So my White 2 Tea order arrived in the mail literally hours before I had to leave for a 2 week vacation, so I unpacked the box (going “eeeee!!” a lot) and then left it all behind. I’m back now! So I’ve decided to start my puer education with the Basics Set, since that appears to be the whole point of it. :)
I also got the “standard ruyao gaiwan” with this order, and I really love it already. It’s easy to handle and so much less finger-burny than the glass gaiwan, lol. I always have a hard time figuring out the working volume of a gaiwan because (fairly obviously, I suppose) it depends a lot on how full you fill it with water. This one in particular is fairly wide and flared at the top, so small changes in water level can result in surprisingly large volume changes. So I stood at the sink with my gaiwan and a tablespoon, adding water a tbsp at a time and watching the level rise. I’m going to go with about 6 tbsp (3oz) even though it could probably fit 8 or 9 before actually overflowing. So, following the instructions that came with the set, 6g of tea, 2 rinses with boiling water, then steeps of 10, 10, 15 sec (I’m not fast enough to pull off a 5 sec steep yet).
I wasn’t expecting this to be particularly enjoyable (the description uses words like strong, aggressive, bitter, astringent) but I actually quite like it. The aroma of the wet leaves in the gaiwan is very fresh and bright. The liquor is pale to golden yellow, and the flavour is fresh, grassy, very “zingy”. I guess that zingy quality is the bitterness and astringency, but it’s not unpleasant, it’s just waking up the inside of my mouth in a big way. The mouthfeel has a coating, drying quality. I get hints of peach in the aftertaste, surprisingly long after taking a sip.
I tried a couple of slightly longer, cooler steeps (20sec at 90deg, 30sec at 82deg), and I think that mellowed it out a little bit, but this is still a very bold, in-your-face sort of tea-drinking experience. 5 steeps in and I’m starting to feel a bit overwhelmed by the bitterness, which feels like it is accumulating. This is so interesting. I think I’ll take a break and come back to it.
I took a break for something to eat and came back to it. I did several steeps at 90deg, which seemed like a better temperature than boiling. Then I did a few steeps without reheating the water in between, so the water was progressively cooler: 88, 85, 80deg – this mellowed it out considerably, and I started getting a lot of mineral, almost metallic flavours coming out. Then I tried staying at 80deg and adding 30sec at a time to the steeps. At this point it was starting to get lighter and less flavourful. So I went back to boiling water and tried a few longer steeps (3, 4, 5min). I think I’m pretty much done now – it’s quite mellow with just a bit of crisp minerality, and I’m losing interest. That was quite the adventure though. :)
Flavors: Bitter, Grass, Peach