Saturday, May 30, 2015

Cha Ceremony: Shui Xian, A Tea Review

I feel overwhelmingly accomplished! My painting desk has of late been a real disaster area, miniatures and paints littered its surface in a complete pile of chaos, so I stopped that. My desk is no organized and almost all my trinkets packed away. I figure if I have to pack, might as well keep the essentials organized while doing so! Truly, one of the great things in life is an organized desk.

Today's tea is Cha Ceremony's Shui Xian, yes it is Yancha time! I was sent three samples of their tea and was torn as to which one to review first, I decided to go with the Shui Xian because it was a classic favorite of mine. The name Shui Xian (or Shui Hsien) translates to Water Spirit or Water Narcissus, there is some debate as to it being a reference to a water flower or an actual water spirit, I find this immensely intriguing, because language is a fascinating thing. According to the website, this Yancha (or Rock Tea) is a more lightly roasted Yancha, so good news for you who love the less char heavy Wuyi Oolongs. The aroma is something else, I let out a maniacal giggle while sniffing it because I LOVE the smell of Shui Xian!! There are notes of wet slate, sweet almost creamy molasses and caramel, fruity tobacco, a slight dry leaf pile, and a finish of char and wood smoke. This is, in my humble opinion, a perfect Shui Xian, balancing the aroma of sweet and fruity, woody and char, and mineral notes perfectly.

I brewed this the way I usually brew my Yancha, in my Yixing pot, using a lot of leaves and a short steeps using water just off the boil. It makes for an intense experience, but it is how I like my Yancha. The aroma of the now soggy leaves is intense, strong notes of char and smoke with an accompaniment of mineral and tobacco, with a lingering sweet molasses and slightly fruity finish. The liquid is a heady dance of char, tobacco, and mineral with a sweet cherry finish. I love, absolutely love those notes. It might be why Shui Xian is my go-to Yancha.

And speaking of it being my go-to Yancha, I do love the other ones, but they are like treats, Shui Xian I could drink all the time, in my mind it will always be the comfort food of the Rock Teas. The first thing that really struck me about this tea is how heavenly thick the mouthfeel is, definitely a tea that fits the term soup very well. It starts out with a strong mineral note, like spring water on wet slate, or limestone, because licking rocks is awesome. This moves to sweet molasses and cherry, this then transitions to tobacco and char. The aftertaste is dried cherry and it lingers for a while, eventually changing to delicate floral much later, the aftertaste seems to last for an eternity.

Second steeping time! The aroma blends mineral and cherry notes with delicate char and tobacco, very sweet this time around. The taste reflects the aroma, with a similar very thick mouthfeel that fades to a slight sharpness at the finish. The taste is creamier and sweeter, there are still notes of char and mineral, but that is mostly at the finish. Notes of cherry and molasses dance with delicate cocoa and even a hint of hyacinth at the midtaste.

Third and final steeping, Yancha, at least when it is brewed the way I do it, tends to die by the third or fourth steep, and I once read that is the mark of a good Yancha, really intense earlier steeps and not a tea that lasts. The aroma of this steep is very mineral and delicately sweet cherry, with a slight finish of char. The taste is delightfully mellow, a mildly creamy mouthfeel with notes of cherry and almost entirely mineral notes from start to finish with the cherry dancing around. I greatly enjoyed this tea, it got me pleasantly tea drunk (kinda after the first steep, it is intense) and is a super top notch example of how wonderful Shui Xian can be.

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