Apr 26, 2010

Meng Ding Snow Bud (Xue Ya) (蒙頂雪芽)

Let me say first that I do love this tea very much. I will describe all the great features of this tea first, and then tell a little about my mixed feelings about this tea.

Mount Meng is one of the most famous tea mountain in China with probably the longest culture history. In ancient time, people believed "brewing Meng Ding (top of Mt. Meng) tea with water from the center of Yangzi River" is the highest level of tea enjoyment. The harvest standard of Snow Bud on top of Mt. Meng is, when there are only 5% of the tea bushes start budding. It takes about 80,000 tea leaf buds to make roughly 500g of the final tea product. A skillful tea harvest worker may well spend half a day to get just enough tea leaf buds to make 100g final tea product.

Dry tea leaves - they should actually be called tea buds!

I've just realized that I had been anal about NOT using a scale. Although I use a scale to weigh tea all the time for other people, I never knew the exact amount of tea I used in each cup! So today I thought I would just use a scale, at least once :-D It turned out I used 2.5g leaves. It's about just right amount for me. So I think up to 3g tea in a mug will be ok. More than 3g will make the mug too crowded with tea leaves.

I used the middle-throw method (中投法)as described in the post about Long Jing.

I am obsessive about the view of tea leaves in water!

I think I said just a few days ago that Huang Shan Mao Feng has the most beautiful leaves. But these guys are actually as good, or even prettier!

The leaves dance in water, up and down, up and down...

Then finally most of them sink to the bottom. I love the way how they stand up straight all the time.

The taste: light vegetal, with sweet aftertaste. It feels clean and moist in mouth, and the tea radiates some cool feeling even in hot water.

This is first yellow tea we've ever carried. Yellow tea was developed from green tea technique. After the tea is heated (in this case, pan-fried) to have the enzymes killed), the tea is allowed further oxidation with optimal temperature and humidity. Therefore, oxidation in yellow tea is different from oxidation in black tea or oolong. In yellow tea, the oxidation is not catalyzed by the tea's own enzymes, but triggered by outside environment factors such as temperature and humidity.

Here comes my mixed feelings.

Oxidation of this tea is very light. If we compare this tea and another Meng Ding Snow Bud I had last year, the differences are big, although both teas are great. The other tea has larger buds, and deeper oxidation, and therefore more typical sweet taste of a yellow tea.

Currently in China, Green Tea still dominates. A direct outcome is, many other teas are green-tea-ized. The most popular Tie Guan Yin is made to be very green. And many yellow tea products is made very green.

Recently I discussed with a friend who has dealt with yellow tea for many years. In his opinion, it's not possible to make Meng Ding Snow Bud into typical yellow tea with deeper oxidation, because the buds are so young and tender. On the other hand, the other Meng Ding Snow Bud I had last year (which I loved very much), in his opinion, is more typical yellow tea, but should be called Meng Ding Yellow Bud (Huang Ya) instead of Snow Bud, because the buds are larger than the standards of Snow Bud. So here is the trade-off, you may choose the precious Snow Bud, but it can't have the typical oxidation level of a yellow tea. On the other hand, the bonus is, if we forget about the yellow tea, and compare this tea with a green tea, the price of this tea is much more friendly than a first-harvest green tea with comparable youth and tenderness.

I hesitate to call this tea yellow tea, because, as you can see, from leaves to liquor, it's all green! I hesitate to call it green tea either, because it does intend to be a yellow tea, and it does have some nice sweet aftertaste of yellow tea. I guess it's not my own dilemma and it's shared by many tea people.


Alex Zorach said...

Is Xue Ya a yellow tea, a white tea, or a green tea? I have found sources that say each of these three things, when working on the RateTea.net page on Snow Buds / Xue Ya.

I decided to classify it as a white tea on the basis of Rishi tea classifying it as such, and that it blends techniques from green and white tea production, and also my own personal judgment in having tried one once.

Is your Xue Ya different in manner of production from, say, Rishi's (which they classify as white) or Adagio's (which they classify as green)? Or is it just a matter of name?

Gingko said...

It depends. Many Chinese tea names come with two parts, the first part name of production place (such as Meng Ding, top of Mt. Meng), and the second part name of tea (such as snow bud). This tea is a yellow tea and is different from other snow bud teas that are green tea or white tea. For example, Yan Xian snow bud, a snow bud from Yan Xian (Yixing), is a green tea. I've never had a white tea that's called snow bud, but it's always possible. So probably you will need to combine the name Snow Bud with additional information provided by a seller to categorize it.

Alex Zorach said...

Thanks for the clarification! Besides Rishi's tea that I mentioned, the snow bud / xue ya from Drink The Leaf is sold as white tea; it originates in Fujian province.

Gingko said...

I went through a few tea books I have, and noticed something I didn't pay attention to before. There is a white tea in Fujian called "white jade bud". It is called "Fujian Snow Bud" in one book. I guess this is the tea from Drink The Leaf. I've never had this tea. Now I want to try some very much!

SimpliciTEA said...

Love the article. "I am obsessive about the view of tea leaves in water!" So am I. :-)