Jun 27, 2012

some random thoughts about "shoulds"

This post was inspired by Alex Zorach's blog post There is no Should. I started writing this right after reading Alex's blog post, but somehow didn't manage to finish it earlier :-)

This is not exactly about tea, but I've thought of it in the context of tea.

If we leave moral questions aside and just focus on technical questions in tea drinking, What does a "should" mean in tea drinking? (Here by "Should", I mean "Shall" or "Ought to" meaning of the word "Should".) I guess there are different answers depending on what the specific tea topic is. But generally I feel most "shoulds" are more or less meaningless. Tea appreciation is a very personal activity. If we believe there aren't that many "shoulds" in water drinking, rice steaming and apple eating, then why would there be more "shoulds" in tea drinking? Of course one can always improve techniques even on apple eating, and he may receive friendly suggestions on a better way to peel his apple, but that's not something somebody else tells him he "should" do, right?

I can understand that when we love tea so much, sometimes it's heart breaking to see other people "mess up" with good tea leaves. But when somebody else drinks his tea, it's about him, not about us. Besides, suggestions can always be given in a gentle, subtle way instead of with an arbitrary "should". After all, tea is only one aspect of life, and we have to admit, everybody messes up with something, and sometimes, one person's messing up is another person's celestial enjoyment. I not only mess up with tea occasionally, I think I constantly mess up with other things such as wine. In fact, I'm afraid I've been butchering wine and liquor culture :-p

I know nearly nothing about wine, and mainly drink red wine for its warming effect (health benefits?). I know if I drink good wine, I will be wasting it. So usually I just buy cheap wine. My typical conversation with a local liquor store owner was like this:

(I was wondering around examining the wine bottles...)
Owner: How can I help you? What kind of wine are you looking for?
Me: Some kind of Merlot or Cabernet with screw-on lid, so that I won't need a cork tool...

Then the store owner quickly recommended an Australian Cabernet around $10, which turned out pretty good for me. And I appreciated his help. After reading some conversations on tea forums, I suspect my wine choice would drive some wine lovers crazy :-p But that was really all I wanted and all I needed from a red wine.

I also consume about 1 bottle of vodka every year, drinking it with grapefruit juice and using it for homemade fragrance, like the one mentioned in #5 of this post. By the way, my aromatherapy book says vodka and tequila are perfect as base fluid for homemade fragrance because they have the right amount of alcohol content and they don't have strong odors themselves :-D

Last time when I went to a local liquor store to buy vodka, I saw more than a dozen varieties. Learning that I was looking for a vodka, the store owner asked, "How do you drink your vodka?" I told him I'd drink it with grapefruit juice (and holding back from telling him about my homemade vodka fragrance). He thought for a moment, and picked up for me a big bottle for less than $10. I appreciated his quick and non-intrusive help. He didn't tell me "no self-respecting vodka drinker would mix juice with vodka" (but I heard comments of this style from tea drinkers...), and he didn't try to talk me into "improving" my vodka appreciation by stepping up to more expensive products (you know this kind of sales pitch happens in all kinds of stores, including some tea stores).

I also keep a bottle of ginger brandy per my good neighbor's recommendation. He swears it's the best flu medicine, and I believe him :-) I don't even enjoy drinking brandy. This bottle is totally for its health benefits :-) And I wonder if there are among brandy connoisseurs the counterpart of anti-flavored-products people among tea connoisseur :-p

Besides buying cheap alcohol and mess up with them, I also occasionally mix alcohol and tea. Remember seeing some tea drinker saying this in horror? "What?? They mixed tea with that stuff?!"

I wonder if there are some rum enthusiast out there saying this in horror - "What?? She mixed rum with tea?!" But so far I haven't got anybody saying it to me yet :-p

Even though I have poor tastes on alcohols, sometimes small suggestions help. For example, when our local liquor seller handed me my wine in the screw-on lid, he also told me that airing it for 15 minutes upon opening the bottle would improve the taste. I appreciate the advice, not only because it's something effective and easy to do, but also because I appreciate the liquor seller cared to give me some tips on a bottle of rather cheap wine.

Who knows? Although there is no sign of it yet, maybe someday I will want to become more intelligent on wine drinking, especially when I meet with wine drinkers who are cool, friendly and not snobbish. And if I decide to stay where I am now and drink alcohols mainly for their "health benefits" and as alcoholic juice, I would appreciate it if serious alcohol connoisseurs would allow me to do whatever I want with my drink, and I would appreciate friendly suggestions and simple tips.

When it comes to tea, I have to admit that there are teas and tea brewing methods that just strike my nerve and don't appeal to me. And there are times when my mind is dominated by all kinds of "shoulds". But I would try to remember how I would like to be treated as an alcohol drinker, and what I would like or dislike to hear from other drinkers about wines and liquors :-D

Jun 17, 2012

three major styles of Tie Guan Yin (1)

I once wrote about the three styles very briefly here. At this moment I realized it was 2.5 years ago (OMG!). I had always thought of further elaborating the topic and didn't realize my procrastination was so bad :-p

It would take many pages to thoroughly explain the styles of Tie Guan Yin, so I tend to get lazy and over-simplify them :-p

I made a few pictures and a chart about the styles a few years ago and somehow didn't feel like to get into the geeky details. So I will try to make this short and brief :-)

The picture can be clicked to enlarge.

Here, only the 3 major styles are listed. However, the styles of Tie Guan Yin spans through a spectrum instead of being a few distinct categories. For example, the modern green style could be made closer to traditional green style and is hence called Zheng Wei (orthodox green style, 正味). The modern green style could also be made very "green" (Xiao Qing, 消青) or made into a fresh sour style (Xiao Suan, 消酸). And there could be many smaller categories in between the above mentioned styles.

Here I would like to emphasize the three major styles because each has its own significance. They are different in quite a few ways. But I would try to summarize their differences very briefly as following:

* Traditional Charcoal Roast: medium oxidation, significant roasting that ranges from medium light to medium high. (The heavy roasting of Tie Guan Yin is generally lighter than the heavy roasting of Wuyi Yan Cha.)

*  Traditional Light Roast (or I would also call it Traditional Greener Style): medium oxidation, relatively brief roasting to induce aromas.

* Modern Green Style: light oxidation, roasting to dry, and no more roasting once the tea leaves are dry.

Next I will explain why I think each of them is significant in Tie Guan Yin family.

1. Modern Green Style.
Many people love it. Many people dislike it. Many people blame it for the shrinking market of traditional style TGY.

a. Why many people love it?
I think this has to do with the cultural context of tea drinking. Modern Green Style of TGY was developed under great influence of Taiwan High Mountain Oolong. Many TGY factories in Anxi and other counties of Fujian have invited Taiwan tea professionals to direct their production, and the modern TGY techniques are largely from techniques of High Mountain Oolong.

The development of Taiwan High Mountain Oolong deserves a separate full discussion. But in short, with modern green technique (in contrast to traditional Taiwan oolong technique), people found the superior fresh taste of tea leaves from high mountain ranges could be expressed to the greatest degree. Such fresh floral, vegetal, buttery (and much more...) tastes were rarely found in either green tea or other oolongs. The heavenly tastes of High Mountain Oolong also helped Taiwan Oolong win its international fame. The international acknowledgement started from Japan. This was not surprising, because Japan is a big tea country, and a big green tea country. I believe their appreciation of Taiwan High Mountain Oolong had a lot to do with the context of green tea culture.

Then, both the wonderful tastes and its market success made Taiwan High Mountain Oolong very influential to tea farmers in Fujian. In my impression, among all Chinese sub-cultural groups, Fujian people (or Hokkinese, as sometimes referred to in English) are some of the most creative, adventurous and business-savvy. They are good at riding the trends of the era and grab opportunities to create their own trends. It took Fujian farmers just several years to create Modern Green Style TGY based on learning from Taiwan tea professionals.

The reasons why people like Modern Green Style TGY are somewhat similar to the reasons why people love Taiwan High Mountain Oolong (but there might be a bunch of other reasons too... green TGY lovers please feel free to share your reasons...) And the reason why green TGY succeeded in China was somewhat similar to why Taiwan High Mountain Oolong succeeded in Japan - it faced a market dominated by green tea lovers.

The success of Modern Green Style TGY in China was quite amazing. The business talents of Fujian people were also fully embodied in this process. Besides, Fujian government (which I think is one of the most efficient local governments in China) was actively involved in commercial promotion of TGY, with all its lobbying power and political network.

b. Why many people dislike it?
I personally like traditional style of TGY much more than the modern green style - but I'm an omnivore :-)

I can somewhat understand why traditional style lovers dislike the modern green style. Some of them would feel green style tastes like putting perfume in your mouth - however fragrant, it's not pleasant.

Besides, many people, traditional style lovers and modern green style lovers all included, feel modern green style is less friendly to the stomach than the traditional style.

It might be a little too subjective to say traditional style TGY potentially has more complex and soul-touching flavors than modern green style TGY. But an interesting phenomenon I've observed over years (not backed up by true data analysis though) is, many modern style TGY lovers would gradually move toward a preference of traditional style TGY, but the opposite rarely happens.

One thing to clarify is, both people disliking traditional style TGY and people disliking modern green style TGY may consider the possibility that they happened to have tasted the poor representatives of the disliked style.

A common critique on modern green style TGY is that sometimes it could taste "stinky grassy" (臭青味). This unpleasant grassy flavor is not the same as the pleasant type of grassy flavor found in some green teas and greener style oolongs. This "stinky grassiness" is more likely a problem of improper tea processing rather than a problem of modern green style TGY. It could be caused by improper oxidation or not enough drying in tea production which is very similar to a problem in green tea that was discussed in another post. But this shouldn't be a problem in a well made modern green style TGY. On the other hand, indeed, modern green style TGY, with its low oxidation level, is more prone to this problem than other oolongs.

c. Why many people blame it?
With the national success (and later on, international success) of modern green TGY, market selection causes more and more farmers to produce modern green style. Therefore, there has been less and less traditional style seen in the market, and good traditional TGY has been in rarity. Many people believe it's the uprising of modern green style TGY that directly causes the shrinking production of traditional style TGY.

I don't think modern green TGY is the one to blame though. It's a choice of many buyers to favor modern green style TGY. And it's a choice of many producers to focus on the style most favored by the market. It's all people's choice. Modern green style TGY adds to the diversity of TGY family. It doesn't hurt to have one more style with distinctive characteristics.

I don't think either, that TGY farmers should be blamed for making a lot more modern green style TGY than traditional style. They follow the market trends, which are affected by tea drinkers, including you and me. If you and I are not buying tons of traditional style TGY while other people are buying tons of modern green style TGY, why blame the farmers for catering to stronger purchase powers?

d. Why I think Modern Green Style TGY is important?
I think Modern Green Style TGY is significant in tea history, because it created a trend that had never happened before - national popularity of a oolong. I believe this has not only converted more people into oolong fans, but somehow changed people's way of thinking.

In the past thousands of years, in China, green tea was the love of the nation. Even today, it's probably still the favorite tea in general. But it's no longer the sole dominant tea category in China. In the past, in most provinces in China (with exceptions of a few southern provinces such as Fujian and Guangdong), it was almost a common belief that "green tea is the best tea." People almost took it for granted without challenging the thought. But indeed it was the typical subjective, hierarchical way of thinking. Many people thought so only because they were drinking green tea all the time and weren't exposed to a lot of other types of teas. Only since 1990s, TGY, more specifically, Modern Green Style TGY has grabbed large portions of Chinese tea markets, and virtually changed people's way of thinking. If TGY hadn't done it, probably sooner or later, Wuyi Yan Cha, puerh, or some other tea, would challenge the green tea dominance. But TGY did it the first and the fastest.

Many people far away from oolong production regions, my mom included, thought they had experienced the finest teas (aka Long Jing, Bi Luo Chun, etc.) in their lives, but were suddenly wakened by TGY (at that point, Modern Green TGY) and realized there is actually a whole new world out of what their previous tea world. My family clan is mainly located in Beijing. My mom started drinking oolong in her 50s, so are many of my aunts and uncles, so are families of many of my friends from provinces across China. Once getting started by Modern Green TGY, these old new drinkers would soon fall in love with some or many other oolongs, reds and other teas they didn't think of exploring before.

Whether or not one likes this specific tea, Modern Green Style TGY just did it!

Oh well, I guess I just can't keep it short :-p  So I will take a break here and write more about traditional greener style and traditional charcoal roast later!

Jun 11, 2012

How about the slimming effect of tea?

"Why the slimming power of tea doesn't work on me? Why??"
Does tea have slimming effect? What kind of tea has slimming effect?

First, let me tell a story. It's a popular story in China. I have a vague impression that it's from an ancient story book whose name I can't recall.

------------Here is the story.--------------

Once upon a time, there was a wizard who was selling magic seals with a supernatural power to repel mosquitoes. You know, sometimes you just need something like that because mosquitoes can drive people crazy!

A man heard from his fellow villagers that the magic seal indeed worked well. So he came to the wizard to buy the magic seal. He saw the magic seal was just a thin piece of paper filled with strange characters and drawings. He asked, "Will such a piece of paper really keep mosquitoes away?"

The wizard said, "Of course. 100% guaranteed."

Hence the man bought the magic seal and posted it on his bedroom wall. The following night, he suffered no less from mosquito attack throughout the night. The man was outraged, "This damn magic seal has no magic at all!"

The next day, the man saw the wizard in the village and asked him angrily, "How come your magic seal didn't work at all?!"

The wizard said, "Impossible! It worked for everyone!"

At the moment, two villagers were passing by. The wizard stopped them and asked, "How is my magic seal working?"
"It works perfectly." The villagers said.
The wizard turned to the angry man, "See, it works! You must have misused it. Where did you post it?"
The man said, "I posted it on my bedroom wall."
The wizard and the two villagers all laughed. "That's why it didn't work for you. You didn't use it correctly! You are supposed to obtain a new mosquito net first. Then, you should sleep inside the mosquito net at night, and post the magic seal right on the mosquito net. It will work perfectly, as long as you follow the instructions." The wizard said, and the two villagers nodded along.

--------------------The End--------------------

Now back to our original topic. Does tea have slimming effect? What kind of tea has slimming effect? Well, I guess, the answer is, any kind of tea has perfect slimming effect, as long as you follow the instructions. Then what are the instructions? They are simple: Before and after drinking your tea, eat as little as possible, and work out as much as possible.

Did tea help me, a big tea lover lose weight? Unfortunately, no! (As much as I really need to lose weight!) Why? Because I didn't follow the instructions. I always have more than excellent appetite after drinking tea. I never "eat as little as possible". So I fully understand that it was because I didn't follow the instruction, not because the "magic" didn't work!

Now let me tell you a secret, a secret to be kept among readers of this blog only! Guess what! Bacon has slimming effect too! But to make it work for you, instructions must be followed: 1 piece of bacon every day at noon; Then eat as little as possible, and work out as much as possible every day.

If you use bacon in the right way (as described above), you will see its slimming effect very, very soon!

Ok, I guess you could tell I'm not being serious today :-D

"Well, I know why tea doesn't have a slimming effect on me..."

Jun 5, 2012

Blog Sale - green tea samples, and others

Similar to the one last year -

The teas for this blog sale are not sold at lifeinteacup.com (most of them are not sold else where either). Some of them I've obtained small amounts for personal tasting. With all of them piling up, the small amount of each tea is probably still too much for me to drink myself :-p

Some of the green teas are from the same group purchase mentioned in the blog sale of last year.

All prices are lower than market prices and not correlated with our web store prices. 

If interested, please contact me at gingkoheight @ g m ail . com before June 15, 2012. 

Shipping is $4 flat for US and Canada, $8 flat for Europe. 

Warning!! Most teas included in this blog sale are for tasting purposes only, and I don't have large supplies of them. If you fall in love with any of them, it's up to yourself to find more :-p Sometimes it's not hard to find them, and sometimes it could be quite a challenge.

1. Anhui Green Tea Sample Set. $7. Sold

There are 3 sets available. The sample set includes 4 teas, 6g of each, totally 24g. 

A. Huo Shan Huang Ya - a historical yellow tea made into green tea. Similar to this one

B. Zen Patriarch Tea - similar to this one.

C. Mountain West Green Orchid - a tea that shares similarity with Huang Shan Mao Feng and White Plum Flower Peak.

D. Yong Xi Green Pearl - a later harvest from the same tea bushes for Yong Xi Huo Qing

There are a few free samples coming with this sample set, including White Plum Flower Peak (4g), Yong Xi Huo Qing (4g, similar to this one, to compare with Yong Xi Green Pearl), Tong Cheng Small Orchid (4g, similar to this one) and Mother's Tea (6g, as described here, to compare with Zen Patriarch Tea).

2. Hubei Green Tea Sample Set. $4. Sold
There are 3 sets available. Each sample set has 6g of each of the three teas described here. Totally 18g.

3. Zhejiang Green Tea Sample Set. $8. Sold

There are 3 sets available. Each sample set has 3 teas, 6g each, totally 18g.

A. Jing Shan Tea - this is a grade lower than the Jing Shan Tea in last year's blog sale. But I've found it of more prominent flavor. Generally I feel the price of Jing Shan Tea is too steep compared with many other options. So probably I won't get it in large scale in near future. But I like this tea and it's nice to taste it from time to time.

This is 2012 Jing Shan Tea.

The tea won't get bitter at this level of leaf/water ratio. But still I would recommend lower leaf/water ratio. I just lost my mind and throw in to many leaves :-p

B. Bodhi Silver Tips - This is a newly developed variety. The processing is similar to the heavier pan-frying method used in Zhejiang for late season harvest green teas. But this tea uses early season harvest to combine the freshness from the tea and aroma induced by the pan-frying method.

C. White Da Fo Long Jing - This is a green tea from Xinchang, the hometown of Da Fo Long Jing. The tea cultivar is from Anji, hometown of An Ji Bai Cha. The tea is processed with Long Jing method. The flavor is closer to An Ji Bai Cha than Long Jing. I will write more later about a comparison of Anji Bai Cha and Anji White Long Jing. For a long time, I wasn't excited about the idea of using Long Jing method to process Anji white tea. But this year, I sort of fell in love with white Long Jing, and consider getting a lot of it next year. So I would love to hear from more people about their thoughts of white Long Jing.

There are two free samples coming with this sample set, including An Ji Bai Cha (4g, to compare with white Long Jing) and Meng Shan Cloud (4g). Meng Shan Cloud is actually from Sichuan and can serve as a "fuzzy" tea to compare with Bodhi Silver Tips.

These are photos taken on the Anji White Long Jing I got. It's from our Anji Bai Cha producer, not from Xinchang. But the Xinchang white Long Jing looks similar.

(4-6. Assorted Long Jing. These are all from the same group purchase mentioned in the blog sale of last year. And yes that's the group purchase that was sold out immediately after opening, as described in the April madness blog post. I've got quite a few Long Jing already, so would let these go if some people would like them. Each will be accompanied by a Long Jing sample from Life in Teacup or my own collection.)

4. Da Fo Long Jing (the blue can on the left of the folowing photo), $10 Sold.
This is from a different source than the Da Fo Long Jing carried by lifeinteacup.com. It has received excellent evaluation from the organizer of the group purchase.

If someone would like to take the whole can, then I won't break the seal. I estimate there is 25-30g Long Jing in it (or a little more). I heard, but can't see, that there is also a wild chrysanthemum sample in it. I bought some wild chrysanthemum from this seller and love it (I will write a blog post about these tiny little flowers).

Seller's web store address (on taobao) is at the bottom of the can. But they've probably sold out this version for this year.

The whole can will be $10. But please let me know if two people would like to split it.

5. Xi Hu Long Jing 10g sample in a can (the middle one in the above photo), $3. Sold.

This is not a very high grade Long Jing. But it's from the tea field of Hangzhou Tea Museum. It was harvested around Guyu (around April 19). This date is considered very late in Long Jing harvest and near the end of the harvest season. Late harvest Long Jing does have more prominent flavors than the earlier harvest.

6. Shi Feng Long Jing 4g sample, $5 each. Sold.
2-3 samples are available.
Considering there is only 4g, $5 is quite expensive. So this tea is mainly for people who are crazy about Long Jing. The price of this tea in China is a lot more than this and more than I would like to pay. But it's a very good tea and can generally be seen as a "benchmark" of authentic Shi Feng Long Jing. It's made of Long Jing Group cultivar and was harvested on April 6. Due to the weather conditions this year, April 6 of this year is comparable to April 2-3 in most other years, and is the best time for Long Jing harvest. (Our Long Jing Village tea from April 7 is a perfect harvest too. This is not advertising, as the Long Jing Village tea is already sold out. But just can't help mentioning it haha!) Perfect old tea bushes, perfect timing and perfect processing. Besides, this tea is from the small piece of tea field reserved for supplying to Diao Yu Tai (the Chinese version of White House).

The free sample coming with this tea will be another Shi Feng Long Jing. I do think the Shi Feng Long Jing I got from Long Jing Village is as good as this one. But this tea, due to its "royal blood", went through very strict sorting and has perfect leaf shapes. The Long Jing Village tea didn't go through as strict sorting as this one, and may contain some larger leaves. I'm interested in learning what others think of them. My personal stock of Long Jing Village tea is already at its very bottom. But I will try to include 4g sample with the purchase of this sample. If there isn't enough Long Jing Village tea, a sample of Weng Jia Shan Long Jing will be given instead.

7. White tea sample set, $8. Sold.

There are 3 sample sets available. Each sample set includes 4g 2011 Silver Needle, 8g 2012 Silver Needle, 8g 2011 Bai Mu Dan and 8g 2009 Shou Mei. Total of 28g. The silver needles were recently discussed here.

8. Red tea sample set, $5.
Each sample set include 5g of each of 4 red teas. Totally 20g.
The 4 teas are:
A. Superior grade lapsang souchong - charcoal roasted but no typical smokey flavor.

B. Traditional style lapsang souchong - Smokey and slightly sour. The leaves were intentionally chopped, which was a common practice in the traditional processing. This tea might not be smokey enough for people who love typical smokey lapsang souchong, and could be too smokey for people who love non-smokey lapsang souchong. But for people who just want something in between, this tea is good. And this is probably the closest to traditional style that one can get.

C. Red tea Tie Guan Yin - a red tea made from Tie Guan Yin cultivar.

D. Keemun Mao Feng - it was described in this post, and is so far my favorite style of Keemun red tea.

Buyers please feel free to claim some free stuff here:

1. Some Taiwan High Mountain Oolong samples I've got here and there. I didn't taste them and I'm not sure of the quality. There might be some very nice ones and some mediocre ones. Good for people who haven't try much of Taiwan oolong yet but would like to try.

2. Some modern greener style Tie Guan Yin samples I've got here and there.

3. Ba Ba Cha - similar to this one. It's not anything precious, just if you would like to try it.

4. Saki bottles - I used to use them as vases. But the house is so stuffed and I know I can't keep everything :-p

5. Long Jing debris as described here. It's not anything precious and mainly for people who are curious about it. I don't have much and will put it in 15g samples. 

6. If you wonder whether there is good mini sheng, I can send you a couple of mini's that I think are good. I think there are plenty of good mini sheng's out there, but not everybody can find them or care to look for them ;-) And of course, "good" is all relative :-) This is for tasting purposes only. I don't have large supplies of them.

Jun 1, 2012

3 green teas from Hubei Province

This map is from one of the most popular Chinese online tea forums. Somebody from Hubei made a Hubei Green Tea Map showing tea varieties and their origins: http://teabbs.zjol.com.cn/viewthread.php?tid=189006&extra=page\%3D3&page=1

In this map, each line connects the tea name to its production region (small triangles).

It's amazing. There are quite a few famous green teas that are from Hubei, but I had never realized there are so many green tea varieties produced in this province! Seen from this map, there are about 50 green teas and a few other types of teas. Obviously it would take me many years to taste most of them!

Fortunately, this year, I've got 3 Hubei green teas, En Shi Yu Lu (恩施玉露), Five Peak Fairy Dew (五峰仙露) and Cai Hua Silver Tip (采花毛尖).

1. En Shi Yu Lu. 

En Shi Yu Lu is one of the few steam-green (green tea using steaming as the method to dis-active its enzymes) teas in China.

It's said to be somewhat similar to gyokuro of Japan. To me, the similarity in taste is rather remote. But considering most other Chinese green teas are not steam-green tea, the connection between En Shi Yu Lu and gyokuro does somehow stand out.

The processing method of En Shi Yu Lu is said to be closest to some tea processing method of Tang Dynasty. Again, to me, the similarity is hard to imagine. Although a steam-green tea, the style of dry tea leaf reflects strong influence of Ming and Qing Dynasties. But indeed, compared to most other Chinese green teas, this tea is probably the closest to some ancient green tea.

En Shi Yu Lu dry tea leaves.

Considering it's a steam-green tea, I used the shibo as a water cooler.

2. Five Peak Fairy Dew.

This is a Hong Qing green tea (pan-fried to kill the enzyme and then roasted dry)

3. Cai Hua Silver Tip.

This is a Chao Qing green tea (pan-fry processed), but the processing method of this tea is unique and quite different from processing of most other Chao Qing green tea. The processing of this tea involves significant rolling and pressing of tea leaves to induce flavors out of the leaves. This processing method has been listed as a province level cultural heritage.

These three teas taste quite different but also share significant similarities, in spite of their very different processing methods!

Overall, I feel the flavor of En Shi Yu Lu is the most "outgoing". The flavor can be infused easily. That's probably why many people would use lower water temperature for this tea than for other Chinese green teas. It's probably the lowest water temperature I use for a Chinese green tea. (But notice "lower temperature" means different ranges for different people. To me, it means 75-85C, or 170-185F.) It has a nice, grassy sweetness that's often described as "sugarcane" flavor. When higher water temperature is used and when steeped for extended time, it releases a hint of bitterness which doesn't sustain but turns into some kind of sweetness very fast.

The other two seem more tolerate of higher temperature. But similar to En Shi Yu Lu, they are very ready to release flavors. So I used a "water cooler" and relatively low water temperature for them too. Similar to En Shi Yu Lu, they more or less have the "sugarcane" flavor. All the three teas have relatively green color in their tea liquor, compared with most other Chinese green teas. This, along with the explicit flavor, are probably due to the relatively "heavy" processing methods of all of them.

Since the three tea use very different processing methods, I guess their similarity reflects contribution of geological factors and regional taste preference. The three teas are from two Tujia counties adjacent to each other (Tujia is one of the 56 ethnic groups in China). Both are located in the same geological zone that's rich of selenium and zinc. This selenium zone extends through part of Hubei province and Guizhou province, and quite a few green teas produced in this zone are famous for their rich selenium contents. But I don't know how much selenium would contribute to the flavor of the tea.

In addition, I think the regional tea preference is correlated to the regional diet. Hubei green teas are generally of more explicit flavors than green teas from provinces like Jiangsu and Zhejiang. Unlike Zhejiang cuisine which is featured by delicate, light flavors, Hubei cuisine has various strong flavors. With a diet full of all kinds of heavy flavors, Hubei people probably would prefer tea of very prominent tastes.

I got only small amount of each of these three teas. But with the numerous green teas, I can't handle a lot of each tea anyway. I would like to include 3 sample sets of these teas in the next blog sale, for people who are interested in Hubei teas.