Big Old Ass Tree Maocha

Big Old Ass Tree Maocha
Big Old Ass Tree Maocha

Maocha is unsorted tea leaves. In the case of raw puerh, it is what producers/distributors buy from farmers and then sort, blend, and press into cakes (or ferment into shou Puerh). Basically, puerh maocha is green tea made from Camellia sinensis var. assamica.

A bit ago I posted about an earlier years’ Bitter Leaf Teas‘s Big Old Ass Tree raw puerh.

So, because the nice people at bitter leaf teas had some of the maocha they were going to process into the 2021 version of Big Old Ass Tree in the office when I ordered something else, (hint, the something else was a gift for Mrs Flannestad and it is in the pictures,) they sent me a sample.

Opening the bag, it smells great, spring forest meadow. Upon brewing, he first impressions are of mild flavor, thick body, and a bit of almost salinity. Towards the end of the first infusions, as it cools, a mild bitterness makes itself felt. The sweet bitterness lingers on the palate, with little of the harshness that young Puerh has a reputation for.

The energy is definitely a fast head buzz, rather than body.

An intriguing preview, looking forward to trying the finished tea later this year!

Book Cover Green

Book Cover Green
Book Cover Green

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.

Huang Shen Mao Feng

2020 Huang Shen Mao Feng from Retour des Montagnes Jaune.

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
Huang Shen Mao Feng
Huang Shen Mao Feng

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.

Rock 4×4

rock 4x4
rock 4×4

Rock 4×4 Wuyi Rock Oolong from White2Tea.

“The name Rock 4X4 comes from this blend of rock oolongs, which contains 4 different yancha varietals (tieluohan, rougui, shuixian and qidan) with 4 roasts. This blend has enduring aromas and a burly bite from both the flame and the strength of the tea. This blend is for seekers of strong tea; heavy handed roast and heavy handed character.”

White2Tea

I ordered this bunch of Rock Oolong, (Rock 4×4, Dahongpao, Stone Sparrow, Shui Xian, Shui Jin Gui, No.2 Rougui, No.8 Rougui, Jin Guan Yin, and Stone Milk,) in November of 2019.

For the last couple years I have had a tradition of drinking Rock Oolong in the first few months of the new year as a celebration and I wanted to be prepared for 2020.

Little did any of us know what 2020 would have in store. I started a new job, then COVID-19. I just never got around to drinking the 2019 White2Tea rock oolongs in 2020.

Fast forward, or slow forward, a year, and I am finally drinking the tea I had been most looking forward to of the bunch, Rock 4×4.

I sometimes joke that White2Tea makes all varieties of tea they sell with puerh drinkers in mind. Which is to say, they are not shy about flavor and they are not shy about energy in their teas, whatever the variety and wherever they come from.

And while this commonplace isn’t true of all the tea from White2Tea, it is true of this blend 4x rock tea varietals roasted 4 times. And check out that color! You can tell they weren’t shy about oxidation, either.

And while the roast character is heavy, and the flavor is heavy in the mouth, it is still a balanced tea somehow.

Well, anyway, if you like strong roast character and heavy oxidation in your Rock Oolongs, Rock 4×4 is one yancha that should be on your list to try.

rock 4x4
rock 4×4

Water is Life

I live in San Francisco where our water is mostly snowmelt from the Sierras (Hetch Hetchy) or pretty neutral water from a few city wells.

SF PUC does often add a pretty heavy dose of Chloramine, so the water does need to be filtered, (and there is sometimes a bit of off flavor,) but mostly a quick trip through a britta or maytag filter is all that you need to get it ready for tea.

After a bit of filtration, the water here is very neutral and ready to let almost any tea shine without much effort.

Other areas of the world, it can be a bit more challenging. For example, I grew up in the Midwest in an area where all the water came from wells tapping into limestone aquifers. The water there was horrible for tea. I spent much of my young life trying and trying to make a good cup of tea and failing over and over.

I recently visited an area of California where the tap water comes almost exclusively from volcanic mineral hot springs. The water there is so mineral laden that the it nearly tastes like tea just coming straight out of the tap.

The hotel where we stayed even filtered it heavily through the device pictured above. It tastes much better coming out of the filtering machine, but I still spent several days futilely trying to get a good cup of tea out of it, even with teas that I was familiar with from home. I dunno, I think maybe the mineral content makes it more challenging.

I suppose it is interesting, as in China mountain spring water is most often highly thought of for tea brewing, the most famous, of course, being that from the “Dragon Well” in Long jing, which is said to be very heavy in texture.

But, I don’t really remember the tea there tasting like anything but tea leaves in water.

In any case, it’s always good to remember that tea is 99.99% water. If the water doesn’t taste good, the tea you make from it won’t taste good either.

Steeped Dragonwell Tea-2

Gui Ding Yunwu

Gui Ding Yunwu
Gui Ding Yunwu

Gui Ding Yunwu tea from Tong Xin She.

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.

#Tea #Cha #TongXinShe #GuiDingYunwu #GreenTea #DrinkTea #TeaLife

dahongpao

dahongpao
dahongpao

2019 dahongpao from White2Tea.

Among modern tea makers dahongpao, rather than referring to a very exclusive tea from a specific set of bushes in the Wuyi preserve, is usually a sort of house blend which the producers feel is representative of their house style. (Well, unless you notice the tea costs more than your mortgage for a gram or two.)

According to their website, the @white2tea dahongpao is a Meizhan heavy blend prepared along traditional lines, medium roast and oxidation.

White2Tea dahongpao is a very good introduction to the Wuyi Yancha style, balanced and with surprisingly punchy in energy content. It will get your morning going and stoke your enthusiasm and curiousity for Rock Oolong.

#dahongpao #tea #cha #RockOolong #Yancha #DrinkTea #TeaDrunkByNoon

no.8 rougui

no.8 rougui
no.8 rougui

no.8 rougui from white2tea.

“A different roasting style that highlights the mineral aspects and aromas that are classically associated with Rougui. Heavy feeling and a gorgeous profile that begs for time and attention.”

–White2Tea

No.8 rougui rock oolong from @white2tea.

According to the blurb, White2Tea requested a roasting style for this rougui that they were hoping would highlight “mineral aspects and aromas” in the tea.

And, indeed, there is very little perfume or fruit to this tea’s flavors. It is more on the savory side. There is a slight astringency, as well, that keeps things interesting. And it has flavor that keeps going for a few more steeps than is usual in a rock oolong.

No.8 rougui probably wouldn’t be my desert island rougui, but it is a super interesting tea that amplifies certain aspects of rock oolong in a fascinating manner.

If you’ve struggled with identifying the mineral character in rock oolong, here’s one that shows you exactly what that is all about.

#White2Tea #Yancha #rougui #Cha #Tea #DrinkTea

2019 Luoyan Leafhopper

Luoyan Leafhopper
Luoyan Leafhopper

“This green oolong comes from the gardens of Luoyan Village [罗岩村]. Roughly 800 meters above sea level, the tea bushes grow in fields and terraces alongside a small variety of native plants…This is the Summer harvest, made in July of 2019. Because this tea was grown in the summer without any pesticides, leafhoppers bite the tea leaves and provide the tea with its distinctive sweetness. The picking standard of this tea is roughly 1 bud for every 2 leaves. The leaves were withered in the sun, shaken and oxidized by hand, and then fired and shaped by machine before drying. The tea itself is sweet, buttery and floral. It is a very approachable tea.”

Breathing Leaves Tea

One of the interesting parts about the tea scene is that occasionally people and companies simply just disappear. They stop posting to social media and their websites vanish. Ghost teas.

This is an Anxi Oolong that a company called “Breathing Leaves” sold a couple years ago. They’ve seemingly shut down since then and the proprietor has disappeared from social media.

The tea is called “Luoyan Leafhopper”. The first impressions are of the Ooolong perfume, and it is indeed sweet and thick, like a bug bitten tea, but with more astringency and, along green tea lines, and a bit of surprising, and pleasant, huigan, or lingering sweet bitterness, that makes itself known in the aftertaste as the tea cools.

It is a very nice tea. I am not usually a fan of low oxidation Oolongs and this is very well done. I am a bit sad that the company seems to have disappeared, (Or at least gone into hibernation, as the last time I looked, their website was still up, but the shop shuttered. I tried to contact the proprietor with comments about enjoying his teas, but received no response.)

(Not to mention, they also sold some really good, well priced, Puerh.)

Trying to build a brand on social media is a thankless job, seems like lightening in a bottle, one in a hundred thousand, unless you are previously famous, or have the guts and commitment for a very long haul. Take it from someone who has had websites for almost as long as there has been an internet, and even a pretty “successful” one for a while. Don’t think it’s easy path to quick money, success, and fame.

#Cha #Tea #DrinkTea #AnxiOolong #GreenTea #BreathingLeavesTea

2019 GC High Mountain Oolong

2019 GC High Mountain Oolong
2019 GC High Mountain Oolong

I’m gonna call this tea @mudandleaves GC High Mountain Oolong, Summer 2019, ‘cos I find its actual traditional name a little creepy. Mud and Leaves also suggested calling it by its Pinyin name, “Huangjin Guafei Wulong” (Link to the GC High Mountain Oolong, Summer 2020).

GC High Mountain Oolong is a type of Taiwanese Oolong which the growers intentionally allow/encourage to be bitten by an insect called the Tea Jassid, a type of leaf hopper. The teas are also commonly called “Bug Bitten Oolong”.

The producers of this type of tea say that the insects’ bites on the leaves cause the tea to have a sweeter character.

On a practical level, these teas do not generally have the same levels of perfume and/or types of flavors evocative of fruit that you would expect from an oolong tea. Or maybe a different type of fruit.

Instead, the primary characteristics of Bug Bitten Oolongs are more reminiscent of Fujianese white teas. Early steeps have flavor and a thicker mouthfeel a bit reminiscent of minerally dry white wine, perhaps minerally Sancerre or very dry gewurztraminer. Subtle floral scents dominate the middle steeps, which fade to sweet grain-like flavor the later steeps. A long lasting light after taste stays in your mind and palate.

The energy seems concentrated in the throat and upper chest.

As is usual with all of their teas, Mud and Leaves’ 2019 GC High Mountain Oolong is an excellent example of this style of tea. Like White Teas, Bug Bitten teas are great summer teas, sweet, with a lasting cooling effect. (For the record, I also got the cool Dragon cup and nifty Ruyao Porcelain Gaiwan in these pictures from Mud and Leaves.)

As an aside, one of the most interesting things about Taiwanese teas, which are often formed into pearl shape, is when you weigh the dry leaves, it never seems like enough tea, yet when the leaves unfurl, you are always surprised by how much they fill the gaiwan.

#Tea #Cha #TaiwaneseTea #HighMountainOolong #MudAndLeaves #DrinkTea