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Tea Tasting: Two Chinese Green Teas

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#1 Richard Kilgore

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Posted 13 September 2010 - 12:32 PM

eGullet Society member Greg Glancy at norbutea.com is contributing samples of two Chinese green teas for this Tea Tasting & Discussion (TT&D). Sets of the samples will go to up to three eG members active in the forums: if you have at least 50 posts anywhere in the eG Forums in the past 12 months, or if you have at least 10 posts in the Coffee & Tea Forum and are interested in receiving the free samples and participating in this TT&D, please read on (this post and the two following soon) and then PM me.

Grocery store green teas are usually generic (unidentified and mass produced on a large scale) and anywhere from ho-hum to yek! Bottled green teas are typically beyond yek and well into yuk. Some people make a face and drink them just because they are supposed to be "good for you".

Have heart! Here are two quality loose leaf Chinese green teas, very different from one another, if you would like to forgo yek and yuk and explore the real thing.

First, the 2010 Jade Dragon - Yunnan Green Tea from NorbuTea.com.

Text and image used with permission by norbutea.com.

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Link to map on norbutea.com.

-Harvest: Spring 2010
-Growing Region: Tengchong County, Baoshan Prefecture, Yunnan

This extraordinary green tea comes from Tengchong county in the Baoshan Prefecture of Yunnan. Tengchong is in the far west of Yunnan on the border with Myanmar, and is very well known as the center of the jade & jadeite trade in the region. It was grown at an altitude of approximately 8,200 ft (2,500 M) near a village known locally as "Village of the Returning Dragon."

Our Jade Dragon is a traditional Yunnan green tea, which is characterized by a quick, high temperature wok firing step in processing which creates a unique look, penetrating aroma and flavor.

This tea is comprised of a mix of very tender young leaves and buds. The dry tea really looks frosted or perhaps "dusty," and the aroma of the dry leaves is remarkably fruity and "toasty" at the same time. When infused, the liquor is quite aromatic when compared to green teas that are fired in a lower temperature wok, and the assertively toasty and fruity notes balance nicely with the grassy, more typically "green tea" type aroma. The flavor of this tea is nutty with toasty & fruity undertones balanced with the grassy, pleasantly bitter flavors typical of other green teas. It has a great and assertive Hui Gan (bittersweet aftertaste) that becomes apparent quickly after tasting.

The flavor of this tea is more assertive than other green teas, and can become overly bitter if steeped at too high a temperature or for too long. To start out, I would recommend steeping this tea at 160 to 170 Fahrenheit (slightly lower than normal for Chinese green tea) for about 3 minutes. As with all teas, adjust the time and temperature to your own personal taste (if you like a stronger tasting green tea, use more tea and/or a higher temperature, etc).

This was my favorite green tea by far that I got to taste during my recent trip to Yunnan, and I really hope our customers like it as much as I do.

For more steeping directions, see our Tea Steeping Guide.


The next post will describe the second Chinese green tea for this TT&D, and the third one will provide additional important information. Stay tuned!

Edited by Richard Kilgore, 15 September 2010 - 03:52 PM.
Add map link


#2 Richard Kilgore

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Posted 13 September 2010 - 02:48 PM

The second Chinese green tea in this Tea Tasting & Discussion is the Jin Xuan - Winter 2009, also from norbutea.com.

Text and images used by permission of norbutea.com.

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Posted Image

Posted Image

Link to map on norbutea.com.

-Harvest: Winer, 2009
-Growing Area: Jenai Township, Nantou County, Taiwan
-Elevation: +/-4,000 ft (1,200 M)
-Varietal: Jin Xuan
-Oxidation: 0%
-Roasting: 0%
-Vacuum Sealed in 50 gram portions
-Ships in resealable stand up pouch

This unique Winter Harvest 2009 green tea comes from a 4,000 ft elevation (1,200 M) tea garden in the Aowanda area of Jenai Township in Nantou County, Central Taiwan. This green tea is made from a tea cultivar known as Jin Xuan, which is usually processed into a mildly fragrant oolong tea. Strangely enough, I was not a fan of the Jin Xuan cultivar at all until I tasted this green tea. I had only tasted very inexpensive oolongs produced from Jin Xuan, and I found them to be really flat & uninteresting specimens. Not so with this green tea!

These Jin Xuan plants are allowed to grow in a natural/semi wild state on this particular tea plantation. As can be seen in the photographs, the plants were obviously planted in rows for commercial cultivation, but they are not cropped to facilitate easy picking & encourage high yield. They just grow naturally without human interference aside from plucking. This enables the plant to grow to a much healthier & more hearty state which, in turn, produces a tea with better body and a more robust character.

This Jin Xuan green tea was hand picked and processed in early November, 2009. It was processed in the ball-shape style typical of the oolong teas that this "high mountain" region is famous for. The ball shape is actually a bonus for us because we can vacuum seal this green tea to maintain freshness much longer than if we packaged it without vacuum. Most green teas lose their fresh taste and vibrant green color within about 6 months after harvest, but sealing this tea away from oxygen in the vacuum packages will allow this tea to remain fresh for more than 12-18 months if it is left sealed.

As with other green teas, the flavor of this tea is fresh, grassy, mildly astringent and somewhat vegetal, but, unlike most green teas, there is a very mildly sweet & floral character present in the aroma and flavor that balances beautifully with the more typical "green tea" type flavors.

On a personal level, I really am enjoying this tea, and I am very pleased to be able to offer it for your enjoyment.

Steeping Directions: Green tea should be steeped at about 175 F (80 C) in order to avoid extracting astringent flavor compounds or scalding the leaves. I like to steep this tea Gongfu style in a Gaiwan, and if you are careful with water temperature it can be infused several times. It also works perfectly to steep this tea in the western manner.

For more steeping directions, see our Tea Steeping Guide.



The next post will provide additional information and guidelines for this TT&D.

#3 Richard Kilgore

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Posted 13 September 2010 - 04:40 PM

The two green tea samples (10g each) will go to each of up to three eGullet Society members who will begin brewing, tasting, posting and discussing the teas within one week of receiving the samples.

These teas may be brewed 1) "western style" using a small teapot or infuser cup, 2) with a Chinese gaiwan, or 3) in a glass. Please, avoid tea balls like the plague.

Brewing suggestions are in the two posts above and in the Tea Steeping Guide at norbutea.com.

Preference will be given to eGullet Society members who have never received tea samples and participated in a Tea Tasting & Discussion, and who have at least 50 posts anywhere in the eG Forums in the past year. This preference will last one week, until midnight September 23, 2010. If that sounds like you, please PM me ASAP. Others who have at least 10 posts in the Coffee & Tea forum, may PM me their interest at any time.

If you have any questions at all, please feel free to post them here or PM me.

#4 Richard Kilgore

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Posted 15 September 2010 - 04:01 PM

I have known Greg Glancy at Norbu Tea for several years -- a presentation he once gave about a trip through the tea markets and farms of China and Tibet fed my growing interest in learning more about fine teas. Since then he has become a tea friend and we drink tea together and trade teas and tea stories from time to time, as well as indulging in Chinese, Korean or Vietnamese food occasionally. Greg has been a long time supporter of these Tea Tasting & Discussions. He and I spent a few tea drinking sessions selecting these Cinese green teas for this TT&D.


If you are interested in receiving a set of the free Chinese green tea samples for this Tea Tasting & Discussion, please review the above posts and then shoot a PM to me. eGullet Society members with 50 posts anywhere in the eG Forums in the past year, or 10 in the Coffee & Tea forum, now have priority until September 23, 2010.

#5 Wholemeal Crank

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Posted 15 September 2010 - 06:00 PM

I have not opened my winter 2009 Jin Xuan yet, but I enjoyed my spring 2010 Jin Xuan green tea from Norbu so much that I immediately wanted to stock up, and got some of the winter 2009 because the spring 2010 was already sold out. I am looking forward to sharing this TT&D with the tea I already have, and can highly recommend this tea to pretty much anyone who has ever liked a green tea, or who likes oolongs but has perhaps hesitated a bit at trying green teas (i.e., myself a year and a half ago), because it's quite special.

I can't speak specifically to the Jade Dragon, because I didn't have the foresight to put that one in my last order, but have been quite delighted in a variety of Yunnan green teas I've tried over the past year from several sources.

Edited by Wholemeal Crank, 15 September 2010 - 06:01 PM.


#6 Richard Kilgore

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Posted 16 September 2010 - 09:42 AM

There is one member on the "waiting list", but preference is still given to members who have never received free teas and participated in a Tea Tasting & Discussion. Please review the above posts for details and PM me if you are interested.

#7 Richard Kilgore

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Posted 17 September 2010 - 02:25 PM

Three free sets of these Chinese green teas are available to members.

Preference will be given to eGullet Society members who have never received tea samples and participated in a Tea Tasting & Discussion, and who have at least 50 posts anywhere in the eG Forums in the past year. This preference will last one week, until midnight September 23, 2010. If that sounds like you, please PM me ASAP.

Members who have received free samples in the past for Tea Tasting & Discussions, and members who have at least 10 posts in the Coffee & Tea forum, may PM me their interest at any time and will be put on a "waiting list" until the preference period has passed.

#8 Richard Kilgore

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Posted 20 September 2010 - 04:32 PM

I have (above) edited in links to maps showing the location of the two villages where the two Chinese green teas featured in this Tea Tasting & Discussion were grown. Please check them out.

The preference period for members who have never participated in a TT&D to receive the free tea samples ends midnight Thursday. If you are interested, please review the above posts and PM me.

#9 Richard Kilgore

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Posted 23 September 2010 - 10:18 AM

I have (above) edited in links to maps showing the location of the two villages where the two Chinese green teas featured in this Tea Tasting & Discussion were grown. Please check them out.

The preference period for members who have never participated in a TT&D to receive the free tea samples ends midnight Thursday. If you are interested, please review the above posts and PM me.


After midnight tonight the free tea samples for this TT&D will be available to all eGullet Society members who have at least 50 posts anywhere in the forums or who have at least 10 posts in the Coffee & Tea forum.

To be more accurate, one green tea is Chinese and one is Taiwanese.


Tic. Toc.

#10 Richard Kilgore

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Posted 24 September 2010 - 08:54 AM

This Tea Tasting & Discussion, featuring Chinese and Taiwanese green teas, has three sets of free samples available to eGullet Society members who have either 50 or more posts anywhere in the eG Forums or 10 or more posts in the Coffee & Tea Forum.

These are easy to brew whole leaf green teas. (Please read up topic for details.)

Of the three sets of green teas originally available, there are now only two not spoken for.

If you are interested, please PM me.

#11 Richard Kilgore

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Posted 01 October 2010 - 07:34 PM

This Tea Tasting & Discussion, featuring Chinese and Taiwanese green teas, has three sets of free samples available to eGullet Society members who have either 50 or more posts anywhere in the eG Forums or 10 or more posts in the Coffee & Tea Forum.

These are easy to brew whole leaf green teas. (Please read up topic for details.)

Of the three sets of green teas originally available, there are now only two not spoken for.

If you are interested, please PM me.


Now only one set of free samples left for eGullet Society members! PM me if you are interested.

#12 Richard Kilgore

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Posted 08 October 2010 - 09:27 PM

The three sets of free Chinese green tea samples from Norbu Tea go to (drum roll) ---

shamanjoe

Whole meal Crank

cdh

#13 cdh

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Posted 18 October 2010 - 02:39 PM

The goodies have arrived. Will start playing with them tomorrow.
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#14 Wholemeal Crank

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Posted 19 October 2010 - 08:59 PM

Got them. I've had some very nice infusions recently of teas from Yunnan--teas made with Yunnan leaves in the style of other traditional teas from across China and Taiwan, that I'm particularly looking forward to this tasting of a more traditionally yunnanese Yunnan green.

Since I've been drinking the delightful spring version of the Jin Xuan, I am already quite confident that this winter version will be lovely, considering how well the fall and winter Alishan oolongs compare to their spring counterparts.

But tonight I had a long meeting, and am very sleepy. Have to wait until tomorrow to start, sigh.

#15 cdh

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Posted 20 October 2010 - 09:43 AM

I've just started trying the Spring 2010 Jade Dragon. Brewed 2.5g in 100ml of water at about 180F in a yixing pot. First infusion of 1 minute: observations- Wow what a tropical aroma! Tropical fruit aromas abound... a little pine-apple-y, a little passion-fruity. Doesn't follow through on the palate at first... a thick rich body and some serious astringency are the first taste sensations. Mouth coastingly rich. Perhaps a little cooler water next time will tame the astringency, as the aftertaste brings back all of the tropicality, and just keeps going and going and going.

Second infusion of 90 seconds: Aroma as intense as in first infusion. Infusion a bit cooler, since I did not preheat the teapot for the second infusion. Still mouth-coating and astringent up front, but with a bit of a bitterness lingering into the aftertaste, bringing some vegetal notes. The tropicality in the aftertaste is subsumed into a more vegetal thing on this infusion.

More to come... must go out for the afternoon... will try a third infusion of these leaves later in the day, as I bet there's still lots of good flavor left, and it will be fun to see what an afternoon of oxidation does to them.
Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

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#16 cdh

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Posted 20 October 2010 - 03:52 PM

Brewed another round on those leaves after letting them sit on the counter for 2.5 hours. Same 2.5g, same 100ml pot, same 180-ish water temp, 90 second infusion. The resulting tea was a dead ringer for an old favorite of mine, Li Zi Xiang. Sorta green, sorta sharp and vegetal, quite astringent.
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#17 cdh

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Posted 22 October 2010 - 08:48 AM

Have just brewed up the Jin Xuan Winter 2009 Harvest. Talk about a study in contrasts when evaluated against the Jade Dragon.

Much less aromatic dry leaves. Leaves crumpled into little bunches (just like lots of oolongs) as opposed to the elegant long twisted presentation of the Jade Dragon. What aroma there is is grassy and vegetal... no tropicality here at all.

Brewed 2.5g in 100ml at 170F in yixing teapot for 90 seconds. Negligible aroma to appreciate in the cup. Straw yellow color in the cup, grassy sweet flavor with a long lingering grasp on the taste buds. Rich body, though not as mouth-coating as the Jade Dragon. As it sits in the cup and cools, hints of that lightly brassy almost-oolong flavor come out.
Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

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#18 Wholemeal Crank

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Posted 23 October 2010 - 10:04 AM

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I took the warning about temperature and bitterness seriously and started very cautiously, using my usual small gaiwans:

2 grams of tea, 2 oz water 160 degrees, 20 second first infusion: probably went to low/short, was quite dilute, barely sweet

2nd infusion, 160 degrees, 45 seconds: very vegetal, rounded, sweet and deep flavor--reminds me a lot of dragon well in combination of roasted and vegetal flavors

3rd infusion, forgot I had added the water to it so it steeped too long (2 minutes?), and got a little bitter, but the sweet and vegetal flavors were also richer.

176 degrees 30 seconds (upped the temp to bring out more flavor) too short, infusion is light, but interesting nonetheless--vegetal/sweet/rich flavors are right there.

left the leaves to sit while I was at work, and infused a couple more times with water 170 degrees, and it was light, but tasty.

2nd set of infusion, again 2 oz tea, 60mL in gaiwan, trying a little cooler start this time.

Trying it like a sencha, 45 seconds start: sweet, vegetal, and yes, some astringent flavors in the background

Posted Image
(and the shino doesn't really show off the delicate shade of the liquor, does it?)

20 second 2nd infusion, because the bitterness often concentrates when the tea leaves first sit wet: too dilute, just hints of sweet cooked peas. Should have given it a little longer.

3rd infusion: 160 degrees, 60 seconds, warm, mellow, peas again, but stronger; clear long aftertaste is more atringent/bitter than sweet

4th infusion, 90 seconds, 160 degrees, vegetal, astringent, with warm rich sweetness rounding out the flavor.

Posted Image

Next try, I will trust it a little more and start with some longer infusions.

#19 Wholemeal Crank

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Posted 23 October 2010 - 09:11 PM

Previous post refers to the Jade Dragon Yunnan Green Tea. Oops!

#20 cdh

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Posted 24 October 2010 - 07:49 AM

Good pictures to show the long twisted leaf presentation of the Jade Dragon.
Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

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#21 cdh

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Posted 24 October 2010 - 08:00 AM

And you got no tropical aromas out of the Jade Dragon at all? That's interesting. It was quite prominent the way I brewed it.
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#22 cdh

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Posted 24 October 2010 - 08:26 AM

Did the Jade Dragon with water at 172 this time. Still tropical, though much less astringent. Long long aftertaste continues.
Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

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#23 Wholemeal Crank

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Posted 25 October 2010 - 12:10 AM

Today I drank the Jin Xuan, but due to some computer problems, will have a delay in posting my notes & pics. It is very different than the Jade Dragon, mellower, and also without clear tropical notes. I will try to get another session in with the Jade Dragon tomorrow evening, when I can give it some concentrated attention to try to find those.

#24 Richard Kilgore

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Posted 29 October 2010 - 02:57 PM

Do you all have any ideas about matching food with these teas? Specific dishes or ingredients that would work well?

#25 Wholemeal Crank

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Posted 30 October 2010 - 03:54 PM

Winter harvest 2009 Jin Xuan
Posted Image

1.9 grams of tea (was aiming for 2.0, but got tired of adding & subtracting little bits) in small gaiwans, about 60-75mL water


And I took photos this time, watching the unfurling infusion by infusion: flash rinse barely started to unfurl anything

Posted Image

Started timidly, 30" at 160 degrees: warm, vegetal, sweet but the infusion is a little too short/dilute

Posted Image

1 minutes at same temp: vegetal flavors of peas, grass, lightly floral background, no hint of bitterness, much better match of infusion time and tea. Used the aroma cup set for this, and it was fun, sweet fresh mown grass odors.

Posted Image

90" third infusion, sweet, vegetal, delicate, love it love it, the best yet

2' a little hotter, 170 degrees, slight astringency but still mostly vegetal

Posted Image

3' 180 degrees, and better than the previous, sweet, vegetal, such a nice tea

5' 190 degrees, and the tea is done: barely more flavor than hot water.

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Large lovely leaves are now mostly unfurled, but I couldn't get them to completely flatten long enough to shoot the picture

Posted Image

Next time, 1 min, 90", 2 min, 3 min, 8 min?

I was lucky enough to get some of the spring version of this tea, and quite sad when I went to reorder it and found it was sold out. This is an entirely worthy successor.

Edited by Wholemeal Crank, 30 October 2010 - 04:10 PM.


#26 Wholemeal Crank

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Posted 31 October 2010 - 02:10 PM

Another try with the Jade dragon, attempting to find the tropical notes, and using quite different brewing parameters:

2.5g, small clay pot (a thin-walled one previously used primarily for green oolongs, but not enough to have any significant seasoning, and preheated with a volume check), about 100mL water, temp 180 degrees: trying to find the tropical fruits noted by cdh in his posts. 1 minute first infusion, and set some to the aroma cup. Getting no astringency whatsoever, and lovely vegetal sweetness, with a little floral character that might be part of the 'tropical' notes cdh notes. This is a wonderful, rich infusion.

2nd infusion, 90 seconds, still quite hot for a green tea, 176 degrees: hints of astringency now, but still a mix of vegetal and floral, very rich and sweet, perhaps traces of scent reminiscent of my pineapple sage plant, and there is a wonderful sweet, fruity aftertaste that is lasting a long time.

3rd infusion, 2 minutes, again about 178 degrees, still with floral, vegetal, astringent, liking this better than the first infusions I did in the gaiwan, not sure if the difference is temperature, balance of leaf to water (this was a bit lower leaf/water ratio), or the clay.

4th infusion, 3 minutes, 178 degrees, still giving some sweetness, but the depth of flavor is going now. And hints of astringency in my mouth between sips belied by the sweet aftertaste in the back of my throat.

Definitely a more attractive tea this time round.

#27 cdh

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Posted 02 November 2010 - 09:21 AM

Am having another go with the Jin Xuan. It is continuing to remind me much more of an oolong than a green, albeit one with much less aroma than usual until it cools down. It is a very pleasant tea on the 2nd and 3rd infusions, slightly fruity, a plum/peach sort of aftertaste and aroma that follows a rich sweet and not at all astringent first feel on the palate. The aftertaste morphs into something a bit more floral after a while on the palate. I can kinda see where the grassy descriptors are coming from, but mown grass isn't this fruity or floral. I don't get anything brothy or vegetal from this tea.
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#28 cdh

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Posted 02 November 2010 - 09:22 AM

As to the food pairing query, I'm not sure... I'll give it some thought...
Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

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#29 Wholemeal Crank

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Posted 02 November 2010 - 09:12 PM

Aside from the obvious--a young smoky puerh doing wonders with a pot of beans in a rich meaty sauce, and white teas that can be so lovely with fruit--I've never really tried hard to match tea and food. Mostly I drink the tea I want to drink, eat what I want to eat, and if the tea isn't working so well with the food, drink some water until I'm done eating and continue with the tea.

So this is a hard question for me.

And interesting that you're finding more oolong than green tea character in the Jin Xuan--I'm involved in a running debate in another forum with people who think that, as a rolled tea from Taiwan, this MUST be an oolong and not a green tea. I found some definite green tea character along with some oolong-spectrum flavors in the spring version, but haven't pushed the winter green enough yet to find the green character.

#30 cdh

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Posted 03 November 2010 - 02:33 PM

I generally think much like WC with regard to tea and food pairing. Some teas are best considered alone rather than paired.

I don't look at the Jin Xuan as just like an oolong, but the family resemblance is definitely there. And reading its background, perhaps it is the particular varietal character that is showing through, rather than the style character.

Edited by cdh, 03 November 2010 - 02:33 PM.

Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

----- De Gustibus Non Disputandum Est

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