Topic: Different times of the year
Something that has always fascinated and confounded me is the phenomenon of oolongs (especially) coming out differently at different times of the year.
I always hate for summer to end, but the one up-side for me is that I get to enjoy my Wuyi yancha again. This year was a little different, though. It was still getting up to 70F/21C here just last week. Nevertheless I broke out the yancha as soon as it started cooling down but found that most days I just couldn't get anything more than an insipid cup. I could get a horribly bitter cup, but it would still be an insipid bitter cup offering nothing more than hollow bitterness with no aroma or body.
I've talked with vendors and enthusiasts that have noticed the same. It happens with just about any tea, but yancha seems to be the most profoundly affected. Lisa from TeaCuppa (in Malaysia) notes that once per year yancha all tastes sour. I, and others in the states, have noticed that it comes out insipid. Asking around, it seems everyone notices it but has no idea what causes it. My thought was heat and humidity (making the air less capable of carrying as much steam, and therefore aroma, or just changing the exchange of heat and steam through the brewing vessel), but if that was the case then the places where these teas originate would probably never taste any good at any time of the year.
I did, however, get an interesting response from Sebastian at Jing:
"Regarding to your last questions, it is normal that some periods of a
year, you can't get good cup of teas. No matter yan cha or puerh or anxi
oolong... Especially with the no heavily roasted oolong teas. After
about 2 to 3 months of new oolong launched out, most of the lightly
roasted oolong will "Fan Qing (returns to green)", that is an
embarrassing period for them. Most of them they don't taste good. But
for the heavier/heavily roasted oolongs, the first 2 months are not
tasty neither due to the fire taste, the tongue just get "harsh" feeling
when you drink the tea.
Also, because of the weather temperature or the humidity, sometimes the
human body just don't feel right about teas. There is nothing we can do
about that. :-)"
That didn't provide many answers, but it brought up a whole new slew of questions in my mind. Did that low-roast yancha that I got last year only taste good this year because I learned how to brew it or because it was in that 2-3 month period? Are my brewing experiments at fault for my lousy results, or did my body chemistry play a role?
I would love to find out what some of these variables are so that I can decide whether it's worth trying certain teas before wasting the leaf. Any ideas, thoughts, facts, or observations?
I do, at least, know not to expect much from new yancha in the first year or so, but that's another discussion :)