The term “Pekoe” in the name of this tea is a bit confusing for me. Usually, “Pekoe” refers, when combined with the word “Orange”, to a non-tippy type of broken black tea, from an obscure British/Dutch tea classification system.
The Yunnan Sourcing website says this tea is, “A robust white pekoe varietal green tea from Feng Qing area of Lincang.”
That implies that there is a Chinese tea varietal called “pekoe”?
Color me confused.
However, as soon as I taste this tea, I am far less confused. While it isn’t quite the green powerhouse that the Teng Chong Hui Long Zhai was, nor is it the mild mannered tea of either the Green Snail or the Cui Ming.
It charts a nice path right down the upper middle of the green teas I’ve tried, with very good vegetal pea/bean flavor, nice re-steepability, and a lengthy sweet after-taste. And a pleasantly zippy caffeine buzz. I could defintely drink the heck out of this one, whatever its pedigree.
There are a group of teas, or type of teas, which are classically called, “China’s 10 Famous Teas” (or sometimes 8 famous teas).
This classification goes back to before the communist revolution, at least late 1800s or early 1900s, maybe earlier.
The list slightly varies a bit from source to source, but it is usually about half green tea.
At the time, among those green teas, Lake Tai/Dongting Green Snail Spring from Suzhou, Jiangsu, was often considered the best of the best.
Suzhou is in the Central Eastern province, Jiangsu, near Shanghai.
This isn’t Lake Tai/Dongting Green Snail.
It is from Yunnan, which is a province in Southern China, bordering Myanmar, Laos, and Vientam.
The tea grown in the Jiangsu area tend to be on small leafed bushes. The tea grown in Yunnan area tend to be on big leafed, well, actual trees. Distinct varieties of tea are grown in each area, due to the differences in climate.
I haven’t had actual Bi Luo Chun from Jiangsu, so I can’t tell you how much this one resembles the other, but given the differences in regions, I don’t actually expect that this Yunnan Green Snail Bi Luo Chun tastes much like the real thing, from Jiangsu.
However, another distinguishing factor in “Green Snail” tea is how it is formed. As I mentioned, after the “Kill Green” step, green tea is usually formed into shapes which allow it to be stored without damaging the leaves.
In the case of “Green Snail” the tea is formed into a sort of double coil. First the leaf is rolled vertically, then it is rolled horizontally. The shape is said to resemble a snail which has been cooked and pulled out of its shell. Well, which you can see from the picture, it does. Yum.
While this tea may not be real “Bi Luo Chun” from Jiangsu, it is a very solid green tea.
I find with these assortments from Yunnan Sourcing, there is usually a couple exceptional teas, one unusual tea, and one that is just a solid, well priced example of the classification. A daily drinker, if you will.
This tea seems to be the daily drinker in this bunch. It is a super solid example of Yunnan green tea. Good clean flavor, forgiving of careless brewing, stands up to multiple brews, but doesn’t require it. I took it to my Mom’s house over the holiday and drank it every day.
First it’s a bit odd that it isn’t formed. Second, it is ridiculously light, almost a White Tea, or the ghost of a green tea.
Oh, but we haven’t talked about that yet.
White tea production is the simplest, the tea is picked, withered slightly, and dried. That’s pretty much it.
Green tea is slightly more complicated.
First, in general, white tea contains a slightly larger leaf to bud ratio than most White teas.
Second, after withering, the green tea undergoes something which is usually called “Kill Green”.
“Kill Green” refers to quickly heating the tea to stop the enzymatic action from changing the green color. Usually this is done, at a more rustic level, in something that looks a bit like a large wok, or at a more industrial level, in something that looks like a cross between a clothes dryer and a cement mixer. Alternatively, sometimes the tea is steamed, though this is more common in Japan.
After the “Kill Green” step, green tea is usually, (and I say usually, because obviously this tea has not,) formed into a some sort of shape that will prevent it from breaking in transport. A spear shape, or a roll, or a pearl shape, etc. There are different styles in different regions.
The tea is then dried at a low temperature.
This tea looks basically like White Peony (Bai Mudan) which has undergone a kill green step.
According to the Yunnan Sourcing this tea is grown from a specific varietal and picked very early in the spring.
It is super light in flavor, in almost every way the complete opposite of the robust late harvest Teng Chong Hui Long Zhai I drank yesterday. There is an earthy vegetal nutty character and a lingering sweetness. A bit of astringency in the middle steeps reminds you it is green tea, and not a white tea. But it has quite a nice, and subtle aftertaste.
I’m starting a new project in the new year. After spending the last few months drinking White Tea, I’m going to immerse myself in Green Tea for the next bit of time.
I started by ordering a Green Tea sampler from Yunnan Sourcing which includes Five 50g portions of various teas from Yunnan.
If you aren’t familiar with metric portioning, ordering teas in metric amounts can be a bit daunting, (but, frankly, ounces are way worse).
To make things easier, think about it like this. A typical teaspoon of tea is about 2g, which is a single British/American portion of single steep, broken tea.
But, you say, “Erik, you just ordered 250g of green tea, that’s 125 servings of tea. How on earth are you going to drink that?”
Well, let’s just say, I use more than 2g of tea per serving.
A typical amount used for a single serving of multi-steeped, whole leaf, Chinese tea is more like 5g (or 7g, if you’re really working it), which is really just 50 servings. A month and a half, if you only drink one batch of tea a day.
Anyway, this is a very nice tea, though not a green tea for wall flowers.
It has a nice early vegetal aroma, chewy but not overwhelming bitterness, and a very long lasting sweet aftertaste. Appetite building! A bit like a slightly less assertive Raw (Sheng) Pu-Erh. Oh, and a pretty zippy caffeine content! Scott from Yunnan Sourcing says it is a good morning tea, and I agree.