Monday, August 06, 2007

Anodyne in the Company of Greens, Part 2 (or, When is Tea Like a Sunset?)

I've been living here and there and now and then with a few different green teas such as these early spring 2007 Long Jing teas from Jing Tea Shop.

Ping Yang Zao Long Jing
Long Jing #43
Shi Feng Long Jing
Wu Niu Zao Long Jing (packet is labeled "zhao" though the website says "zao")

The Ping Yang Zao Long Jing has a deeper and more dominant roasty note with underlying sweetness and is a touch more nutty in the cup. It has less vegetal-citrusy twist compared to the others.

Long Jing #43
is surprisingly and pleasantly vegetal with a citrusy twist. It has a softer aroma than the others but a very vegetal greenbean presence in the cup...much more there than in the other Long Jing teas.

Shi Feng Long Jing is silkier in body with a very soft but pervasive aroma.

And the Wu Niu Zao Long Jing has that green vegetal against a very nice citrusy note. It has shifted a bit as I made it today and has a more savory character with a pleasant green edge. While some of these teas do have the nutty aroma, none of them have that heavy nutty-toastiness in the cup. They are going in very different directions.

Sampling continues as perspectives shapeshift: Today I am back to drinking the Wu Niu Zao against the Ping Yang Zao Long Jing. Tasting them both side-by-side, I really notice again the more roasty-toasty character of the Ping Yang Zao as I compare the two. It comes across more in the aroma than the taste. The Wu Niu isn't as roasty-toasty in scent and has a softer silkier sweetness to the aroma with that lovely greenbean vegetal that comes into the finish of the tea. Something about the Wu Niu gives it a crisper finish than the softer edge of the Ping Yang Zao as I brewed them today.

When I first drank the teas, the Wu Niu Zao and the Ping Yang Zao were the two that separated out for me on opposite ends of the spectrum even though I couldn't exactly articulate why. The Wu Niu Zao is visually like the morning's unfiltered sunlight in that bright and crisp clarity to the cup. The Ping Yang Zao tastes/feels more like the filtered late afternoon sunlight through gauzy curtains.

They just do have a different presence based on that clarity and crispness versus the softer toastier edge.

And later: Today, the Shi Feng and #43 Long Jing are cup companions. Of all of these teas, the #43 seems to bring forward the sharpest notes--a teetering balance of the greenbean vegetal against a brisk edge. The contrast is a pleasing one to me. It is not as softly rounded in the cup as the toastier Ping Yang Zao. The Shi Feng has a comparatively more subtle presence.

Shi Feng, in terms of light, is like a silvery muted Lake sunset without the blazing colors or glare. I keep seeing these teas in terms of light and sunsets particularly, since we experienced so many different kinds of sunsets recently during a stay on the Lake. Some sunsets were blazing and aggressive and splendid. You could hardly watch them. Rather than put you to sleep, they were stimulating. Other sunsets were muted through mist and developed a silvery-golden color palate that was gentler on the eyes. Soporific. These two teas visually bring to mind those different kinds of sunsets.

For me, the Shi Feng and the Ping Yang Zao have been the softer experiences of light. Soporific. Contemplative. Meditative.The #43 and the Wu Niu Zao were the blazing sunsets. Wake-up call. Refreshing. Thirst-quenching. I actually feel more compelled to drink these latter two in a thirstier frame of mind, while the first two teas I am sipping more slowly.

It is an on-going and rather meandering musing here as I live in stolen moments with the teas and try different ones side-by-side as the teas themselves shape-shift a bit, brewing to brewing.

The other greens I have been keep company with are from TeaSpring:

Jun Shan Qing Zhen (Mount Jun Green Needle) is from Jun Shan, Hunan Province. It has a savory-smoky note to the dry spear-shaped leaf ("silver unopened buds" according to TeaSpring) with a pleasant deep vegetal--a green tea that has a bass and very full presence. The suggestion of the dry leaf is what carries into the cup, too. This is a very savory green. It is one of the green teas I think of as rich and nourishing with almost a soup-like character. The website notes that it is "the sister of Jun Shan Yin Zhen (a rare Yellow tea and one of China's Famous Ten)." Both are similar in appearance and the website notes that some vendors will sell this tea as the more expensive one. The smoky note comes thru from start to finish, apparent in the dry leaf and leaving a kind of spicy-smoky (but pleasant) note in the aftertaste. It's a clean smoky note, not ash-tray-like at all. There's a vegetal slightly sweet presence and a hint of a nip, which is a good contrast against the richer flavors. Harvest period, according to the website, is Spring '06 (Ming Qian Cha)--and if that's the case, the small sample packet (gratis with my order) was extremely fresh smelling and tasting. This definitely isn't one of the ethereal or delicate greens. It is packing quite a full range of flavor and aroma.

Lu Shan Yun Wu
is a green tea "harvested from the peak of Mount Lu," Lu Shan, Jiang Xi Province. I gather from the website that there are different styles of this tea, and that TeaSpring has the Yin Zhen style. The dry leaf is made up of tiny buds that have a very piercing almost green-grassy-herbal scent in the packet. It's also known as "Lu Shan Yun Zhen, Mount Lu Cloud and Mist (Silver Needle Style)" according to the website. This is listed as a spring '06 harvest, not a current one. Unlike the China greens I think of as savory or nourishing, this tea has a richness that goes in a different direction. Cleansing is the word comes to mind. As it cools slightly, the liquor develops a very sweet and slightly nutty note in aroma that carries into the finish and aftertaste. There's a piercing edge to this tea against an aftertaste that seems to carry an almost fruity quality. A not-quite-ripe-green fruity-ness. It is not nearly as vegetal as some China greens and has only a hint of something savory in the aroma. The aftertaste really does linger. I have to wonder what this tea would be like from a '07 harvest since this is listed as an '06. When one gains "points" for ordering from this vendor, you are given a selection of ways to redeem them--this was one of the choices and why I ended up choosing this particular tea.

My only other notes on this tea go way back to 1997 when it appears when I had a sample from Upton Tea Imports. From old notes: When the leaves are first wet, they develop a very fresh pungent aroma that reminds me of certain crushed herbs I can't pinpoint. This aroma softens while the tea steeps and becomes mellower while still retaining that fresh green scent. After the leaves are removed, the liquor has hints of soft floral aroma and sweetness. The first sip rather surprised me--the taste in proportion to the aroma seemed much less intense. Yet as you sip the tea, you realize that while it initially has just a clean taste, the mellow flavors that echo the aroma sort of sit in your mouth as an aftertaste. Nice.

Back to this TeaSpring 2006 harvest: what seems a point of continuity between the two tastings of this tea, years apart, is that unique herbal-green note that I can't really describe.

Holly L. Hatfield-Busk

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