Can a Shui Xian taste like Rou Gui?


Owes its flavors to oxidation levels between green & black tea.

Can a Shui Xian taste like Rou Gui?

Postby tea fish » Sep 6th, '11, 09:39

Hi all--

Once again I need your experteas. I bought a Shui Xian Lao Cong recently from a great tea house (Camellia Sinensis in Montreal), and when I returned home to try it was surprised by it...not entirely in a bad way, but it just tastes nothing like the SXLC I came to know and love from 7 Cups (which is like fresh baking and quite sweet). To my mind, it tastes just like a Rou Gui (which is darker and smokier and not very sweet). Can a SXLC do that?

I'm wondering if I was accidentally sold a RG instead of a SXLC, but as I am no longer in Montreal, I can't return to the store to check. Just wondering if anybody else has had an experience like this. RG aint a shabby tea, but I'm curious whether what I'm drinking really is RG. Or are there possibilities for SXLC that I am unaware of???

Insights please! Thanks!

tf
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Re: Can a Shui Xian taste like Rou Gui?

Postby Herb_Master » Sep 6th, '11, 10:00

The Tea Varietal is only the starting point along the way to producing the drink that you sip.

Without understanding how you apply the tasting adjectives that you have used, [everyone uses their own impressions to search for relative ways of describing what they smell and taste], I would hazard a guess at the following.

1. The level of oxidation of the leaves, as it increases, will lead to deeper and deeper concentrations of differing flavours.

2. The amount of roasting as it is applied to the leaves, will lead to stronger and stronger flavours of the roasting process being imbued in the leaves, at first adding nuances, then adding balance, or slightly masking some of the flavours of a less roasted tea. If overdone, it may overpower all the other flavours.

In my experience, Seven Cups goes for lighter oxidation and less roasting than many other suppliers, and can believe fresh baking and sweetness may be how you would describe several of their products.

I bought Lao Cong Shui Xian from Hou De, and it was undrinkable because it was so heavily roasted, 2 years later it had mellowed and was drinkable, but still needed more time.

I think many suppliers tend to find Lao Cong (Old Bush) is a suitable vehicle for heavier roasting, but you may have to leave them some time before you find them at a peak for you.

3. Rou Gui is characterised by a flavour of Cassia, the nearest equivalent spice that you may have come across is Cinnamon. The strength of this Cinnamon experience varies widely with Rou Gui from differing sources.

If you cannot detect even the slightest hint of Cinnamon, then I would expect you have a higher oxidised and deeper roasted Shui Xian than you have previously become accustomed to.
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Re: Can a Shui Xian taste like Rou Gui?

Postby wyardley » Sep 6th, '11, 14:10

I think you have to try at least 6-10+ examples of a particular varietal of yancha before you may start to notice some common characteristics of the type. The fact that some teas are sold under the wrong name makes this task even worse.

I believe that processing trumps varietal - that's not to say that the various sub-varietals don't have specific characteristics, but depending on the way the tea is processed (level of oxidation, type and level of roast, how long the maker waited after initial processing, etc.), how / where it's grown, when it's harvested, etc, the tea will taste very different. Someone with a lot of experience might still be able to tell by the taste, or even by the size / shape of the leaves, what type of tea it is, but I think you could fool most people, myself included, with the processing.

I'd even go a step further, and say that with yancha, it's not worth preferring a specific varietal. I would rather have a great tea, a maker's or vendor's best tea, of some unknown or obscure varietal, than a mediocre tea of a more famous variety.

There are, of course, some trends in the way specific teas are made or the taste that you'd expect. But I would not at all assume that you were sold the wrong tea. Just keep trying different teas. Also, you can experiment with trying to bring out the best in the LCSX you purchased recently. If you try it different ways and still can't get a good result, it's possible that it's just not very good.

I have tried a few of 7 Cups teas, and while they're not really to my taste, I will say that they tend to be unique. If this is the taste you like, I'd keep buying it from them, because I'm not sure how much luck you'll have finding something similar.

As you might expect from the name, shuixian's characteristic taste is supposed to be pretty floral. Some examples of the genre will bring this out more than others.
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Re: Can a Shui Xian taste like Rou Gui?

Postby Bob_McBob » Sep 6th, '11, 15:05

Herb_Master wrote:3. Rou Gui is characterised by a flavour of Cassia, the nearest equivalent spice that you may have come across is Cinnamon.


Not that it's all that important to the topic, but the vast majority of "cinnamon" sold in North America is actually cassia.
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Re: Can a Shui Xian taste like Rou Gui?

Postby Chip » Sep 6th, '11, 15:29

Bob_McBob wrote:
Herb_Master wrote:3. Rou Gui is characterised by a flavour of Cassia, the nearest equivalent spice that you may have come across is Cinnamon.


Not that it's all that important to the topic, but the vast majority of "cinnamon" sold in North America is actually cassia.

Can you explain your meaning? This can be interpreted several ways.
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Re: Can a Shui Xian taste like Rou Gui?

Postby debunix » Sep 6th, '11, 16:09

Cassia is bark from a related trea, not considered to be 'true' cinnamon, with a stronger but harsher flavor, and is cheaper than 'true' cinnamon. Most of what is sold in groceries in the US as 'cinnamon'--whether in the little spice tins or jars or in cinnamon rolls etc--is made from Cassia and not from true cinnamon.
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Re: Can a Shui Xian taste like Rou Gui?

Postby Bob_McBob » Sep 6th, '11, 16:20

Chip wrote:Can you explain your meaning? This can be interpreted several ways.


Most of what is sold in North America under the name "cinnamon" is cassia (c. aromaticum, Chinese cinnamon) rather than "true" cinnamon (c. verum, Ceylon cinnamon). The basic flavour component is the same, but cassia is a rougher and generally more potent.
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Re: Can a Shui Xian taste like Rou Gui?

Postby wyardley » Sep 6th, '11, 18:03

I have heard it said that it's a bit misleading to say that only Ceylon cinnamon is "true" cinnamon, though it is sometimes marketed this way. Guess it depends what you mean by "true". I think both scientifically and in common usage, the bark of several different members of Cinnamomum are considered to be Cinnamon (interestingly, Camphor is also in the family).
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cinnamon

In any event, my understanding is that rou gui refers to cassia bark. I think the stuff sold for use in savory cooking in Chinese markets would be the closest. In my limited experience, it's not as strong as the Vietnamese and Indonesian varieties we often see.

Ceylon cinnamon, whether it's the only "true" cinnamon or not, does have a very different flavor profile than much of what is sold as cinnamon in the US.
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Re: Can a Shui Xian taste like Rou Gui?

Postby tea fish » Sep 9th, '11, 09:54

Thanks much for the replies, Herb Master and wyardley. What you said wyardley about processing trumping varietal rings true with many of my tea experiences. All the SX teas I've tried so far have been on the light side (not only 7 cups but also Floating Leaves and Hou De).

And I didn't realize, Herb Master that LCSX is popular for heavier roasting. It sounds like I might just need to hold onto this one and let it age for a while before enjoying it.

Thanks for the insights, all (including the lively discussion about cinnamon)!

tf
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