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The Taster’s difficult decision…

10 October 2012

at 1:03 by Manuel Legault-Roy

 The insect responsible for the fabulous taste of Bai Hao

The Taster’s difficult decision…

The work of an importer-taster, as you may well imagine, is not always simple. This year, for example, the renowned Taiwanese wulong, Bai Hao (AKA Oriental Beauty) was a little disappointing, failing to dazzle us with its spicy, floral and honeyed notes. In this case it was not the fault of the producers. It was more to do with the capricious weather conditions, way much precipitation to the Taiwanese growing region during the summer months. This destabilized the leaf chemistry, depriving the tea of its precious flavors and aromas.

The scarcity of quality crop raised the price of Bai Hao 2012 significantly. Hugo, our Taiwan tea taster/specialist, having scoured the region was faced with a harvest of less than average quality at a higher than normal price. He had to make the difficult decision of not buying a Bai Hao for the catalogue this year at the risk of disappointing many enthusiasts.

Hugo reflected that despite all the reputation of a great classic tea like this, it is not the legend of great years that makes a premium tea, but the know-how of the artisans and the alignment of a great many natural variables.

All is not lost, however, Hugo is now cupping the freshly picked Autumn Bai Hao….

Fingers crossed!!

The Fine Line between two styles

22 June 2012

at 1:19 by Manuel Legault-Roy

Tuyet San, Vietnamese green tea

It is usually easy to distinguish from the leaves, just by eye, which family a tea belongs to. ‘Buddy’ and downy white teas, green teas composed of small curly leaves or large twisted leaves reveal themselves in various chlorophyll shades, etc.

But what happens when this visual distinction becomes blurred and one finds oneself, for example, with a green tea consisting solely of fleecy white buds? It is a obvious question at the sight of Tuyet San, an unusual Vietnamese green tea which made its debut on our menu this spring.

This tea seems to be a well guarded secret among the Vietnamese. Absent from the tea market in Hanoi, Hugo was referred towards this curiosity by a method as old as it is efficient for finding genuine products among foreign connoisseurs: word-of-mouth. Some tea sellers mentioned a mysterious white tea produced near the village of Suoi Giang. Armed with this mere thread of information, and following up on the chance, Hugo came across this little gem.

Tuyet San is a unique tea in its style. Manufactured by a family of producers, Tuyet San is made from leaves of wild tea plants that are centuries old. Harvested and processed by hand, this delight takes the form of ashen buds with copper highlights that could be mistaken for leaves of white tea. Yet the transformation of it leaves no room for doubt: it is indeed a green tea. On its aromatic side, more surprises. The dry leaves release rustic aromas with a distant tartness of resinous sap. On the palate the slight bitterness is softened by a delicate touch of sweetness. Its aromas are slightly reminiscent of young Pu Er Maocha with floral and mineral notes while also leaving a pleasant artichoke taste.

A curiosity to discover, a gourmet journey not to be missed.

News from Hugo and Sabrina in Vietnam

2 May 2012

at 2:42 by Manuel Legault-Roy

Mrs Thoa, Nhai and Hiep

It has been 3 years since I last had the opportunity to see the courageous women of the Thai Nyugen cooperative. They are unique, hard working and very hospitable. The moment we arrived we had a surprise. The smell of wulong! Recently they began, under the watchful eye of Mr. Hsu, a Taiwanese, to learn the manufacture of wulong. We were surprised to learn that in the past 10 years, they had already planted several Taiwanese cultivars (Cingxin, si ji chun, jin shuan, etc). In addition to acquiring machinery to transform the tea, they also had to learn to transform the leaves.

Well, I would say the results were very encouraging. In addition to manufacturing a Taiwanese type wulong (Cingxin), low oxidation (20%) with floral accents,(we will have it on the menu shortly), they have explored the path of Bai Hao … (a great Taiwanese classic). The test sample that we tasted is also promising. On the other hand I have encouraged them to create THEIR Bai Hao type wulong with it’s own unique signature and not just an imitation of its Taiwanese relative. The taste a marriage between white tea with green and black wulong … very silky texture and an endless scent of honey …

Thanks for reading,
Hugo

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