Mar 14, 2011

Between Green and Black (3) - Southern Fujian Shui Xian

Between Green and Black (2) - Fo Shou is here.

A few times I bumped into questions like "what's your favorite tea?" or "what's your favorite oolong?" There is no way I could answer the questions. I have no clue. Too many choices. My mind would blank out. But if asked "what's your favorite tea cultivar?", I would immediately have "Shui Xian" in my mind, although I am not 100% sure of the answer either. I love Shui Xian very much, because it has various styles, and so far I like every one of them that I've tried.

I've never had very green version of Shui Xian, and don't know if Shui Xian is even suitable for light oxidation, since not all cultivars perform well with very light oxidation. I like the intermediately oxidized Zhang Ping Shui Xian very much. Recently, I was very lucky to have got some charcoal roasted Zhang Ping Shui Xian, privately roasted by a very young Senior Tea Taster in Xiamen.

This mini cake is slightly heavier than the unroasted version, but looks more compact. It's about 9.5-10g. I put one whole cake into a 150ml teapot. But later I thought probably I should have broken it in halves. It's too much tea to take in one time, by myself.

The taste is somewhat similar to that of roasted Tie Guan Yin. But this Shui Xian cake is only medium grade. Top grade roasted Tie Guan Yin can have roasted aroma as well as prominent floral or peachy flavor. I have yet to experience more Shui Xian cake to see if Shui Xian can catch up with Tie Guan Yin in that aspect.

What's in common between the roasted and unroasted Shui Xian cakes is, they both cause prominent honey sweet aftertaste. The roasted version has some dark fruity flavor, but not as fruity or aromatic as the unroasted version. The roasted version has great throat feeling and smooth liquor texture.

First infusion:

Third infusion:

I forgot to take photos afterward. 

All of these cakes came in small sealed bags. I guess, ideally I should take them out of the little bags and put them in a ceramic jar. But the little bags are convenient and safe. So probably I will only break some of them. If they can develop some peachy fruity aroma after several months, like what happens to some roasted Tie Guan Yin, it will be fantastic. But currently I can't predict how they will develop.

Another Southern Fujian Shui Xian I currently have is from last spring. It's in the regular pearl shape, roasted.

It's a very pleasant tea, but not yet a top grade tea. I guess, if higher grade leaves were used, and processed in exactly the same way, the tea could have been even better. Currently in tea market of China, Southern Fujian Shui Xian isn't commonly seen, and there aren't a broad range of products to select from.

A few years ago, I could easily get grocery level Southern Fujian Shui Xian sold by Hong Kong companies (some of those grocery products are not bad at all, but not made of high quality leaf materials). But within the market of mainland China, it was barely seen. In an article, a writer and tea book author once wrote about the abandoned Shui Xian plantations in Southern Fujian. In 1990s, when the state-owned tea companies started to withdraw from business, and with various opportunities of economic development, many tea farmers abandoned their Shui Xian plantations, or chopped down all the tea trees and changed the plantations into orchards - similar story to what happened to Southern Fujian Fo Shou, and somewhat similar story to what's happening to some Yunnan farmers who would switch their tea plantations to coffee fields, as covered by a recent article of Corax at Cha Dao.

What makes me feel very optimistic about Southern Fujian Shui Xian is, in just past few years, I could clearly see it was definitely coming back to the market, more and more. When there is a market for high quality tea, and when tea farmers can make good profits, we will all have better chances to get high quality tea for a reasonable price.

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