Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Yunnan Golden Bud Black Tea

This morning I felt like trying something different. We had just finished all of our tea from the "I have no idea what this tea is" cache of teas and are now into the fully labeled and identified teas. Something about this Yunnan Black Tea that interested me. Here is one of the reasons why:

One of the few best Chinese black teas, given as tribute by Yunnan local government to visiting foreign VIP’s and Chinese top leaders. Growing in organic tea gardens of high mountains, only fat fine buds of Spring first crop are plucked to produce this Golden Bud A. Less than 2,000kg made each year. Attractive golden buds without a black leaf in sight. This tea brews a bright amber color liquor. Smooth, sweet honey flavor with elegant flowery aroma. Highly prized by tea connoisseurs. (

Pretty impressive write-up, wouldn't you agree? Of course, the site is a commercial tea site so they will never have any negative write-ups about their teas. The information we were given about this tea pretty well matched the above description.

It was the best black tea money could buy out of Yunnan according to the guy we bought it from. He had a tea shop that specialized in tea from Yunnan and, of course, he was from Yunnan. It is called Jin Ya or Golden Bud/Shoot. The guy we bought it from in the Tea Culture Town gave some pretty good information about the tea and we tasted it before we bought it. Sunee does not care for it (she thinks it taste like Thai tea) but I like it because I definitely "feel" its effects on me almost immediately. Here is the "tasting" of the Yunnan Golden Bud Black Tea.

As you can see, the tea leaves are almost entirely golden in color. This means it has been hand-picked and only the "buds" or "shoots" have been chosen.

This is a very impressive close up to show the golden hue that each tea leaf has plus the white hairs that cover the buds. According to the seller, the number of golden leaves and the fine hair is the guarantee that this tea is what he says it is.

This tea makes a beautiful dark amber liquid. It really is as beautiful a tea as one will ever fine, IMHO. It looks like tea to the Western eyes. The taste is smooth from start to finish. It does not have the characteristic green tea bite at the beginning and the green tea aftertaste. It is smooth and mellow with hints of smoke and pepper. The effects are almost immediate for me. My face gets very numb all over and makes me feel very relaxed. It is almost like getting a shot of novacaine at the dentist office. Is this the "qi" thing that I have read about at some of the sophisticated tea sites on the web such as Mattcha? I will definitely buy some more of this tea when we return to Chengdu in a couple of weeks. It will also make nice Christmas gifts to my friends and relatives in Thailand. Too bad I have no way of getting it back to the United States before Christmas. Maybe next year, big brother, maybe next year.

As I mentioned earlier, Sunee does not care for this tea. She thinks it tastes like the cheap Thai tea she is used to. For me, I like it a lot and especially for the feeling I get after drinking it. My mind is clear but my body is very relaxed. Guess that is why we drink tea and the Chinese wrote so many lines of poetry about drinking tea.

Here are the leaves after my last steeping (third infusion). I have seen some of my favorite tea blogs show pictures of the tea leaves when they were done with them. Hey, I can do that too!

One thing I have found about this tea, it is only good for two or at the most three infusions. I am waiting now to have my third and final Yunnan Golden Bud Black Tea. Why not come and join me?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Emei Mountain Yin Zhen Yellow Tea

There is a new department store (Focus Market) just down the street from where we generally do all of our shopping. On Thursday, we went there to see what it had. It was modern with many new products that we may be interested in later.

What really caught my eye was their tea offerings. Much of it was typical green tea from Emei Mountain, but some were quite unique. I had not prepared to look at tea so I did not have my cheat sheet with me. I did notice two kinds of tea that seemed to be white tea. I remembered that a kind of white tea was called "silver needles" or yin zhen. Two types of this yin zhen were being offered at this store. I went back home and researched white tea and the yin zhen and, sure enough, it was as I had remembered.

On Sunday we went back to visit the store and I bought some of the Emei Mountain Yin Zhen. The other was a Jun Shan Yin Zhen but I wanted to have the locally produced tea. When we returned home, I did some more research and found that this particular yin zhen was, in fact, a yellow tea. The white tea was known as bai hao yin zhen. According to my research, the best yin zhen yellow tea comes from Jun Shan:

Mt. Jun Silver Needle is one of China’s most famous teas and is honored as the king of Yellow teas. The tea originates from Jun Shan Island (also known as the Island of Immortals) of Lake Dong Ting in Hunan Province. The yearly production of this tea is very limited, using only early Qing Ming harvest. Tea leaves picked after this period were processed into other teas such as Jun Shan Mao Jian and Jun Shan Lu Cha. Jun Shan Yin Zhen was an Imperial Tribute tea back in the ancient days, and is also well-known as Chairman's Mao favorite tea. The tea is composed of needle shaped buds that are relatively dry and green in color. In recent years, it is getting increasingly difficult to obtain authentic Jun Shan Yin Zhen. Processing this yellow tea requires great skill and effort. It has a delicate aroma with a hint of floral notes. The taste is smooth, light and sweet at first sip but finishes with a fleeting smoky taste. After a few cups, you will still feel the light sweetness in your mouth.

OK, so I did not buy the most famous yellow tea in the world. It will be interesting to try this particular Emei Mountain Yin Zhen and we will just have to try the other later.

To try this yellow tea, we broke out our new tea tray which we had bought at the Tea Culture Town area. Isn't it beautiful with the matching set of "tea tools?"

The leaves of the Emei Mountain Yin Zhen are greenish to yellow in color and resemble the shape of Zhu Ye Qing and other premium green teas from Emei. We only bought a small amount to try because it was expensive (50 grams was around $3).

This is a close up of the Yin Zhen leaves. One can easily see the light green and yellow color and the texture. They were not as tightly dried as the best greens from the local area.

We do not use the Gong Fu Method for our teas yet. That will come later. For now we are lazy and use a teapot kind of thing from Taiwan we bought from a Pu-erh Store in Yunnan Province this last summer. It is called the Piao I Teapot and it works great! Eventually we will get some bigger gaiwans for our wulongs and some teapots (hopefully Yixings) for some of the other teas. For now we just use this great little invention. In fact, we have three of them with the other two being cheaper Chinese copies. They seem to all work about the same. Guess we have not reached the "tea snobbery" state yet.

The tea is a beautiful deep yellow. This is with about a three minute steep. The taste reminded me of the initial taste of Xue Ya but much sweeter and with less of a lasting aftertaste. The sensation is very complex but seemed to be just a bit weak. I think we will have to steep it longer to get these flavors to come out a little stronger.

Sunee thought it tasted like Zhu Ye Qing but I found it to be a lot more subtle with several different overtones that I would be hard pressed to describe. I like the tea and especially its deep yellow color. I think it would be interesting to get the famous Jun Mountain Yin Zhen and do a taste comparison between it and this tea. What do you think?