Feb 21, 2012

a personal review of 2011 tea

Due to my winter traveling and the cold I caught after getting home, this review is badly delayed, so was my routine establishment of new year resolutions. But I think I've still caught them all before the Tibetan New Year anyway :-)

I will go over them by which comes to my mind first...

1. My favorite tea of 2011, which was also a new tea experience for me, was this green tea, Bai Mei Hua Jian. It's an unforgettable beauty, and also falls in my favorite scope of Anhui green tea.

2 and 3. Two other green teas that I love very much and considered myself very lucky to have obtained, are Tai Ping Hou Kui and Lu Shan Cloud Mist. There are always some nice, unknown tea varieties that are hard to come by in the market. But Tai Ping Hou Kui and Lu Shan Cloud Mist are two of the most famous Chinese teas that are known by so many people yet still hard to find. Their common problem is small production.

Tai Ping Hou Kui "in a broader meaning" is commonly sold in China. But with increasing labor cost and due to some other factors, it has been ever harder to get the really traditionally made Tai Ping Hou Kui. The difference in taste is much greater than the difference in the outlook of leaves.

I know this man who obtains new harvest Lu Shan Cloud Mist each spring from its central production region. His offerings are usually in a scale of smaller than 10 lbs. for each plantation, and most was sold through his email list before ever making its way to his store. Ever since I knew this man, I have been interested. But I don't buy the tea every year, because it's an expensive tea that people crazily grab off as if it were free. In early spring, it's already stressful enough to haunt producers for Long Jing :-p  But Lu Shan Cloud Mist of 2011 was somewhat special to me. This tea was produced in a below 500m (1500ft.) location of Lu Shan Mountain, not the highest elevation of production. But it was a bad spring for the region. Nearly all locations above 500m of elevation had zero production, and even below 500m locations had many new tea buds killed by the cold weather. And you know I love survivors!

Ok, another excuse for my procrastination of writing on these teas is I didn't want to talk too much about them while they were still in stock of our web store.  I believe background information of a tea is always interesting. But I also believe one should avoid having his/her first experience of a tea influenced too much by fringing information. Like Mark Twain said, "Don't let school interfere with your eduction." ;-)

4. Another new tea experience in 2011, Jing Shan Tea (径山茶). Someday I will write more about this tea. It was a tea on my wishlist for a long time. Not only it's a famous green tea from Zhejiang, it's also an important landmark in the history of zen tea culture, and a connection point between Chinese and Japanese zen tea culture.

5. A bunch of Taiwan *style* oolongs. I've written about this Zealong and plan to write more about the other Zealongs, a Yunnan produced one and a Sichuan produced one.

6. There are a few very unique teas gifted by tea friends, and I've started a blog post about them long time ago. But writing is challenging to me, especially when it comes to more emotional topics. So I haven't managed to finish it yet. 

During this review, I just realized how much overdue homework there is in my tea documenting!

Besides, I feel terribly guilty for not having tasted two very special teas I've got in 2011. One is an organic Tie Guan Yin from my favorite TGY producer. "Organic" is not what makes it unique, but it's the specific organic fertilizer used for this tea. Another one is Song Tea (宋茶 named by Song Dynasty), which is supposedly the ancestor of Dan Cong and said by many people an extincted tea processing method. But a friend brought me some from this island inhabited by descendents of Song Dynasty royal family refugees. Since both of these teas are oolong, they somewhat made me think I didn't have to worry too much about their shelf life. But I think I shall taste them soon!

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