Jul 13, 2014

Anhui Long Stem Tea (杆尖)

You know, when you send a nice gift to family or friends, and when they enjoy it very much, you would feel so proud of yourself for finding such a wonderful gift. I like gifting friends with green teas, and would feel so proud for being able to send them great teas before their friends start drinking green tea for that year. A even better scenario is, when they enjoy it very much and can't even figure out what it is. In the past several years, I tried to introduce some rare and unique green teas to America, including Orchid Fairy Twig, White Plum Flower Peak and some others. These teas are not only new to Americans, but rarely seen in China either out of their home region.

A few months ago, I sent this "long stem" tea to a friend, who is a Chinese from the hometown of Xin Yan Mao Jian (信阳毛尖) and a very enthusiastic green tea drinker. Later he told me that he asked quite a few tea friends and didn't figure out what this tea is. And I told him "don't bother", and besides him and me, probably few people, if any, in our friends circle have had this tea before. To be honest, this is the biggest source of happiness in gifting others - you make them happy, you make them woo- and wow, but more importantly, you make them wonder and wonder and wonder what on earth this is :-D

This is the first year that I had this tea, and it's one of my favorite greens of the year. I just made up the English name "Long Stem Tea" to make it easy. The Chinese name has only two characters, but it involves a big chunk of technical history of green tea processing and there is no way to "translate" it.

So this tea has long stems. Obviously, the stem grows faster on this tea. This is an early spring first day harvest, and the stems are already so long. Somehow when this tea was invented, the producer chose to harvest with the stems. Rarely any green tea with such long stem is seen as a high grade tea. Historically Chinese green tea has very strict visual standards. Besides, most of the time stems are seen as tasteless parts that add to the weight of the product. So I guess it must have been a bold decision to harvest with the stem when this tea was first made. And probably there were technical reasons for it.  In spite of everything I've learned about Chinese green tea aesthetics, I like the long stem looking very much!

I almost want to tell everybody who drinks high mountain green tea from Anhui (in fact I've already done it for many times) - could you do me a favor and not use cooler water for it? High mountain tea deserves very hot water (as long as not covered by a lid)!


This is a typical Anhui tea, and a "relative" of Tai Ping Hou Kui. I sent it to my friend along with Hou Kui and a couple of other "relatives" of Hou Kui. It would be very interesting comparison. Besides, nowadays, Hou Kui has been largely mystified. A comparison of Hou Kui with its "cousin" teas would make us understand it better and appreciate it better.