Thanks to Teavivre for this sample!
I’m not the biggest green tea drinker, but this is a new favorite of mine. It’s sweet, fresh, light, and crisp. All the things one usually seeks out in a green tea with the addition of some nice oolong-y characteristics and a basic flavor framework that reminds me of a dragonwell. The leaves are an awesome shade of vivid green and smell very dragonwell-like: oats and nuts and potent veggies. I haven’t decided whether I prefer gong fu or Western style with this one yet, but each has it’s pros.
Gong fu style
This allows for a huge change in flavors from steep to steep, but getting more than three solid steeps is rare. But let me tell you, those three steeps are pretty awesome. It’s like a fifteen-steep session condensed to one fifth! With about 1/4 to 1/3 of my gaiwan full of dried leaf, 175 F water, and a seven second first steep (no rinse) it comes out wonderfully. I receive notes of fresh hay, a malty sweetness, thick and “chewy” vegetal qualities, and faint tones of nuts. Maybe almonds? The liquor’s color has great clarity and is so light and vivid it’s almost neon.
The second steep at about 14 seconds brings a lively mouthfeel with a sort of sparkling texture. A new nuance that reminds me of whole wheat toast becomes most apparent and the nutty qualities become more pronounced. The third steep seems to do well somewhere between 30 seconds and one minute. Twenty seconds is a bit too short and it comes out really weak, and one minute introduces some bitterness and astringency (two things that usually aren’t present with this tea except for extra long steep times). The nutty and toasty qualities subside a great deal at this point and are replaced with a strong herbal quality. It’s far more “green.”
With the aforementioned leaf to water ratio, a fourth steep is possible, but it’s flavor faded and it has a heavy mouthfeel. It comes out like a mixture of steep 2 and 3.
While the flavor doesn’t change dramatically between steeps, each steep is lovely in its own way. Western style produces a light-bodied cup with great character. The “darker” flavors like toast and nuts and such aren’t as apparent this way, but instead blend in with the other nuances so that all the flavors kind of meet in the middle. Yet, a lively, sparkly/fizzy mouthfeel helps add another dimension to keep things interesting.
The main drawbacks to this method, for me at least, is I have to use a ton of leaf. I did 3 heaping teaspoons in my 16 oz cast iron with 175 F water. I performed the recommended one minute steeping time, took the leaves out, and poured some off. Still really weak. So I plopped the leaves back in and went for another minute. This worked much better.
Ultimately, I’ll be using Western brewing when I want a sipping tea and gong fu when I want a short, but power-packed session. I also prefer gong fu to pull out the best flavors this tea offers, like that whole wheat toast note that I look forward to every time I drink this one. I think the textural intrigues of this tea are pulled out much more easily with Western style, though.
There’s a good chance that I’ll be stocking this one as my one green tea on hand at some point. :)