Every year White2Tea releases a few green teas for a couple weeks in the spring.
They usually include one with the March Tea Club shipment.
When I tried the one with the teaclub shipment a few years ago, I realized that it was both some of the freshest green teas I’d tried and some of the tastiest. The only disadvantage is that White2Tea only pre-sells a fairly small amount for a couple weeks in the spring and then they are gone for the rest of the year.
The teas are early spring harvest, (pre-qing ming,) but come from relatively uncoveted regions for green tea production, Sichuan and Guizhou, whose producers and teas, the proprietor of White2Tea maintains, are often tapped to fill in the production gaps of more desirable regions.
In any case, tea producer gossip aside, White2Tea’s green teas are great, well priced, and I usually order a big bunch of them for the couple weeks they are available to get me through my summer hot weather tea drinking.
Book Cover Green is a bit of an oddball. It is a blend of tea leaves that are sorted out from the Green Tea producers other high end productions. More single and broken leaves than you would expect from a bud only early spring tea, but great quality tea. If you’re familiar with the Puerh term, Huang Pian, it is sort of like that, but for early spring green tea. A little less subtle than some bud only green tea, but a good chance to drink high end pre-qing ming green tea at every day green tea prices.
You could brew Book Cover gong fu style, but I prefer to brew summer green tea lazy stylee: Put tea in a tall glass, pour over nearly boiling water, wait to cool, drink, and repeat with more hot water until it tastes more like water than tea. I find 4g in a 450ml glass is about right for me.
Tasting Notes: Sweet fresh spring asparagus, tarragon, a touch of umami, and lingering menthol. Calm, but strong and lingering, warming body centered energy. Some broken leaves does mean more caffeine.
If one tea is unanimously liked from Northern China’s Siberian steps to Southern China’s tropical forests, it is the Mao Feng from Yellow Mountains. Smooth, sweet and subtly flowery, this tea is a mirror of the millennial poetical Chinese culture. Its name, Mao Feng, is coming for this poetical realm, as an homage to the “Downy Peaks” of the Yellow Mountains surrounding the tea gardens.
Type: Yellow Mountain green tea
Producteur : Family Lü – Shexian County – Da Gu Yun
Période de cueillette : 2nd April 2020 (pre Qing Ming – batch 01)
Retour des Montagnes Jaune
While in China, Green Tea is more universally drunk than any other sort of tea, in the US, green tea has never been very popular.
I have some theories as to why this is.
First, green tea needs to be drunk fresh to appreciate its subtle charms, and, ideally, it should be drunk within 18months of its picking.
There just isn’t a market for selling vintage dated tea in the US.
The best case is usually an undated bulk bin in a coop, hippy grocery, or spice store.
So, most of the green tea sold in the US is probably old, largely flavorless, or, if it does taste, it tastes like the patchouli sold in the hippy spice store it came from.
Second, green tea is about subtle charm, herbaceous light flavors, and a slight lingering sweetness.
The jaded American palate is about big bold flavors, we don’t really hang with the less-is-more ethos which the best green teas strive for.
Finally, green tea is best made with slightly less than boiling water, in addition, due to its subtle flavor characteristics, you really need to pay attention to the quality of the water you use.
So, suppose do somehow find some well stored green tea in the US, how should you drink it and what should you expect?
The most common way green tea is drunk in China is “Grandpa Style”, where you put a pinch of tea in your thermos or mug in the morning, add off boil water, let it cool until it is drinkable, and then add more hot water through the day as you drink and the water level goes down.
Alternatively, if you have some friends coming over, you can make it in a pitcher or if you are solo, the usual gong fu method with a gaiwan.
Which brings us to the Huang Shen Mao Feng from Retour des Montagnes Jaunes. We talked about Huang Shen Mao Feng once before in this post, “Huangshan Maofeng“. Everything there applies to this tea and I stand by my previous tasting notes, “light grassy vegetal flavor evocative of green beans or asparagus with a camphor/pine aftertaste…This is a super elegant and light green tea, more vegetal than fruity, almost no bitterness or grip to speak of.”
The only thing I will say is that this Huang Shen Mao Feng from Retour des Montagnes Jaunes is it was an earlier pick, so it has smaller buds, and lighter, less vegetal, flavor than the “Huangshan Maofeng Has Strong Buds” from Yin Xiang Hua Xia tea had been.
About this tea, Retour des Montagnes Jaunes says, “It is a very smooth tea, sweet and honey-like: a nice introduction to the subtlety of Chinese green teas.” I would completely agree with that. While this is a green tea, it is almost like a silver needles type white tea in its delicate character and the light color of its soup.
It was almost 80F here yesterday, so time to get out the green tea.
However, the 2021 green teas aren’t quite available yet, so I pulled one out of the cabinet from last year. This is a Gui Ding Yunwu from Guizhou province, which I got from @tong_xin_she.
“Yunwu” means literally, “Cloud and Mist”, describing the weather and climate in the tea mountains and has become a bit of a generic name for roasted green teas. Gui Ding is the county in Guizhou that this tea comes from.
In the past, the better quality versions of this tea were thought of highly enough for this sometimes be an imperial tribute tea.
The little rolled buds and leaves are said to resemble fish hooks.
It reminds me a bit of a good quality Mao Jian, light flower and perfume in the scent with a hint of medicinal character, grainy honey sweetness in the flavor, a touch of astringency, and a long lasting aftertaste.
If I were an Imperial Official, I would be happy to have this Gui Ding Yunwu in my teacup.
The term “Gunpowder” when used in description of a Green Tea isn’t very useful.
The term “Gunpowder” was used as a brand name by a British company, well, more specifically, “Pinhead Gunpowder,” for a green tea they sold.
It is basically robust green tea formed into what is called “pearl” shape (the same shape used for some types of Oolong). It can come from any of a number of regions in China.
When I first tried to get into tea, I mostly tried drinking English Breakfast and similar black teas. None of them, as they say, really floated my boat. Too harsh.
It wasn’t until I discovered a bulk bin labelled Gunpowder Green Tea at a local Grocery Coop in Madison, WI, that I really found something I liked in tea.
I drank that for years, but eventually drifted back to drinking coffee to keep me properly stimulated while working late nights and early mornings as a line cook.
After we moved to CA, and I got out of the restaurant business, I found that coffee was maybe a bit too stimulating, so I started looking around for my old favorite, “Gunpowder Green Tea”.
I found some “Organic Gunpowder Green Tea” in a bulk bin at a local store, took it home, and gave it a try. I couldn’t believe what I was tasting. It tasted literally like someone had poured an ashtray into the tea while it was being made. It was cloudy, it was harsh, it tasted like ashtray. It was, in short, one of the worst tasting beverages I had tried in my entire life! And I like Smoked Lapsang Souchong tea! I spit it out, threw out the remainder of the bag, and went back to experimenting with English Breakfast style teas.
Over the next few years, I tried a few more times to get back to Chinese Green tea in the species of Gunpowder, and every time I tried, I was confronted by that ashtray taste.
I was completely puzzled.
How had I not noticed this flavor before? Had my tastes changed? Had Gunpowder Tea changed in the intervening years?
I started to research and discovered other people had also noticed this flavor and would post puzzled questions on tea boards, like, “I’m new to Green Tea and just tried Gunpowder Green Tea. Is Green Tea supposed to taste like brewing tea from an ashtray?”
With answers like:
“No, it’s not supposed to taste that way, but many lower-grade gunpowder teas do. Some people actually prefer their gunpowder greens this way, so mainstream US distributors continue to sell shops this variety. Even some supposedly finer grades (pinhead gunpowder) is often found with this flavor profile. I think some consumers expect a smoky flavor from a tea with that name, even though historically gunpowder refers to the shape of the rolled leaf rather than the taste.”
So, I guess when I first tried Gunpowder tea, back in Madison, WI, I got lucky and found some that was of a higher grade or selected without the ashtray flavor.
So, my advice to you is to avoid anything sold as Gunpowder Tea. If you want to try Chinese Green Tea, please choose any other tea than Gunpowder.
“This “Jade Snail” 玉螺 green tea is a tippy one leaf to one bud pick but because it’s such and early spring tea the leaf is typically quite small. The result is a balanced green tea with both robust and sweet attributes.”
Thick body, light flavor.
The early flavors and scents are on the greener side, reminiscent of asparagus, but it’s a savory tea whose lingering grain-ish sweetness expresses itself the finish, rather than the early flavors.
There’s a little mid-tongue bitterness, that I can sense more than actually taste.
Just enough to keep it interesting.
Somehow, there is a lingering after-taste evoking dried fruit.
For a tea that seems simple and lightly flavored at first taste, it is surprisingly complex as the steeps progress.
Not bad resteepability for a green tea and thought provoking length.
“”Bao Hong” tea is from Yi Liang county of Yunnan. It’s leaf is quite small and it carries a high level of aroma. The leaves are always picked when very small and fresh during a two hour window of time in the early morning of mid-February. The aroma is intense and fresh.”
In the method of picking and processing, this is quite similar to Long Jing Dragon Well tea. If you looked at a basket of the dry leaves, I wouldn’t be surprised if you mistook it for a high quality Long Jing Dragon Well tea. That is, until you brewed a cup.
While it looks a bit like Dragon Well tea from Long Jing, the flavor of the tea is very distinct from it.
Green teas tend to fall along light and dark flavor families, lighter green flavors like asparagus and tarragon vs darker, meatier flavors like collard greens and seaweed.
While still super fresh, it is a 2019 first flush tea after all, this is on the darker side of the green tea spectrum, at least for bud heavy, spring teas.
There’s something in the flavors that is super familiar to me, but that I can’t quite place. It’s not an off or bitter flavor, it’s just a bit unusual in a tea for me.
My coworker described the aftertaste as a bit like the soft drink “Sprite”. I haven’t had Sprite for years, but I feel like I remember it was heavier on the lime than the lemon. And I kind of get that, there’s a bit of the sort of dark lime-like flavor which lingers on the palate, lightened by a sparkle of darker spearmint.
If you’re tired of the usual green tea suspects, the Bao Hong Green Tea is an interesting one to try to wrap your mind around.
Huangshan Maofeng is another green tea almost always included in lists of “Big 10 Famous Chinese Teas” (十大中国名茶)”.
My notes are, “light grassy vegetal flavor evocative of green beans or asparagus with a camphor/pine aftertaste.”
This is a super elegant and light green tea, more vegetal than fruity, almost no bitterness or grip to speak of.
The English translation of the name is “Yellow Mountain Fur Peak”, due to the “small white hairs which cover the leaves and the shape of the processed leaves which is said to resemble the peak of a mountain”.
The recommended way to brew tippy green teas like this is to add a small amount (say 1g per 100ml water) to a tall, preferable tempered, water glass and cover with hot (185F/85C) water. Then wait and watch the dance as the liquid cools and the tea leaves drop to the bottom of the glass. Then, as your glass gets down half way, add more water until the liquid tastes more like water than tea. The only downside to this method is it is not as fast as brewing with a gaiwan, it enforces a leisurely contemplative pace to your tea drinking. Or maybe it is an upside? You also tend to end up eating a few tea leaves, which isn’t really a bad thing.
First off, the name of this tea is a little misleading, it is called “Anji Bai Cha” which means “White Tea of Anji”, but the production method is that of a Green Tea. It is called “White Tea”, because the tea buds and leaf sprouts are very light in color, pale yellow to white.
Second, because of the light color of the leaves, it is sometimes called “Golden Buds” which might lead you to think it is a “Yellow Tea”, but again, this is just referring to the color of the buds, not the production method.
Finally, the color of the tea soup, because of the light green of the leaves, is bright topaz yellow. Again, not because it is a Yellow Tea, but because of the light color of the chlorophyll in the leaves and buds. It is a green tea.
If you research Anji Bai Cha, another thing you will find quickly are health claims related to the teas’ relatively high amounts of Amino Acids.
“Bai Cha’s pale jade leaves are unique in their high amino acid content, which contributes to the sweetness and calming effect of their infusion. Some studies have estimated that the Bai Cha leaves contain approximately three to five times the amount of amino acid found in any other green tea.”
Another interesting point is that the two bushes which were found with the light buds characteristic of Anji Bai Cha, and from which all cuttings of Anji Bai Cha were taken, were only discovered in 1982! Anji Bai Cha, from Anji, is still a relatively lightly produced and thus somewhat prized and thus expensive tea.
The first time I tried the Yunnan Sourcing Anji Bai Cha, it freaked me out a bit. I may have been a bit on the high side of that temp. Brewed in a Gaiwan, I found the flavor of the Yunnan Sourcing Anji Bai Cha almost too intense. There is a creamy umami core to Anji Bai Cha that I somehow concentrated with my preparation, the flavor reminded me a bit of hard boiled egg, or Chinese 100 year old eggs. Brewed as I did, there was a bit of bitterness in the aftertaste.
The Yin Xiang Hua Xia Tea anjibaicha golden buds was a much less intense flavor. While the umami/eggy core is still there, it was less intense and the flavor more balanced. There is a lasting sweet impression and length of flavor that is more apparent with this Anji Bai Cha than the other two. You usually don’t think so much about length of flavor with Green Teas, but this anjibaicha has a haunting and very pleasant after taste.
2g in 12oz insulated Glass Cup, water just starting to come to simmer, should be around 185F.
The “Ming Qian” in the name of this importer’s Anji Bai Cha, means that the tea was picked before the “Qing Ming” festival in early April. Basically, this just means it is from the first flush of tea buds, not the secondary buds later in the spring. For what it is worth, all three of these teas are first flush.
The most common way to drink bud heavy green teas like Anji Bai Cha or Dragon Well is to steep them in a clear glass, using about 1g of tea per 100ml of water.
This is a relaxing way to drink tea, you have to wait for the leaves to drop to the bottom of the glass, or at least start to drop. While you’re waiting for them to drop, you can watch the ballet of the leaves as they float down through the water. Once you start drinking, you just add a bit more hot water as you drink down your glass. You can keep adding hot water until your tea tastes more like hot water than tea.
I made the Seven Cups tea first this way, but also went back and tried all three teas this way.
All three Anji Bai Chas were good.
The Yunnan Sourcing Anji Bai Cha is the most intense in its flavor and was a bit tricky to brew in a gaiwan. It’s flavor was good when prepared in a glass.
The Seven Cups Anji Bai Cha was in the middle of the three, not as intense as the Yunnan Sourcing, but not as elegant as the Yin Xiang Hua Xia Tea.
The Yin Xiang Hua Xia Tea was the most elegant and had the best length of flavor. I found myself thinking about the flavor most of the day after drinking it, craving it a bit. But, it is also the most expensive of the three. (They also sell lower priced types that more or less map out to exactly the same prices as Yunnan Sourcing or Seven Cups.)
If you are interested in Anji Bai Cha, I might recommend trying a less expensive version, but be aware that it may be a bit trickier to get a good cup of tea out of it than with the smoother, higher grade.
“This is a classic “Robust” style Yunnan Bi Luo Chun (rolled) Green Tea, with a mix of 2 leaf to 1 bud plucking style.”
Which is to say, you won’t mistake Yunnan Bi Luo Chun for the classic ethereal Bi Luo Chun from Jiangsu known for its tiny buds. These leaves abd buds are hearty Yunnan-style, some of them are downright huge.
This is a hearty green tea with a thick soup and pleasant outgoing vegetal character. It is relatively forgiving of careless brewing, but rewards care, exposing layers of green flavor in the main tastes and mint in the aftertaste. Gongfu style brewing, this tea will stand up to several steeps and just keep on going.
It is a great, organic, reasonably priced, perfect tea for an every day green tea drinker.