Meishan Hong Shui Red Water Oolong from Taiwan, winner of a 2-Star Great Taste Award in 2018.
What the Great Taste judges thought: “Thick in the cup, with some baked rice notes and a good mouthfeel. Floral notes come through afterwards and are in balance with the rest.”
Meishan Hong Shui Red Water Oolong (梅山紅水烏龍) is a rather lovely high mountain floral oolong that has a captivating character and a complex floral profile. It hails from Meishan Township and is grown at an altitude of 600-800m. This Hong Shui (or Red Water) Oolong is from October 2021 harvest, last baked in March 2022.
Very much like our traditional Dong Ding Oolong, this Meishan Hong Shui Oolong undergoes multiple baking or roasting stages. The resulting tea is completely in the middle of the oolong spectrum. Some consider Hong Shui Oolong to be the original Dong Ding Oolong as they also used to be more heavily roasted. However, with changing tastes over time, lighter and more floral oolongs became fashionable. It seems that the original Dong Ding Oolong recipe changed to adapt to tea drinkers’ new preferences. Whether Hong Shui Oolong really is the old style Dong Ding, it is not entirely clear, but it is certainly closer to it than to the modern light floral oolongs that are dominant in Taiwan. After all, a lighter green style of oolong is a popular choice amongst producers, as it is a lot less skill intensive and time consuming to produce while being popular with tea drinkers.
Meishan Hong Shui Red Water Oolong is made from a Jin Xuan ‘Golden Daylily’ (金萱) TRES #12 tea plant cultivar. As this oolong undergoes extensive baking, it also exhibits some of the darker oolong qualities, such as comforting roasted flavours, while retaining the dominant floral notes. To achieve this balance, the tea has to undergo multiple baking sessions with time of rest in between. The skill of the tea master is paramount in achieving a fine balance between the floral and the roasted aspects of this tea, as neither should overpower.
This Meishan Hong Shui Red Water Oolong comes in tightly rolled dark leaves. These open up when brewed to produce a fragrant amber liquor with a pronounced floral aroma that is slightly toasty and spicy. The baking of this tea results in a very comforting profile, with a character that is floral, yet toasty. The complex flavours develop and change with each steep. The taste has notes of caramel and sugared fruits, while the aftertaste is a little savoury and tangy. This beautifully crafted tea should be enjoyed over repeated steeps, taking time to appreciate the changing and developing complex taste.
It is best brewed at 90°C for 3-4 minutes and should be brewed multiple times.