Jun 23, 2013

Lu Shan Cloud Mist (廬山雲霧) made by the uncle "si shu"

Among all the Chinese green teas, probably Long Jing is the most famous and most wanted  - indeed the tea is great but there is also great advertising effect created by Qing dynasty emperors...Besides, the tea is produced near economic center of all eras (Hangzhou), which makes it easy for the tea to get popular.

Lu Shan Cloud Mist (Lu Shan Yun Wu) is another famous green tea, yet it's much harder to obtain than Long Jing. Although sometimes people say it's hard to get authentic Long Jing, I think it's only true if you add "for a reasonable price" at the end of the sentence. There are quite a few elite brands that sell high quality authentic Long Jing, such as Tribute Brand (贡牌), Wu Yu Tai (吴裕泰 whose Tie Guan Yin I wrote about here), Tian Fu (天福), and quite a few more. Tribute Brand, in my opinion, is the best, since I know they get their top notch tea (not sure if all their tea) from Long Jing Village in the past years. Tian Fu is also known as Ten Fu in North America. But Ten Fu in China is a much upper scale store than most (or all) Ten Fu stores in North America. In China, almost all Ten Fu's green teas and oolongs over $800 per pound are of very good qualities - but of course it's a different story who would like to spend that $800... I wouldn't... but for those who have the money, why not.

Of the above mentioned, Tribute Brand specialized in Long Jing. None of Wu Yu Tai, Ten Fu or other elite tea vendors of their level regularly offer high quality Lu Shan Cloud. It's not offered in most tea stores out of its home province, Jiang Xi. That's why I would say it's much, much harder to get good Lu Shan Cloud than getting good Long Jing. And therefore I'm both thrilled and grateful to get Lu Shan Cloud in recent years from Wei, who is an iconic tea person to me.

I'm very reluctant to say which green tea is my favorite, because it's almost impossible to pick one. But I have to say, once I started getting Wei's Lu Shan Yun Wu, I feel I don't want to ever miss it in any future year.

Even within China, I would guess majority of green tea lovers have never had really high quality Lu Shan Yun Wu, because the production is small and there isn't a "brand name" of it run by a large company yet (which is not necessarily a bad thing!). Many people never had a chance to have Lu Shan Yun Wu. Some people only had mediocre ones and couldn't understand why this tea has such a great fame. For many people, including me, Wei's Lu Shan Yun Wu has become the first ever experience to know the true beauty of Lu Shan Yun Wu. Wei is a professional tea researcher but only an amateur tea dealer. His goal is to let more and more people know the beauty of Lu Shan Yun Wu. With this goal in mind, he only carries the best quality, and the amount is usually very small, with a few to several kilograms from each site (and Wei traveled by foot to these mountainous sites to get the tea). Amazingly, tea of each site has some unique characters, although all these sites are within Lu Shan.

This tea showed here is from Zhuo Ma Ling, a historical famous site of Lu Shan Yun Wu. I don't know the origin of this name, but guess it could be translated into "horse-stopping ridge", which indicates how steep the cliffs are. This tea is made by somebody we call "si shu". Year after year, within the small group of Lu Shan Yun Wu drinkers, si shu of Zhuo Ma Ling has become a popular name. Si shu(四叔), literally means "the fourth uncle". In the countryside, everybody is related to everybody else. Si shu is an uncle of Wei's, and now he has become a famous "uncle" among tea drinkers. If Zhuo Ma Ling si shu is mentioned, I would immediately think of the tea that has some unique floral notes and very smooth liquor.

The dry tea leaves don't look extraordinary at all. They are obviously first harvest leaves from early spring, very fresh and vibrant. But in Chinese tea aesthetics, these dry leaves can't be called pretty. Once I discussed this tea with my favorite Tie Guan Yin producer, who barely knows anything about Lu Shan Yun Wu but has very good general sense about tea. He said, the dry leaves could definitely be improved and must be improved if the producer wants the tea to be as high-end as Long Jing or Bi Luo Chun in the market. But he also commented that it's paradoxical that non-commercialized teas don't look perfectly good but have their best natures retained; but once a tea aims to become a high-end tea, you don't know what eventually would be lost from it.

I think that's very interesting comment and to some degree, very true.

Wei often says, Lu Shan Yun Wu is a very "manly" tea (hmm, I'm not sure if I agree with the sexism statement but I got his point). I think its flavor strength and depth of liquor texture are way above vast majority of other green teas. In this sense, I would agree it's more "masculine" than many other teas. The tea is manually fried on top of wood fire. You would always see a lot of "blisters" on the rims of tea leaves, similar to the blisters on Huang Shan Mao Feng, but a lot more and a lot bigger blisters (proportional to the leaf size). While frying the tea, a good worker would fry it thoroughly without creating too many burnt spots on the tea leaves. But it's impossible to have none. There will always be some dark burnt spots on tea leaves, and there are usually a lot more dark burnt spots than those found on the manually processed versions of other tea types. For example, in the photo on the left, we could see a dark spot on the leaf at lower right corner. Overall, Lu Shan Yun Wu is made heavy-handedly. That's the style of Lu Shan Yun Wu, and uncle si shu is one who carries out this style perfectly.

Uncle si shu is the best tea worker in his village, and throughout his life, he is one of the best known tea workers in Lu Shan region. He is also a Buddhist, a gongfu (martial gongfu, not gongfu tea) and a locally well-known chiropractor who helped a lot of people with his skills. He is known for a lot of great things. But he is never called a "tea master", "martial artist" or "medical master" - these fancy words are not in the vocabulary of countrymen.

1 comment:

Nick Herman said...

Love these kind of posts..

Maybe it would be more appropriate to say it is a very yang tea :)
Lao Ban Zhang is certainly a very yang tea.
I suppose various green and HM oolongs might be seen as rather yin.