko said...

Billy, I didn't put it as a concept tea because it's not new. But only in recent years it started to approach a broader market. I will have it listed in lifeinteacup.com very soon :D

Brett, yeah I love this tea very much too. It's a great example of medium oxidation yet keeping very prominent floral taste.

Jackie, I drink rinse water of oolong most of the time. I just drink it before the "official" first infusion. Always feel bad to dump tea water :-p I think the best infusions are 2-4, but it lasts quite well even above the 7th infusion.

MarshalN said...

This is the weirdest looking thing ever... the leaves look suspect quality.

By the way, do you have a physical store, or is it all online?

Gingko said...

MarshalN, we don't have a physical store and don't have it in vision. If we move to a metropolitan area in a few years (Toronto, possibly), I would like to open a Saturday-only store. But that's something to think about in the future. It's hard to give up New England to begin with :-p

MarshalN said...

Give up New England so you can go somewhere even colder? Granted, the food is better in Toronto.

I asked because I was wondering if we should have a tea gathering in the NE, and I thought if you had a store, that'll be a good place to hold it. Obviously, that thought is out of the window.

Gingko said...

I'm very interested in tea gathering! We don't need a store front to have the gathering right?

I love the food in Toronto. However, it can be dangerous having a lot of good food in long, dark, snowy winter!

MarshalN said...

Hah, true, the food part. Where are you exactly? I remember somewhere in MA, IIRC. We can invite others too -- the NYC folks get together often, so I think we should at least do something -- putting what I wrote about recently in practice

Gingko said...

I am right in the center of MA, by the crossing point between I-91 and I-90 high way. Very convenient location! :D

MarshalN said...

Oh, you're in Springfield?

Gingko said...

Easthampton. Can count as greater Springfield area.

MarshalN said...

I see, Springfield is just slightly far for me (I'm in Maine). I wonder where a good point of meeting is.

MarshalN said...

I just asked on my blog to see if there's any interest -- I guess we'll have to see how this develops.