Harvest: Spring, 2012 (Ming Qian/Pre-Qing Ming)
Cultivar: Zi Sun
Growing Region: Shuikouxiang, Changxing County, Huzhou Pref., Zhejiang
Altitude : 1,640+/- Ft (500+/- M)
Gu Zhu Zi Sun is a historically significant green tea that hails from the Guzhu Mountain region of Huzhou Prefecture in the Northwest corner of China’s Zhejiang Province. Production of this tea dates back at least to the 8th Century CE, when Lu Yu, China’s Sage of Tea and author of “Cha Jing” (the first definitive work on Chinese Tea), set up a tea factory here dedicated to producing Gu Zhu Zi Sun as the first tribute tea for the Tang Dynasty Emperor. Zi Sun (紫笋) means “Purple Bamboo Shoot” in English. This name comes from the fact that, when still on the bush, the leaves of the Zi Sun cultivar have a purplish hue, and the leaves are thought resemble the shape of bamboo shoots.
This batch of Gu Zhu Zi Sun comes from the first Spring Harvest of the 2012 season in the early part of April. It was harvested at an altitude of approximately 1,640 Ft (500 M) in the hills to the northwest of Shikouxiang (Shuikouxiang Google Map) in Zhejiang province’s Huzhou Prefecture, which lies on the west side of Taihu (Lake Tai) and south of Yixing city/county in southern Jiangsu province.
Physically, this tea is an amazing specimen. It was picked entirely by hand using the standard of primarily two tiny leaves and one bud, and the processing was also carefully done by hand to preserve the integrity of these beautiful little leaf sets. As with most Chinese green tea, this tea was picked, withered in the sun and/or indoors, heated in a low temperature wok to kill the enzymes in the leaves that would otherwise cause them to oxidize and turn brown, and finally dried before packing and shipping.
Flavor and Aroma:
The dry leaves have a mild, sweet, green vegetable aroma (sugar snap peas?) with just a hint of nuttiness, and when steeped they produce a beautifully clear, light yellow liquor with a silky smooth, moderately thick & almost oily mouthfeel. The flavor of this tea is subtle and, to my taste at least, absolutely exquisite. It comes across in the cup as very fresh, clean, sweet and lightly floral. The floral and sweet vegetal aspects of the flavor translate seamlessly into a lovely aftertaste that lingers nicely on the palate. If I had to pick my favorite tea of 2012 (so far…written in mid-May), this would definitely be it.
To steep this tea, I would recommend steeping it either gong fu style in your favorite fancy gaiwan, or I have grown quite fond of treating it like I do a high quality Japanese green tea with a slightly more “western” approach. For Gong-Fu style, I use about 7 grams of leaf in a 100 ml gaiwan, water at about 170F, and a series of short steepings starting out with about 25-30 seconds for the first steeping and gradually increasing the steeping time over the infusions. It is difficult to make this tea bitter, so please experiment with higher temperatures if you find an infusion at 170F to be too light for your taste.
To use a more “western” approach to steeping this tea, I like using about 1 gram of leaf for every ounce of water in my teapot, water at about 175 F, and a 2 minute first steeping. For a second steeping, keep the water at about 175 or a little higher and steep for 30 seconds. For the third & subsequent steepings, raise the water temp a little for each steep and add some time to each steep. I usually get 3-4 good steepings out of this tea when steeped in this manner, but definitely don’t quit until it gives up all of its flavor.