Friday, April 4, 2014
After first sampling Rou Gui cha at Kkik Da Geo, I was so taken by it that I dreamed that I'd returned to the tea shop with a giant tortuous and loaded its back with as much Rou Gui cha as it could carry (it had a traditional Korean "jigae", an wooden A-frame usually used for carrying wood on your back, customized to fit its shell), then slowly lead it out the door.
Repeating the dream to Prof Ahn, he laughed, then told me that the one I'd tried was medium quality and they'd just received a shipment of top grade Rou Gui cha. If the medium grade Rou Gui was already one of the most expensive teas I'd ever bought ($1.50/g), I figured there would be no way I'd be able to buy the premium one, but to my delight they were packaged in 7 gram portions. It still works out to $2/g, but $14 didn't hurt.
I was very curious how much of a difference there could be between the two grades. The medium grade was already one of the best teas I'd ever had. As I mentioned previously, rou gui is the Chinese word for dried cinnamon bark, and the tea is named after it because the aroma and tingling sensation in your mouth and throat are so similar and the medium grade leaves had this exact sensation.
Intending to make this small sample last as long as possible, I prepared my 25ml Biao Zhun pot that I usually only use for Da Hong Pao. While the pot heated, I admired the leaves. The first thing I noticed is that they were much lighter, with several green and rusty-brown leaves. They reminded me a bit of Phoenix dancong leaves. Transferring them into the warm pot, a beautiful herbal and flower aroma arose which only intensified with a quick rinse. Carefully steeping the leaves for 15 seconds, I took a long whiff of the tea. Already, my mind was blown. A small sip and it instantly knocked all other teas from my mind. There was no other I've had that could compare on any level. I could divide its characteristics into different categories and make isolated comparisons to other teas, but as a whole it stands alone in my experience. The rich, bold sweetness and floral, perfumy bitterness wove themselves together into a seductive, realm-melting spell. It is by far the most amazing tea experience I've ever had.
From what I can tell, the medium grade Rou Gui was produced using the traditional method of a medium oxidization and a heavy roast, whereas these leaves where produced using a newer method of high oxidization and a lighter roast, bring out the spectacular floral aroma.