Zhu Ye Qing - 2011 Spring Sichuan Green Tea
Sichuan is the cradle of China’s tea industry, with a history of commercial cultivation going back an estimated 2,000 years. Also, China’s first Buddhist temple was constructed near the summit of Emeishan (Mount Emei) in the 1st Century AD, making Sichuan province the cradle of Chinese Buddhism. For an excellent introduction to the Emeishan area, please visit the UNESCO Website which details the history of the Emeishan scenic area and why it is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site.
In light of the two thousand of years of history of tea cultivation in Sichuan, Zhu Ye Qing is a surprisingly new tea. Zhu Ye Qing was invented by a monk in one of Emeishan’s many monasteries sometime in the 1950’s or 60s, and it was “discovered,” named and made famous by a government minister who was visiting in the mid 1960’s.
Zhu Ye Qing literally means “Bamboo Leaf Green,” in reference to the pointed, oblong shape of the finished tea leaves. Interestingly, the name Zhu Ye Qing is actually a trademarked name held by one of the larger commercial tea farms in the Emeishan area, but many farmers in the area produce the same product and still call it Zhu Ye Qing. There is some debate about whether or not the trademark is enforceable in China since the name is identified with the style of tea, not the specific farm, but trademark and copyright law does not seem to be a realistic priority for the authorities to enforce in many areas of today’s China. We have been unable to determine if the exact name “Zhu Ye Qing” or “Bamboo Leaf Green” is trademarked in the US, so we have decided to use “Zhu Ye Qing” as the generally accepted common or market name for this tea in the small but growing US market for high end Chinese tea.
This Zhu Ye Qing was harvested and processed to an extremely high quality standard. The leaves are uniform in shape and size, and they consist almost entirely of one bud and one-to-two very young leaf complexes. The leaves are pressed flat during processing, giving an appearance somewhat like Zhejiang’s famous Long Jing. The leaves are a glossy and healthy green with very few blemishes, and they are stunning to behold while infusing since many of the leaves will “dance” at the bottom of the vessel.
The infused liquor is a beautiful pale greenish yellow with near perfect clarity. The impression the medium bodied liquor makes when first tasted is a very fresh, clean and vegetal-sweet with a floral hint to the finish. The aftertaste (hui gan) is long lasting and rather impressive for a green tea.
To steep this tea, I recommend using cooler water at about 155-165 F to avoid extracting any bitter flavors in the initial steepings. It infuses beautifully gong-fu style in a gaiwan, but I have had great results treating this tea like I would a delicate Japanese sencha, using about one gram of leaf for each ounce of water, a 90 second first steep at 155F and increasing the steeping time and temperature with each subsequent steeping. I would also highly recommend using glass teawares to steep this tea so you can watch the leaves dance in the steeping vessel. I am personally very partial to Sichuan green tea in general, and this one is a perfect example of why I am such a fan.