I'm a noob and have read through most of the oolong posts looking for information about how to brew the Spring hand-harvested, medium-high roasted, Hou De Shui Xiang tea I just purchased that looks like small balls. After reading through most of the threads it's become apparent that 'regular' Shui Xiang is brewed differently than rolled high mountain Taiwan tea. My first question is- what takes precedence in brewing? Shape (balled) or variety (Shui Xiang)?
Please forgive me for asking so many questions but I've really tried to do my homework and feel it's time to call in the the experts
Here we go:
What percentage of the teapot gets filled with the dry little balls, which appear to be somewhat loosely rolled? I've read that with some balled teas it's enough to cover the bottom with 1 or 2 layers, but when I do that it fills only about 2/3 of the teapot after the wet leaves have expanded. Is this as it should be? I assume this is a "good" quality tea, and I read that the better the tea the less you use.
Do you crumble any of the little balls? With "regular" Shui Xiang tea some people crumble some of the leaves and then sandwich them between larger leaves.
Is rolling boil or string of pearls water used with every infusion? It appears that some people don't bring the water to a full boil with every infusion and others do.
How about the rinse time? For "regular Shui Xiang" most people use a flash rinse. For balled teas people seem to use a 10-30 second rinse.
As far as brewing times- some people use short times 5-5-10-20-1 minute; other people use a much longer 1st brew (30 seconds) and longer brewing times all together- 60-60-90-120. I've also noticed alternating timing 30"-1'-30"-1'-30"-1'-30"-1'
What I found, in my own experiments is:
1) when I use 2 layers of tea the wet leaves only fill 2/3 of the teapot. Perhaps I need more tea?
2) when I used quick brews- 20-10-15-30-1 minute-1-1 the tea was weaker than I would like it to be
3) when I added some crushed leaves the tea had more flavor
4) When I used longer times 30-30-30- 70-70-70-90-2 minutes the tea had more flavor and wasn't bitter. But the flavors didn't seem very complex or layered to me, nor did they change much between brews.
I realize that I have to keep trying but some advice born of experience would be very much appreciated. The tea was somewhat expensive and, like everyone else, I'm loathe to waste it in my fumbling around.
Many thanks to everyone for the time and effort you've all put into this blog, making it such a rich source of information and inspiration. I've learned so much and I know that as my experience grows, so too will my appreciation of the massive amount of knowledge contained in these pages. I recognize that I've only begun to tap its riches.