30 Tasting Notes
I thought I would share my first experiences with this tea that I am pleased to see so many others enjoying as much as I do. I first came into contact with it through Wang Shilin, a middle-aged man with the coolest black 1950’s glasses. (Though I am not sure that they were meant to be hip particularly). Wang Shilin represented Xingyang Workshops offerings in the city of Qingdao, near Laoshan Mountain where I source my green teas and the Laoshan black.
I first came across him on a search for a brick of old Yabao tea to give to my wife for Christmas. He was the only guy in Qingdao who even know what Yabao was, as it isn’t normally seen outside of Yunnan. We drank tea together all day, starting with a white tea brick from Xingyang workshop, and moving into pu’er. He didn’t realize until later in the day how interested in pu’er I was. He was so excited to see a younger person drinking pu’er. He was lamenting over how so many young people in China drink cola or coffee with milk.
It wasn’t until we had become friends and I was on my way out that he looked sort of shiftily around and pulled out a little paper bag of pu’er leaves. He asked me to try it at home and come back next week to talk again. You could tell that this tea was one of his secrets. I knew that he was extremely proud of it.
Of course, I went right home and tried the tea- I won’t even try to describe it. It was hard enough to write a description for the website without going on tangents about memory, childhood, spiritual experience, etc. This is just one of those teas. You can’t help but be moved by it. Every time I brew it at a tasting, everyone starts talking about Grandma’s attic, or that time when they went to Maine, or the library of their old school.
I waited three days (that is the rule for second dates, right?) before rushing back to Wang Shilin’s shop and telling him all about the tea. He had the expression on his face of knowing exactly what I was going to say, and feeling satisfied to hear it out loud. He brewed it up for me again, explaining how different Xingyang is. The tea liquor was perfectly crystalline, he pointed out. Many old pu’er may get more complex, but they can also get murkier over time. Xingyang’s does not.
Honestly, having two, dwindling tins of this tea on my shelf at home was a big impetus in going into business. Now that I am back in touch with my tea friends, I am assured access to my beloved Xingyang 1998.
I must say though, I was only able to get 30 tins, or six pounds of this total in my last shipment and it was pretty hard to convence Xingyang to part with it. This tea may soon be a memory itself…
Well, the Spring 2011 harvest is officially sold out. It will live in my memories for years to come. However, the Autumn 2011 harvest just arrived in a big crate a few hours ago. I opened one of the vacuum sealed bags apprehensively. I could feel my heart beating faster. The smell put me at ease again. I knew that the autumn harvest would live up to its legendary ancestor. I cannot wait to formally write out a tasting note, perhaps this evening or tomorrow, but I can say that this will not disappoint. It does not follow in the Spring tea’s footsteps. Instead it strikes out on its own path, decidedly autumnal, mouth-watering, and thrillingly different through each steeping.
Thank you Autumn, for bringing this tea to me. I am excited to share it with all of you…
The Autumn harvest is finally up for sale with tasting notes and a picture. Check it out here: http://verdanttea.com/shop/oolong-teas/hand-picked-autumn-2011-tieguanyin/
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!
As summer really sets in in Minnesota, I do as my tea friends do and drink hot green tea to cool down. This is usually my first choice. I add the leaves to a glass tumbler, and pour in under-boiling water. When the leaves sink, the tea is ready to drink. This one has never gone bitter for me. The first time He Qinqing, the farmer that provides this tea, served it to me in a glass and I watched it sit for 5 minutes, I was worried about it oversteeping. What are you supposed to do? Tell the tea farmer how to steep tea?
Of course, she was right. I find this to be the best way to drink Laoshan teas, followed by pouring back and forth between glass pitchers, which is pretty cool as well since the leaves start dancing around.
This is a green tea for people who don’t get excited about green tea. It steeps uprich and creamy, with way more body than you might expect, but never edges towards dry or astringent. If anybody else has tried different steeping methods, I love to hear how people brew it up. My suggestion for July: Cold-Steep in the refrigerator with leaves and cold water for 8-10 hours for a full bodied iced tea.
Just had this tea this morning. Drinking it reminds me of the farmer friend who supplies it. We used to drink Tieguanyin together for hours a day while I was living in China. I would try a new picking and exclaim how good it was, and she would just shrug and wash her mouth out with water. When I called her to ask if she had anything that I could bring in, she said that this crop was “actually pretty good.” That was the first positive review i got from her and I purchased the entire picking. I sure am glad that I did. This spring 2011 tea is so unique because it bridges the floral lingering candy flavor of typical high-end spring Tieguanyin and combines it with the robust creamy deep and sweet grass flavor of autumn Tieguanyin. It is truly commanding, and forces you to keep drinking. I did six steepings and then logged on to review it and my internet crashed. I took it as a sign that I was supposed to keep drinking through another 15 steepings. Happy that I did. Five hours later I still have the floral creamy flavor lingering in mouth.
As an aside, the woman that grows this tea is working to start a tea therapy program for primary school students, much like art or music therapy to help children deal with stress and learn patience and social skills through tea ceremony. Hopefully with more and more Americans falling in love with her tea, she will able to realize that dream.
First: I have not tried hundreds of Gyokuros, but from a general perspective on tea, this is an excellent one. The flavor is sweet, vegetal, like fresh cut alfalfa, but also unexpectedly with strong notes of hazelnut, and a soothing creaminess that balances out the edge that some Japanese green teas have.
Yet the most interesting part of this tea was in the mouthfeel and the aftertaste. There is an interesting numbing sensation to drinking this tea slowly. As you keep drinking, the sensation builds, and the result is the perception of a more honey-like sweetness. The aftertaste moves towards roasted hazelnut.
About brewing. I tried brewing exactly as directed, and like other people say, it makes a really strong tea. I like the experience, but I would not drink this more than once every few weeks at that intensity. I tried brewing it up like they do in Northern China, where green tea is poured back and forth between two glass pitchers for no more than 10 seconds, but with hotter water, and I got good results. It also steeps up perfectly nicely in a large pot for 1-2 minutes with 160 degree water.
Thank you Den’s for showing me what Japanese tea has to offer.
When this shipment came in and I broke into the first tong, it was like christmas. The aroma brings me back to Northern California and the redwood forests. This tea is very clean, but also gaining the musty qualities of something older. It was pressed in commemoration of the tea trade between China and the old Tubo empire (now Tibet). It is stamped with the seals of every township along the tea-horse trail. I may have to set aside a tong for myself to age. Thank you Yongming workshop!
I was extremely excited to find this one! This enormous 1kg ball of tea comes from a farmer who has grown tired of the big factories dominating the Banzhang tea market. Her family used to sell their hand picked wild leaves to Dayi, and said that Dayi would do 1000% or more mark up and cut the farmers out of the profits. This family has been struggling since branching off on their own because their tea does not have the certification that big factories like Dayi can afford. I hope to introduce this tea to America and help start a movement on Banzhang mountain to return to quality and small farming.
This is an unknown treasure! I spent three years living in the shadow of Laoshan (Mt. Lao) where this tea is produced. The yearly picking is tiny in comparison to export-driven tea growing areas. Most people in China have not heard of this tea. I am pretty suprised to even see an entry here. If you managed to get your hands on some Laoshan and it was not mind-blowing, please don’t judge all Laoshan tea from that one. As with any area, there is a huge range of quality. The farmers I had a chance to work with still hand process each batch. The best Laoshan tea can hold its own against anything, from Dragonwell to Gyokuro. The fields are fertilized with soybeans to give the tea a more rich and creamy taste. Very interesting tea. I am importing the spring 2011 batch from some farmer friends to introduce it to America properly.