Blog 32: Two Examples of Bad Wu-Yi Oolong Roast
Updated: Oct 19, 2018
In our previous blogs, we’ve introduced many details about the Wu-Yi oolong(Yancha) roasting process. If you haven’t checked them out, we highly recommend you to read them first. In our blog on “heat control”, we explained three temperature levels for three common roasts. Today, let’s discuss two bad roasts that we haven’t discussed - Qian-Huo and Bing-Huo.
Qian-Huo and Bing-Huo are two bad kinds of roasts that tea makers should avoid at all cost. In Chinese, “Huo” means fire (火). Qian(欠) and Bing(病) mean “not enough” and “ill/sick” respectively. Together, Qian-Huo means “under roasted”, and Bing-Huo means “ill/sickly roasted”. As we have discussed before, there are a couple factors that affect the quality of the roast. Among all parameters, the roasting temperature and the duration of the roast are the most important. These are also the factors that can cause Qian-Huo and Bing-Huo.
Qian-Huo, as its literal meaning in Chinese, is a roast that doesn’t receive enough temperature or long enough roasting duration. Tea roasted with Qian-Huo would have greener leaves and be made into flake-shaped or ball-shaped. If we sniff carefully, we can still find a note of grass and other mixed smells. Qian-Huo tea tastes thin and dry, and it also carries a yellowish green color.
See the picture below? The tea on the left has been barely roasted, and the tea on the right has one round of roast.
Bing-Huo is a little bit more tricky to explain. If we take the meaning in Chinese literally, Bing-Huo means that the fire is ill. However, on the contrary, it is fire that makes the tea ill. Bing-Huo happens when the roasting temperature starts off way too high (usually over 160℃/320℉), or the volume of tea in the roast basket is way too low so that all leaves get burned. Bing-Huo would make leaves carry a burned taste. Tea made with these leaves has a dark and dim yellow color. Tea leaves are usually burned to a carbonized state. Bing-Huo tea is one of the least desirable tea on the market. In my personal opinion, Bing-Huo roast is actually a failed tea, and it should not be sold under any circumstances.
Despite both Qian-Huo and Bing-Huo are bad roasts, we can still often find them on the international market, especially in the U.S.. Of course, they usually come in a blend. That is, some tea vendors would mix different grades of tea together to blend an okay product. So, what can tea lovers do to avoid overpaying for a bad tea? Well, first, it is always helpful that a tea drinker can tell the quality of a tea. Nonetheless, if you’re not an experienced tea drinker, or you don’t want to waste your time and money on trying out “bad teas”, knowing more about your tea vendor is possibly the best way. When you purchase a tea, ask yourself these questions: Is your vendor a tea producer or does your vendor just source tea from other tea suppliers? (Also, who is your vendor's supplier? Just someone who lives abroad? Or a vendor he found online/meet in a convention?) How much does your vendor actually know about tea, its growing environment and the economics behind the cost of a tea? Finally and most importantly, can your vendor give you the specifics on when and where this tea is made and who exactly made the tea?
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