05 September 2009

Releasing the Taste of Oolong Buds?

With regards to Taiwanese oolongs and water temperature, I agree with Shiuwen Tai at Floating Leaves Tea's position that a solid Taiwanese oolong, whether it be Four Seasons or Shanlinxi, can withstand boiling water.  That's not to say that boiling water is optimum for the best brew, only that it can be used without destroying the tea. 

I visited Daniel again at Arts de Chine this past weekend. We shared a 20+ year old Shui Xian (non re-roasted), several green puerhs and a 1996 Zhencong Tieguanyin.  It was the first time that I've had an aged & non re-roasted Wuyi cliff tea and the softness and fragrance were both evident.  It had a hint of aged tartness, but the high roasting that the tea had undergone so many years ago had given way to a soft and pleasant mouth feel without harshness or characteristic astringency. 

We got to talking about water temperature.  His position is that the optimum temperature depends upon the leaf configuration and type of tea being used.  High Mountain teas with the bud, he said, would benefit from lower heat.  The bud is too delicate for boiling water and although the overall taste may be more evident when boiling water is used, it might scald and prevent the release of the bud's flavor. 

While this might be true, I think that the flavor of high mountain tea is not dependant on the bud.  Puerh tea may also include tea buds, for example, but requires hotter water to release its flavor.  I promised to bring several high mountain teas with me to Arts de Chine next time I go for experimentation so that we can try to figure out if there are some tastes that we're missing.


  1. I've heard that the water temp just depends on the quality of the tea. The best tea can withstand hotter water. Of course it implies that Pu-erh is always a quality tea for wanting the hottest water. --Spirituality of Tea

  2. Agreed, I think that premium oolong can withstand boiling water. Daniel made a good point, though, in stating that just as water that's not hot enough may not release all of the flavors of a tea, water that is too hot might scorch the buds and prevent those tastes from coming out as well. Our thinking was more about optimum temperature versus maximum temperature. Definitely worth exploring.