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Tea Tasting: Two Chinese Green Teas

Richard Kilgore

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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.


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
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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.




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.

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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.

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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.

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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 (log)
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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  • 2 weeks later...

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.

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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"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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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.

Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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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"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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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


(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.


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

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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.

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Winter harvest 2009 Jin Xuan


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


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


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.


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


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.


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


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 (log)
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      An eG member recently asked me by private message about mushrooms in China, so I thought I'd share some information here.

      This is what available in the markets and supermarkets in the winter months - i.e now. I'll update as the year goes by.
      December sees the arrival of what most westerners deem to be the standard mushroom – the button mushroom (小蘑菇 xiǎo mó gū). Unlike in the west where they are available year round, here they only appear when in season, which is now. The season is relatively short, so I get stuck in.

      The standard mushroom for the locals is the one known in the west by its Japanese name, shiitake. They are available year round in the dried form, but for much of the year as fresh mushrooms. Known in Chinese as 香菇 (xiāng gū), which literally means “tasty mushroom”, these meaty babies are used in many dishes ranging from stir fries to hot pots.

      Second most common are the many varieties of oyster mushroom. The name comes from the majority of the species’ supposed resemblance to oysters, but as we are about to see the resemblance ain’t necessarily so.

      The picture above is of the common oyster mushroom, but the local shops aren’t common, so they have a couple of other similar but different varieties.
      Pleurotus geesteranus, 秀珍菇 (xiù zhēn gū) (below) are a particularly delicate version of the oyster mushroom family and usually used in soups and hot pots.

      凤尾菇 (fèng wěi gū), literally “Phoenix tail mushroom”, is a more robust, meaty variety which is more suitable for stir frying.

      Another member of the pleurotus family bears little resemblance to its cousins and even less to an oyster. This is pleurotus eryngii, known variously as king oyster mushroom, king trumpet mushroom or French horn mushroom or, in Chinese 杏鲍菇 (xìng bào gū). It is considerably larger and has little flavour or aroma when raw. When cooked, it develops typical mushroom flavours. This is one for longer cooking in hot pots or stews.

      One of my favourites, certainly for appearance are the clusters of shimeji mushrooms. Sometimes known in English as “brown beech mushrooms’ and in Chinese as 真姬菇 zhēn jī gū or 玉皇菇 yù huáng gū, these mushrooms should not be eaten raw as they have an unpleasantly bitter taste. This, however, largely disappears when they are cooked. They are used in stir fries and with seafood. Also, they can be used in soups and stews. When cooked alone, shimeji mushrooms can be sautéed whole, including the stem or stalk. There is also a white variety which is sometimes called 白玉 菇 bái yù gū.


      Next up we have the needle mushrooms. Known in Japanese as enoki, these are tiny headed, long stemmed mushrooms which come in two varieties – gold (金針菇 jīn zhēn gū) and silver (银针菇 yín zhēn gū)). They are very delicate, both in appearance and taste, and are usually added to hot pots.


      Then we have these fellows – tea tree mushrooms (茶树菇 chá shù gū). These I like. They take a bit of cooking as the stems are quite tough, so they are mainly used in stews and soups. But their meaty texture and distinct taste is excellent. These are also available dried.

      Then there are the delightfully named 鸡腿菇 jī tuǐ gū or “chicken leg mushrooms”. These are known in English as "shaggy ink caps". Only the very young, still white mushrooms are eaten, as mature specimens have a tendency to auto-deliquesce very rapidly, turning to black ‘ink’, hence the English name.

      Not in season now, but while I’m here, let me mention a couple of other mushrooms often found in the supermarkets. First, straw mushrooms (草菇 cǎo gū). Usually only found canned in western countries, they are available here fresh in the summer months. These are another favourite – usually braised with soy sauce – delicious! When out of season, they are also available canned here.

      Then there are the curiously named Pig Stomach Mushrooms (猪肚菇 zhū dù gū, Infundibulicybe gibba. These are another favourite. They make a lovely mushroom omelette. Also, a summer find.

      And finally, not a mushroom, but certainly a fungus and available fresh is the wood ear (木耳 mù ěr). It tastes of almost nothing, but is prized in Chinese cuisine for its crunchy texture. More usually sold dried, it is available fresh in the supermarkets now.

      Please note that where I have given Chinese names, these are the names most commonly around this part of China, but many variations do exist.
      Coming up next - the dried varieties available.
    • By Objective Foodie
      During the past year, our coffee consumption at home has increased substantially. We have tried beans from different roasteries from the UK and Europe, but we are constantly in the search of new ones. The speciality coffee market has been rapidly increasing in past years and it is becoming easier to find high quality beans.
      The best roasteries we have tried so far:
      UK based: Round Hill Roastery, Square Mile, Monmouth,  Pharmacie, New Ground, Workshop, James Gourmet, Ozone. Europe based: The Barn (Germany), Gardelli (Italy), Hard Beans (Poland), Calendar (Ireland), Roasted Brown (Ireland), Right Side (Spain), Coffee Collective (Denmark).  
      Have you had any exciting coffee beans lately? Do you have any other recommendations?
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