When I first see the picture of this tea, I am suspicious of the dark green color of the leaves. This usually means a late harvest time that will yield a bitter, unpleasant brew. Still, I want to give Verdant green tea a chance, so I add this one to my cart, which already has the Autumn 2011 and Spring 2012 tieguanyins.
When I receive the bag, I let it sit on my shelf, expecting nothing special. During the tea’s quarantine, I decide to e-mail David and ask about its harvest time and picking standard. He tells me that it was handpicked during the autumn. This response enhances my suspicions about the quality of this tea. I have never heard of an autumn-picked green tea. The best green teas I have tried are picked within a two-week period between March and April.
When I finally get around to opening the bag, the tea leaves greet me with strong, sweet, vegetable aromas. I spoon about a tablespoon into a wine glass. I am surprised to see that the leaves are very long, longer than a standard dragonwell green tea. I pour 180 degree water over the leaves, which immediately release a strong vegetal aroma that is extremely pleasant. I take my first sip. My palate is greeted with a nice, medium-light body. The flavors astound me. I get notes of lightly steamed broccoli and peas, maybe a bit of cooked cabbage. Very nice. I let the leaves steep a little longer, maybe five minutes or so. I blow the leaves away and take another couple of sips. The flavors get stronger. I notice other notes, kind of like unripe mango or melon, just without the sourness. There is no hint of bitterness. Okay, David, what are you playing at? A green tea, harvested in autumn, steeping for ten, twenty minutes, and not even getting bitter? My entire perception of what goes into a good green tea is completely turned up-side-down.
Now for the second steep. Will it retain its flavor? I am pleased to notice a very high ratio of whole leaves to broken leaves, about 90% plus. This shows me the intense care that goes into the processing of this tea. Another testament to the strict attention to the wholeness of the leaves is that the brew shows absolutely no sign of cloudiness. It glows with a brilliance that I rarely see, even in a good green tea. The flavor is still there in the second steep. The balance between sweet and savory is enhanced, if not entirely different, from the first steeping. There is still no sign of bitterness.
David has confirmed many of my perceptions of what goes into a good green tea. The leaves should be whole. The brew should never go bitter. It should also have a clear brilliance to it. However, some of my perceptions have been trumped. A good green tea can be picked in the autumn, not just early spring. It can be dark green and still yield a wonderful flavor.
I have tasted scores of green teas since the inception of my tea obsession almost three years ago. I hold this Dragonwell-style Laoshan green in my top five, up there with Seven Cups’ Meng Ding Sweet Dew and Shi Feng Long Jing. It is by far one of the best green teas out there. You should buy it now before the demand causes the prices to go up!