Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Long Brewed Aged Oolong

Last Friday I brewed up one of Ira's aged oolongs when it dawned on me that in another dimension- long lost friends were expecting me to materialize for lunch. What to do? For the first time in my tea drinking life, I decided to throw in everything- already brewed tea, leaves and more hot water into a thermos to take it all with me. I cringed a little mistreating this small batch farmer's roasted oolong but I didn't want to leave my tea behind- tag team with my husband was not possible as he already had a mug of coffee in hand.

While walking to the subway, I allowed myself a few sips expecting a lesser brew. I was pleasantly surprised the thermos oolong tasted more flavorful and softer in the mouth than a more carefully brewed sit-down session. This thermos brew left a pleasing caramel sweetness on my tongue. Did the vigorous swishing from my walk extract more nuance out of the leaf?

For every set of tea leaves, there exists an exact optimum process to bring out the best flavor. From water composition, brew temperature, brew time, water to tea ratio- tea has too many parameters you can mess up. I am a proud wrongfu master, sloshing, splashing and even completely forgetting about my brew from time to time. But the moment I had first sipped the delightful tea from the thermos, I had a hazy glimmer that I had miraculously brought out the best in this tea purely by accident.

So in deconstructing what could have gone right, I see infusing more water for a longer time of about 6 minutes was better for at least this aged oolong. However after the 30 minute train ride, I checked again on the brew- it had turned too bitter and the golden window was past. I was glad to have the oolong accompany me into the city.
My favorite food writer Harold McGee sheds some light here- he writes about water being a flavor enhancer and how dilution can bring out brighter and more sparkly flavors.   I'm not one to use a refractometer on my tea but I think a scale might be worth an investment to attain more readily a golden ratio.

I've been soldiering on these last days of winter in a sad state- I've been wholly negligent with all my obligations hiding under a fuzzy blanket. Most days I go to work and I constantly think of how I can get back under my fuzzy blanket. I should just make a hat out of my dear blanket so I can have a measure of relief every where I go.

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