This is a nostalgic green tea for me. All of Verdant’s other greens are from the far-off village of Laoshan in Shandong Province. This one alone falls within the Southern Chinese growing region, hailing from Yunnan.
The first time I tried this was a dark rainy night in Hangzhou. I had wrapped up a day of interviews with tea vendors, mostly selling Dragonwell, and found myself out in torrential rain walking along the shoreline of the city’s famous lake. My goal was to find either a taxi or a teahouse to get out of the rain. I walked and walked with no luck at either. After about an hour of wandering and thorough pounding from the rain, I saw an old wooden structure down a side street. The whole sign was not visible, but I saw the character for tea, and made a dash for it. As I rounded the corner, I saw that the sign read “Jingshan Teahouse.” I had never heard of Jingshan before, but didn’t particularly care. I entered the old wooden building and asked for a table.
The teahouse was completely empty, and the woman behind the counter scurried upstairs to find a table and some hot water. She handed me a big, wooden-bound menu proudly and I opened it to find just three teas. Jingshan Tea, Jingshan Budset Tea, and Jingshan Early Spring Tea. I almost laughed at the oddity of three menu items, but ordered the Early Spring Tea, and waited. Instead of the usual Gaiwan, the woman brought a short glass, poured hot water and sprinkled the tea leaves on top, telling me to wait for the tea to start dancing around.
This was clearly no ordinary tea waitress. I struck up a conversation while waiting for the leaves to open and found out that her family was a farmer family in Yunnan, and they saved money to open a shop in Hangzhou to spread the tea of their village that they were so proud of. I sipped the tea and experienced a crisp, sparkling and determined sweetness that impressed me. The woman was very happy I liked it and immediately began pulling out books and picture albums of the mountain Jingshan. I convinced her to sell me a little bag of tea to drink at home, and left much happier, and with much more taxi-finding skill.
It took me three years to track her down again, and with some help from good friends in China, I was able to bring the Jingshan green that she shared with me to America. I have been drinking it hot and iced, and notice that its original effect of clearing the mind and having an overall cleansing feeling remains true. When I am not in the mood for the bean-like heartiness of Laoshan, I turn to the lighter Jingshan, and watch the buds uncurl in a glass tumbler.
My hope is that some Americans will get as much joy out of discovering tea from an obscure little-known village as I have. While neither Jingshan or Laoshan are famous, the farmers are honest, devoted and honorable.
Time to go steep up another tumbler-full!