Saturday, December 20, 2008

Liu An Gua Pian Green Tea

Liu An Gua Pian or Melon Seed/Pieces green tea is considered to be in the top ten (maybe even top five) great Chinese classical teas. I had been reading about this tea for several months so when we went to Chengdu this past week, we bought some.

The Melon Seed/Pieces tea is the result of a labor intensive picking style in which the farmers cut the pointy tip end and woody stem of each leaf creating indentically sized "melon pieces". Lu An Gua Pian is made only using the tea leaves and no buds at all (similar to Japanese green tea). The emerald-green dried tea leaves are long and narrow, each measuring between 1.5cm to 2cm in length. The long leaves are thin and soft creating a rich flavor without bitterness. Only the first, second and third tea leaves are used to produce this tea. The leaves are withered to reduce leaf moisture and then baked and simultaneously rolled to stop oxidation while frequently turned to impart a delicate hint of smokiness. This also gives the tea its unique melon seed shape.  The tea then goes through several drying processes requiring the skill of an experienced tea master. After drying, the tea is sorted, winnowed to remove broken tea and then graded.  This tea originated in Anhui province in 1776 during the Ching dynasty.

The dried leaves are easily identified from other greens. The leaves are dark to grayish green, long and tightly closed. They have by far the longest tea leaves of any green tea we have tried thus far.

Up close, one can see the darkened texture and the folded dried leaves. Once again, the leaves are easily identifiable.

The liquid is a beautiful golden yellow, light and transparent. The taste is fantastic. Sweet, mild and not a hint of bitterness. It has a unique floral taste and a long aftertaste much like that of Tie Guan Yin. The pleasant floral sweetness, if that is what it is, fills the whole mouth with a very refreshing and smooth sensation. These really good teas always remind me of drinking the pure water from the artesian well not far from where I grew up in Oklahoma. There is a purity in the taste that one feels more than tastes. Wow! One can see why this tea is in the top ten famous teas list. It is wonderful beyond belief!

Here you can see the Gua Pian leaves after being infused four times. One cannot really get much more than four steepings from these leaves and I think this is probably true of most green teas. The fourth infusion was rather weak and lost the beautiful golden yellow color.