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itch22

Chinese Green Teas

66 posts in this topic

I love green tea, but have been primarily enjoying only Japanese teas (Gyukuro being my favourite, and Sencha a close second). Recently, after realizing I know nothing of Chinese green tea and seeing that most of the highend Japanese teas carried by the local supplier are imported from China, I thought I'd try and learn more.

I've done a lot of reading on various sites found through Google and learned a bit, but I'd like to here from anyone on here who may be paticularily knowledgable about Chinese green teas.

I've recently tried gunpowder for the first time, specifically Osprey Organic Gunpowder, and I found it to be a much heavier tea compared to the Japanese teas I am more familiar with. I want to try Dragon Well but will have to get to a bigger city to find a reputable importer.


-- Jason

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the best place to start exploration is to buy sample size teas-not samplers-

many online sites have sample sizes-

many of the sample sizes come in amounts of less 1 oz.-if you don't like a tea-you don't have 2-3oz. of it in your tea collection.

i am not against purchasing samplers-

www.rishi-tea.com

www.tentea.com

www.uptontea.com

www.imperialtea.com

www.teasource.com

www.funalliance.com-they also have chinese tea 101 explanations

joanne


Edited by jpr54_ (log)

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I'd agree that the sample strategy is reasonable. I don't understand the disdain for "samplers" while simultaneously advocating samples.

I'd add that Adagio teas was the source of a lot of my green tea knowledge back when they had their Tea Horizons tea-samples-of-the-month program going on. Every month 5 one ounce samples of some really exotic stuff came to me. That's where I figured out that I loved Li Zi Xiang as well as Hojicha.

I'd check them out and order their green samplers for a broad survey that includes a deep chinese green selection.


Edited by cdh (log)

Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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Wholemeal Crank posted yesterday and today about her experience with Chinese green teas in another topic. I have started this new topic focused on Chinese green teas, of which there are many, and copied her posts in this and the next post.

Here we can discuss the various Chinese green teas, tea merchant sources, brewing styles, and post tasting notes as well as questions.

This morning I'm playing with two teas that are not oolongs or pu-erhs. 

'First quality silver needle yin zhen' from chado tea and 'Emerald lily ancient tree organic green tea' from Rishi.

I have been smelling the leaves per the instructions in the Harney & Sons guide to Tea, and am surprised by the disconnect between the leaves and the liquor.

I am doing both in gaiwans, and don't have my scale handy yet because I just ordered it last night (getting this one from Amazon--ashtray pocket scale), I can't tell you precisely how much i used, but it was as close as I could visually approximate, with the lighter silver needle tea taking up about 2/3 of the volume of the gaiwan, and the green tea about 1/2 filling it.

Both infused the first time about 2 minutes with 173 degree water.  Even at this cool temperature, there was a quite noticeable bitterness about the green tea, although also some lovely floral/fruity flavors, that was nearly absent from the silver needle; and the silver needle was much fruitier and sweeter.  After the infusion, the silver needle leaves smelled a bit sharp and bitter, but there was very little of that coming through in a 2nd infusion; the green tea did carry the bitter smell even more into the tea on the 2nd infusion, however.

A 3rd & 4th infusion of the silver needle (with water that had been allowed to cool to about 160 degrees because I was lazy) were both still lovely, with hardly a hint of bitter, although the leaves now have a strong vegetal odor that is not coming out in the liquor.

The 3rd infusion of the green tea, with the same quite cool water, is even more bitter, really almost aggressively unpleasant in the aftertaste, although the first notes are pleasingly fruity, while the odor of the leaves seems similar to the silver needle, but just a lot stronger.

Interesting how the silver needle maintains that sweetness along with the vegetal or grassy notes, without getting bitter, but the green tea bitterness overrides the sweet fruity notes almost immediately.

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Today, trying some Bird Pick Royal Dragon's Well Green Tea, from Wing Hop Fung.  The leaves are lovely and uniform, with a grassy odor.

gallery_16931_6727_39971.jpg

Infused a small quantity of leaves with 170 degree water for about 2 minutes, yielding a nice pale green liquor, some astringency but dilute enough to not dominate the flavors; pleasant but not setting off the kind of taste bud fandango that the oolongs and puerhs do, or that the silver needle tea did yesterday.  A second infusion, with water having cooled in the pot to 160 degrees, was similar.  But at the same time, there is a very nice sweet aftertaste that is still present some 10 minutes or more after drinking it.  I will keep working with it from time to time.

I understand the phenomenon of 'tasters' and 'supertasters' as defined by sensitivity to certain bitter chemicals, but never had a chance to take the test myself.  I dislike most bitter flavors in general--finding things like coffee and chicory utterly inedible--and wonder if this is at the root of my ambivalence towards most green teas.

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after a little experimentation, I average about 20-22 tastebuds per 6mm diameter circle, which according to several web sites, puts me borderline high taster vs supertaster.

So there is a reason why I am so bitter-phobic, but able to tolerate more as I get older and things get less sensitive....

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That's interesting, WmC. You mention astringency and bitterness. While they are different characteristics, you may be able to attenuate both by cutting back the brewing time as well as dropping the temp to 160 - 165 as you have been doing. This may weaken the taste so much it is not worthwhile, but you could try brewing for one minute and then in 15 second increments. It would be interesting to see what happens.

Is the astringency (drying) as bothersome as bitterness?

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Bitterness is definitely more bothersome than astringency.

And for the dragon well, I did pour out a sip of the first infusion after 1 minute, letting the rest of it go to 2 minutes, and found little difference between the two.

What was quite surprising to me was the degree of bitterness in the 2nd infusion with cooler water; I would have thought this would minimize it quite a bit, but it really didn't make much difference.

Next time I'll start with cooler water.


Edited by Wholemeal Crank (log)

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I'm swirling the gaiwan or pot a bit to mix before pouring out the sip, so it's not as layered as it might be otherwise.

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I'm swirling the gaiwan or pot a bit to mix before pouring out the sip, so it's not as layered as it might be otherwise.

That may work with a low leaf to water ratio, but my best guess for this to work with your bitter sensitivity is to up the ratio - a lot - as well as starting at a minute infusion at a temp of 160 - 165 F and then adjusting. With a near gong fu ratio, the leaves will interfere with the tea liquor mixing thoroughly by swirling. I may try this myself, since I usually just throw Dragon's Well (Long Jing) Green Tea in a glass or cup. That said, Long Jing is not likely to set off a fandango; it's a subtler tea, but a favorite of mine...among many favorites.

I guess you could try pouring all of the infusion out into a fair cup or any cup large enough to hold all of the infusion while mixing it thoroughly...and then pouring a sip into another cup...and then pouring the infusion back into the pot to continue infusing. But I think the above way will tell you more.

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Why would upping the leaf to water ratio not also up the bitterness?

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WmC, I just looked at your Royal Dragon Well on the birdpick.com site, which reminded me that there is a possibility the tea may be the problem. Although it is the highest grade they carry, it is still a fairly low-priced Long Jing, when you count the tea tin they are throwing in. You may want to find a higher grade Dragon Well if you want to know for sure.

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Good point. It was suspiciously inexpensive.

They do have more expensive green teas, but it was very crowded yesterday and I got tired of waiting for someone to help me with the bulk teas.

But I think I get where you're going with the more tea/less time idea.

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Went back later on a Saturday afternoon, and asked to taste the best dragon well tea, and which grade was the closest to the one in the tin that I'd bought. The first one I'd bought was about $10/oz in bulk, and the one I tasted was $15/oz in bulk. It was notably much nuttier, tasting strongly of vegetables like a sweet young asparagus, and fairly astringent although not strongly bitter, and that was probably in part because it was brewed with quite hot water (they use one urn of hot water for all the sample teas). I bought a small quantity and will play with it more at home.

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Precious Xihu Dragon's Well Green Tea this morning from Wing Hop Fung, their best grade of dragon well tea.

2 grams of tea, 2 oz water starting out at 165 degrees, and steeping 1 minute in gaiwan: delicate sweet vegetal stuff, some astringency, barely any bitterness.

Reinfused now about 5 times with the same water from the teapot, brewing a little longer each time as the water cools, now down to about 140 degrees. It still has nice body and sweetness even at this many infusions.

It is very pricey, but even at $15/oz, that's still only $1 for the 2 grams I am enjoying this morning. I will keep a little on hand all the time.

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Dragon Well is one of my favorites, WmC. Sometimes I brew it in a gaiwan and sometimes drink it grandpa style.

You are fortunate to have found a high quality one, but even some of the lesser ones make more than decent green tea. At $15 per ounce that makes your morning Dragon Well less than a cup of coffee at McDonalds...and a LOT less than a cup of coffee at Starbucks.

Any other Dragon Well drinkers out there with brewing or sourcing suggestions?

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I know very little about fine teas, but a friend recently brought me a lovely tea from Beijing that she described as "Dragon Pearl Jasmine with Rose". It was lovely -- green tea pearls with bits of rose petal visible, and a wonderful nose and flavor. I'm drinking the last of it now.

Here's a photo of the label. What is (was) this and where can I get more? (EDIT: Or something similar?)

IMG_0003.JPG


Edited by John Rosevear (log)

John Rosevear

"Brown food tastes better." - Chris Schlesinger

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Any other Dragon Well drinkers out there with brewing or sourcing suggestions?

I am new to the world of tea. I stopped drinking daily espresso and cappuccinos in early June after a bout of a horrible flu bug. I was seriously sick for 2 weeks and during that time I had no coffee. As I started getting better the third week I realized that I felt much better without the coffee; more alert in the morning and less anxious during the day. I decided not to go back to coffee and delve into the world of teas more than I had in the past.

Before I started drinking tea regularly I always found dragonwells to consistently be my favorite green teas. I liked them for their nuttiness and lack of green/vegetal taste. The more I have been trying different teas I still go back to dragonwells as my regular green drinkers.

I ordered many different sample teas from Ten Ren last week. Right now I am drinking their super-fine dragonwell. It is a little less robust than what I usually like but that may be beacuase I have sampled several oolongs over the past few days so perhaps that has skewed my perception.

The only time I have found dragonwell's to be bitter is when I have either used too hot of water or left them to brew too long.

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After being surprise in rereading in the Harney & Sons Guide to Tea that "The sweetness [of Japanese green teas] is extremely faint compared with the honeyed quality of many Chinese green teas," I decided to try two chinese green teas this morning prepared similarly to the Sencha and gyokuro that I have found to be so amazingly sweet. And this is my first crack at the Yunnan Mao Feng Green Tea I received in yesterday's order from Norbutea.

The other tea is "Precious Xihu Dragon's Well" from Wing Hop Fung. I tried to find this one on their birdpick.com site but can't find anything that exactly matches the abbreviated label on the bag from the store. This is the closest, but at $71/4 oz it's even more expensive.

So....about 1 gram each of these two teas, in matching porcelain gaiwans, just over 1 oz of water about 160 degrees and infusions of 30", 10", 30", 30".

The results are very nice, as good as I've gotten yet from the Dragon Well, but still much less sweet than the senchas or gyokuro. There is a stronger vegetal astringency with the pleasant nuttiness I expect in the Dragon Well. I think it would be better with double the tea to water ratio, but wouldn't expect the silky texture of the liquor from the japanese teas even with that change.

The Yunnan Mao Feng is a much wilder looking tea than the very neat flat uniform dragon well--thin, twisty, some paler than others--and the flavor of the tea is also 'wilder'--a bit smoky, with a resinous edge that may be 'camphor', very like a green version of the 2007 white bud sheng puerh crossed with the wild white camellia sample I got in a trade from Richard. It's also sweet, but less so than the Dragon Well, and also would probably benefit from a higher leaf-to-water ratio.

Here they are after brewing:

4106581916_e91c6df1b1.jpg

Now wondering: is there another Chinese green tea that is particularly prized for sweetness? Or is there more sweetness that I should be able to coax from these? The closest I think I've encountered to what I would think of as "honeyed sweetness" is from the new style very lightly oxidized oolongs.

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Very interesting comparison, WmC. It's a difficult one since Japanese and Chinese green teas are so different and they are typically brewed in different temperature ranges. So in addition to increasing the leaf:water ratio, you might try brewing the Chinese greens at 175 F and see what happens.

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Today I brewed the Yunnan Mao Feng at about 175 degrees, and it is sweeter--still not a honeyed sweetness. I am particularly loving something camphorous that adds what I think of as a 'wild' note--it's quite present in the wild white camellia leaves from norbu, and also in the white bud sheng puerh. But today I realized it is a more general tea note that was also present in the black tea I made last night, just here the flavor contex is different.

I like this one just as much as the senchas and gyokuros, each is a splendid but entirely different type of tea, and quite a bit better than the dragonwell that is 10 times the price.

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Today brewing Huo Shan Huang Ya, yellow tea from jingteashop.com. It's a twisted slender green leaf making a delicate sweet yellow liquor that reminds me of nothing so much as the new style green oolongs and pouchong, but less intense. Brewed 1.5 grams in a 100mL gaiwan with 170 degree water--starting at 30 seconds, increasing to 45 seconds, last infusion 2 minutes. A final infusion at 5 minutes was probably too much to ask, but still had a nice delicate flavor.

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