Popular Post abcdefg Posted April 3, 2016 at 07:41 AM Popular Post Report Share Posted April 3, 2016 at 07:41 AM Bursting with fresh, bright floral flavor, this is another of those fleeting glories that makes China life worth living. Cherry blossoms light up Kunming in mid-February, but Maofeng tea is not far behind. Mid-March this year. The Yunnan Maofeng 云南毛峰 I bought locally, here in Kunming, was from the mountains of Xishuangbanna Prefecture 西双版纳州, way to the south, not far from the border with Laos and Burma. Six of those hills are famous for producing great Pu’er, but a couple of excellent lesser-known green teas originate there as well. This tea doesn’t get a lot of press, because it is only produced in small quantities, just before Qingming Holiday 清明节, while the high mountains are still shrouded in cool mist. The best weather conditions don't last very long, so the season is of necessity a short one. After temperatures rise and the rains come, it is no longer the same growing environment. Green tea is still produced there later in the year, but it isn’t on a par with this rare, early crop. The very best of this tea is sold at a premium as “first flush” because it is made from the first picking after the plants have awakened from being dormant over winter. This means they are bursting with tea essence, with aroma and flavor since they have stored up important elements over the cold months. That’s the kind I was fortunate enough to find. It is peerless. The tea leaves are picked by hand, and it’s done with a good deal of care. Only a tiny immature bud and one small, tender leaf are picked in order make this tea. Most teas involve the use of several leaves, making them more economical to produce. During the picking, very small baskets are used, since large ones would promote bruising and crushing. This tea is loose, fluffy and light; not very compact. Here’s a photo. It looks that way because it is only minimally processed. It is briefly wilted using indirect sun 萎凋, and then exposed to brighter sunlight for only about an hour 晒干。Then it's quickly roasted in big woks 杀青 to retard oxidation. It isn’t twisted or rolled 揉捻 like many green teas. The entire process must be completed the same day it is begun. The quick processing also means this tea won't keep very long. It will deteriorate and become tasteless in about six short months. It isn't a tea to put back on the shelf for later. Like fresh fruit or fresh flowers, it is something to be enjoyed now. Share it with friends. Most tea people here simply brew it in a tall glass. It's easy to do with one important caveat: don't use water that is extremely hot. That makes the tea taste unpleasant. About 85 degrees Celsius is ideal (185 F.) Also, the water needs to not have a lot of flavor of its own, whether from minerals or from chemicals. This is a good time to splurge on bottled water. Here's a picture of my glass, with pencils inserted for size. It holds 8 ounces (240 ml.) Rinse out the glass with hot water then fill it about a third of the way up. Sprinkle a generous layer of tea leaves on top of the water. Then fill it about 3/4 of the way up. Leave yourself an inch or so at the top so you can grasp the glass comfortably after it is hot. When the leaves start to fall to the bottom, it's ready to drink. Swirl the glass gently if you wish to hasten the process, but don't stir it with a spoon. This tea is drunk plain, without the addition of milk or sugar. When your glass gets down to about a third, fill it again. Remember, not too hot and not too full. Can brew it like that about 3 times. The tea liquor is pale gold to light green. It doesn't contain much caffeine, so it won't make you jittery or "wired." I read somewhere non-scientific that, in equal amounts, it only has about a tenth as much caffeine as most coffee. But it does have other healthy components (mainly theanine) that increase general alertness as the same time as promoting calm. If you would like to strain it into small cups, that's fine even though it isn't essential. If you get tea leaves in your mouth, they aren't harmful. Here's what the leaves look like after brewing. Most complexes are comprised of one shoot or bud and one small leaf. If it came out weak, next time put in more leaves or let it brew longer. In fact, the three major operator variables in brewing this or any loose leaf tea are: 1. Amount of tea, 2. Steeping time, 3. Water temperature. With this particular tea, you can fiddle around with the first two, but be careful not to use water that is too hot. Many tea people first pour boiling water into a small pitcher, let it stand a few seconds, and then pour from that into the tea glass. They also will pour in a high stream, allowing the water to cool on the way down. The most famous tea of this type is Huangshan Maofeng 黄山毛峰，from Anhui Province. It is one of China’s ten most famous teas and is produced in large enough quantities to find its way into exporters’ stocks and into tea purveyors’ catalogs. That’s probably what you need to order if you would like to try tea of this type back home. If you are used to mainly drinking hearty tea, such as brews from India and Ceylon, this mellow spring green will require some adjustment. It is a subtle tea, a nuanced tea. It isn't intended to replace your usual bracing "cuppa," but it will expand your taste horizons a bit and let you experience something a little different. It is uniquely Chinese and one of the bounties of Spring. I thought you might like to give it a try. 11 Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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