|2010 Spring Handmade Premium Bi Luo Chun|
In China tea drinking is truly an art, and many of their teas have over the centuries been established as worthy only for the most exalted persons in the land — emperors and their courts. Today, we can all enjoy these teas. Among the Chinese green teas there are at least five that can truly be said worthy of the distinction of being divine!
- Longjing (Dragon Well) — A tea of long standing, having been produced for more than 1,000 years. It has a very fresh green taste and somewhat grassy and nutty overtones. The name is based on the town where the tea originated (near Hangzhou city, Zhengjiang Province, China). This was one of those imperial teas reserved for the emperors of China, most notably Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911 AD). The top grade is “Superior” (qiqiang), then “Special” (queshe), and then grades 1 to 5 in decreasing quality, a system established by the Chinese Government to standardize the production. The leaves are picked, pan-fried to halt the oxidation, then steamed, giving the tea its special quality.
- Pi Lo Chun/Bi Luo Chun (Jiangsu Pre-Qingming Dong Ting Biluochun, Ming Qian Dong Ting Bi Luo Chun) — This tea originates in the Dong Ting mountains in China. The liquid has a smooth, mellow and richly green taste with a sweet fragrance of peach and apricot. The dry tea consists of tiny curled leaves and feathery white tips, showing that this is an early Spring tea and the true version, sourced from its birthplace region surrounding Dong Ting lake (other versions exist but not of this quality). It’s produced in small quantities and is eagerly awaited. The processing is particularly labor intensive, resulting in compact, tender, and wonderfully fresh and aromatic leaves. The tea liquid is very pale-yellow-green, having a noticeably fresh smell and taste. Steep 1-2 teaspoons of leaves per cup of water heated to 75° C (167° F) for up to one minute (drop the leaves into the water after it has slightly cooled). Do several more infusions for slightly longer times.
- Dragon Pearls — Grown at the higher elevations of northern Fujian Province in China. These fine young leaf-and-bud sets are picked in April of each year and rolled by hand into tiny pearl shapes. Some are sold as is while others are made into a jasmine version (they are carefully stored until late June, when jasmine trees blossom with thousands of flowers per tree). The unscented version has a rich perfume fragrance and is wonderful, nutty, and sweet with a luscious round character. Steep a few pearls in a glass to watch them unfurl. The visual experience is as much a part of tea enjoyment as the scent and taste.
- Huangshan Mao Feng (Yellow Mountain Fur Peak) — One of the top ten teas in China, produced in the Anhui province. The tea comes from near Huangshan (Yellow) Mountain as do other famous Chinese green teas. The English translation refers to the leaves covered with small white hairs and shaped like the peak of a mountain (after processing). They are new buds with an adjoining leaf, are picked in early Spring by skilled workers, and then produced in a careful manner. The clear greenish liquid has a foggy steam floating over it, a delicate fragrance and sweet aftertaste.
- Ho Kui — First produced in the early 20th century and named one of the Ten Famous Teas of China in 1955. It is named after the original producer, tea gardener Wang Kui-Cheng, and his home village of Ho-Keng (Tai-Ping county, Annui Province, China) who improved the processing of the local variety of tea known as “jian cha.” The best grade still comes from this village. The leaves come from tea trees instead of bushes and are only harvested starting three days after the Grain Rain and going from March thru May, picking the bud-and-two-leaves combos at the branch tips. There are about one-third as many buds in the dry tea as in similar teas. Processing is labor-intensive and done by hand. The leaves are pan fried and pressed flat between layers of cloth several times, making them large and flat, and then roasted over a charcoal fire. Steep in water heated to about 150-170° F about 3 minutes, repeating several times until the taste fades.
- Raw Pu-erh — You may argue at this one, saying “Pu-erh is not true green tea,” but I say that some are, since they are not oxidized. Plucked leaves are handled with care to prevent bruising and oxidation. Then they are spread out to wither and loose some water in them. Sometimes this step is skipped. Then they undergo a “kill green” process to halt enzyme activity and prevent any oxidation. Sounds like a green tea to me!
Give each tea a try and let us know how you liked them!