First Taste: 2009 Old Bush Shui Xian

The 2009 edition of our popular Old Bush Shui Xian is a something of a departure from previous Shui Xian we've offered: in the classic local tradition of Wu Yi Shan an aggressive firing technique was used, with high oxidation. It features very dark leaves and is slightly glossy from the essential oils and sap that the leaves release during processing. The firing yields a chocolaty roasted aroma when the leaves are first moistened. The liquor is rich reddish brown.

The high firing and oxidation produce a powerful initial charcoal impression with a hint of sweet spice; it's a tea that profits from a good rinse prior to brewing to help balance the flavors. However, as you drink it, and more so as you re-infuse the leaves a few times, a tantalizing sweetness and obscure florals emerge and the taste gains substance and complexity. It develops into a robust, satisfying brew with substantial depth and, improbably, a delicate, underlying woodsy nectar flavor. The texture is chewy and full-bodied, and there's a clean, sweet aftertaste.

My experience with this tea is that it evolves and improves over multiple steepings as the flavors come into balance. Initially I almost wrote it off as too high-fired, but by the end it was so delicious I didn't want to stop drinking it. The tea's weighty complexity also made me long to brew it in my yi xing teapot. Now available in our online store; coming to the teahouses by the end of the week.

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