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abcdefg

Now is the time for early spring tea 早春茶

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ZhangKaiRong

Definitely best time of the year for good Chinese green tea!

Yesterday evening I bought a package of 蒙顶柿花  and 蒙顶甘露, both came from Sichuan and hit the shelves here in Europe. Tea shops in Europe get their teas first from Sichuan, the second batch comes from Yunnan and then from the eastern coast. Both 蒙顶 are great, although for pre-Qingming teas I'm recommending a more Japanese-like approach and using a slightly lower temperature water (around 65 Celsius degrees) and longer brewing time compared to "normal" green teas, in order to bring the best flavors out of the fresh leaves.

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Tomsima

Water just off the boil works fine with these tea leaves as they have been seared in processing, so any good quality leaves won't get destroyed by pouring boiling water directly on. However pouring from a height like you might with a 岩茶 is probably a waste as the flavour will come out much quicker and you won't get the most of the flavour. I use a 蓋碗 as it spreads the flavour out really nicely, works especially well with 龍井 which is fantastic by the second to third 泡, a method I saw on a tea blog last year. Couldn't afford 西湖龍井, I went for 高山龍井, it's great, give it a try if you want a very close second.

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realmayo

Now begins the wait for UK vendors to get the new year's tea into the country and up for sale.

I suppose the one upside of the still-wintry weather here is I hadn't thought about missing fresh green tea in spring sunshine, until abcdefg's post.

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realmayo
7 hours ago, ZhangKaiRong said:

Yesterday evening I bought

Care to say who from?

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abcdefg
16 hours ago, ZhangKaiRong said:

Yesterday evening I bought a package of 蒙顶柿花  and 蒙顶甘露, both came from Sichuan and hit the shelves here in Europe

 

I've had Mengding Ganlu 蒙顶甘露 and admire it a lot. If it were not for the easy availability of Yunnan teas here in Kunming, I would have spent more effort seeking out and getting to know quite a few of Sichuan's delicious teas. They are every bit as good as our local products, just a bit less easy for me to find here.  

 

ZKR, if you feel so inclined, it would be great if you would write up a post on those delicious Mengding 蒙顶 teas. I, for one, would like to learn more about them. 

 

10 hours ago, Tomsima said:

I use a 蓋碗 as it spreads the flavour out really nicely, works especially well with 龍井 which is fantastic by the second to third 泡, a method I saw on a tea blog last year.

 

A gaiwan 盖碗 is versatile and works quite well for brewing any green tea, no doubt about that. I certainly would not argue against it. It affords the ultimate in flavor control. But brewing in a glass is also a suitable way to make these light-flavored green teas, and it has the added benefit of allowing one to watch the tea as it does the slow "tea dance." The leaves move up and down in the glass as they steep, performing an ancient Chinese ballet. 

 

The conventional wisdom is that if the tea is lighter and more delicate in structure and flavor, water that is less hot does a better job of brewing it into a well-balanced cup. A hearty and full-flavored large-leaf Pu'er, for example requires boiling water and a very hot clay teapot to show its taste to best advantage. These Maofeng 毛峰 teas are more often brewed the way Zhang Kai Rong suggested. The method I wrote up for this thread is a "middle road." 

 

 

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艾墨本

@abcdefg Have you heard of the magazine about tea that comes out of http://teasagehut.org ? 

 

Your articles would make a great addition to it. Your writing and pictures as well as your narrative style merit publication. 

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abcdefg

Many thanks, @艾墨本 -- I had never heard of Teasagehut and their programs. I'm going to get busy right now and see if I can at least arrange a visit. I like the sound of their philosophy and the environment they provide. 

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Alex_Hart

Nice post, abcd! I've seen some signs for the fresh Longjing here, but have yet managed to go check out any of the stores. 

 

I agree with 艾墨本 that you should publish your posts somewhere (at least until your book is finished)!

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Balthazar
On 3/29/2018 at 6:02 AM, 艾墨本 said:

Have you heard of the magazine about tea that comes out of http://teasagehut.org ? 

 

The Global Tea Hut magazine is actually really good (probably unrivaled in any non-Asian language), at least the samples I've read. Regardless of what one feels about the "organization" itself, "Wu De" (Aaron Fisher, author of "Way of Tea"), undoubtedly has a lot of knowledge about tea and excellent sourcing skills. Even those who are somewhat put off by the "cultish" vibes the Tea Sage Hut may give off seem to recognize that the teas they source are top notch. I was fortunate enough to taste the Bingdao tea they provided with the magazine a few years ago (a limited Mengku Shuanjiang production, supposedly with real Bingdao material), and it was one of the most powerful puer teas I've ever tried. While I never subscribed to the magazine, I have no doubt the samples they send out with it are more than enough to justify the cost ...

 

But I digress from the subject of this topic ... These days I don't consume a whole lot of Chinese green teas. Overall I feel like Japanese greens offer a lot more for less money, but I might not have felt that way had I lived in China.

 

As usual, thanks for sharing @abcdefg

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Alex_Hart
On 4/1/2018 at 11:44 PM, Balthazar said:

But I digress from the subject of this topic ... These days I don't consume a whole lot of Chinese green teas. Overall I feel like Japanese greens offer a lot more for less money, but I might not have felt that way had I lived in China.

 

Perhaps because the teas that get exported from China tend to be the "brand name" teas. For example, Hangzhou's Longjing is very expensive, but there are several green teas from nearby that command a far lower price. Even here just miles from the tea farms, tea shops don't often advertise these teas. 安吉 (home of the famous 安吉白茶) has a similar situation. If you go to any tea shop in Shanghai, the only 安吉 tea you will find is the 安吉白茶, which costs a fortune. If you go to 安吉 itself, you'll find some really delicious green teas that can be had for the price of lunch. 

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amytheorangutan
On 28/03/2018 at 1:00 PM, ZhangKaiRong said:

Yesterday evening I bought a package of 蒙顶柿花  and 蒙顶甘露, both came from Sichuan and hit the shelves here in Europe.

 

Would you mind letting me know where you bought the tea from in Europe? They sound interesting and I might give them a try 😊

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abcdefg
6 hours ago, Alex_Hart said:

If you go to any tea shop in Shanghai, the only 安吉 tea you will find is the 安吉白茶, which costs a fortune. If you go to 安吉 itself, you'll find some really delicious green teas that can be had for the price of lunch. 

 

Agree with that 150%. I've found it over and over in my own casual tea explorations. These teas, besides lacking the huge mark up that international name recognition confers, usually don't have to travel so far and don't have as many middle-men to take a bite of the profits. 

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Balthazar
14 hours ago, Alex_Hart said:

Perhaps because the teas that get exported from China tend to be the "brand name" teas. For example, Hangzhou's Longjing is very expensive, but there are several green teas from nearby that command a far lower price. Even here just miles from the tea farms, tea shops don't often advertise these teas. 安吉 (home of the famous 安吉白茶) has a similar situation.

 

It's definitely true that what's available on the European market, understood here as meaning physical stores located in Europe, is mostly "brand teas" (brand here referring to geography (e.g. Longjing/Laobanzhang) or varietal rather than company brand), recognizable names to everyone with the slightest interest in tea beyond Lipton bags.

 

However, that's not so much the case with the online market anymore, especially not for larger vendors operating from within China. Take a look at the green tea section at Yunnan Sourcing for instance. Or The Dragon Tea House, a vendor I do not recommend but know is fairly popular. Or any of the countless Aliexpress/Taobao-alternatives out there [Edit: Apparently Aliexpress-vendors may no longer sell tea].

 

As for getting the teas yourself, directly from the source, common sense suggests that this should give you better value for your money (no, or at least fewer, middle men involved). I'm sure this is often the case too, but I don't think it always is. My impression is that for most of the above middle grade teas, farmers prefer to sell large quantities to fewer buyers (which would imply that the price difference between getting your teas directly or buying them through a vendor may not always be that large), as this is often more cost effective. I'm sure you could get a better deal buying directly from the farmer (or at a local tea market) compared to buying through a internationally focused vendor in nine out of ten cases, but I don't necessarily believe the same to be true if your compared the price/quality to that offered by the more popular Taobao-vendors (popular as in popular on online tea forums, going by Taobao-reviews alone is definitely not reliable at all).

 

In any case, for those of us not living in China buying directly from the producers is rarely an option. So yes, my opinion is mostly based on what's available online from China and Japan respectively. Here I believe Japanese green teas, in general, offer more complexity than their Chinese counterparts (although they can also be more finicky in terms of finding the correct brewing parameters). I believe the opposite to be true as far as black teas, Oolongs and ... pretty much every other type of tea is concerned.

 

I also feel less concerned about the safety of consuming green teas from Japan. Fertilizer/pesticide regulations are much more lax in China, my impression is that the same is true for testing. With Japanese teas you have some people worrying about radioactivity, post Fukushima, but testing is extensive, openly reported, and the radioactive cesium limitation is much, much lower in Japan than either the EU or the US (it's 1/12 of the US limit!). So there's also that, although I guess the same could be said about Chinese black teas, which I drink a good liter of at work each day :) 

 

In any case, I do enjoy Chinese green teas a lot, but based on what I am able to get from behind this computer screen I will go for a Japanese alternative most of the time. Thés du Japon is where I usually get my fix.

 

7 hours ago, abcdefg said:

Agree with that 150%. I've found it over and over in my own casual tea explorations. These teas, besides lacking the huge mark up that international name recognition confers, usually don't have to travel so far and don't have as many middle-men to take a bite of the profits. 

 

Definitely agree regarding Shanghai tea shops (actually, non-online tea shops in general) and price/quality. My mother once bought some ripe puer from a shop at the top of a Nanjing Lu mall. It was sad stuff indeed, although the unsuspecting customer wouldn't have guessed as much from the price tag.

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abcdefg

I'm really glad to have your perspective on these issues @Balthazar-- It's been over 10 years since I've bought tea online, and I therefore have only very scant knowledge of how that works these days, recommendations and pitfalls of which to be wary. 

 

When I go to other parts of China (or to Taiwan) to taste and buy tea, I don't pay close attention to the economics of it. I view the trip as a chance to get to know something about interesting new places, the local people, the local customs and so on. I admit to being a dilettante instead of a hard-nosed businessmen. 

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Balthazar
17 hours ago, abcdefg said:

I view the trip as a chance to get to know something about interesting new places, the local people, the local customs and so on. I admit to being a dilettante instead of a hard-nosed businessmen. 

 

It's interesting you'd bring that up, as it's definitely a strong point in favour of the "direct buying" approach. I've done it myself on the rare occasions that have presented themselves (and I can count those with one hand), but these days the closest I get to any such experience is through the Wechat-updates of a Taiwanese producer I buy directly from (he produces an outstanding traditional roast Dong Ding).

 

The actual buying experience (and everything that surrounds it), in person, at the place of production, really has value in itself. Some vendors, such as Jingmai focused Farmerleaf (or Wuyi Origin), are trying (and doing a good job) to transfer some of that to the Internet. But to go there and see, taste, smell and experience for yourself is something different altogether.

 

Speaking of Farmerleaf, here's a fun little video (Youtube)

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