Thursday, December 11, 2008

Mabian Qiaoba Hei Lu Cha (Black Green Tea)

We just bought this tea at the new Focus Market in downtown Emei City. I am always on the lookout for interesting teas, much to my wife's chagrin. On the second floor of the market, there is a new tea house which sells mostly green teas but has some other interesting teas from Sichuan.

As soon as I saw the Black Green Tea (in Chinese), I became very interested. Here is the write up on the back of the 250 gram package:

The product is made from Mabian Qiaoba area which has predominant natural condition as has flaky exuberant thousand year old tea tree up to now, , tea mountain is over 800m altitude, mountain green water beautiful, cloud and mist wreathe. The nutrient tea has water endurance to infuse, fragrant and mellow taste, sweet long aftertaste. It was ranked as Tribute from Ming and Qing Dynasty. It was offered to Zhongnanhai of Beijing in 1959. Now Qiaoba has been cognizance as green food producing base for national green food manage center. "Qiaoba Tribute Tea" is recognized "famous excellent produce" by Sichuan China West produce fair in 2002, evaluated "high quality famous tea" by Sichuan province AGriculture office in 2003, and assessed Leshan city well-known brand at January 2007.

Little bit difficult to grasp the exact meanings in the above label but I think we can all get the idea that this tea came from mountains where there are a lot of mist and clouds and it is pretty high. According to the back label the ingredients consist of "one sprout two or three leaves to make high fragrant bake-fry type green tea."

In addition, the shelf life is supposed to be 18 months. The date of its production was 2008/05/6 or June 5, 2008.

Ok, so what did it taste like?

The tea looks a lot like Mao Feng Green tea but looks to be much more substantial. The leaves are dark green with light green mixed in a little.

Check out the tight curl of the leaves. Nothing special in their dried appears, similar to a Mao Feng or even a Mao Jian tea. Probably came from about the same altitude if the back panel can be believed.

The tea produces a liquor that is similar to all the other green teas from Emei. Light bodied with hints of green and slightly amber in color. The tea is light and refreshing with a slight bitterness at the front followed by a semi-sweet aftertaste that lingers a bit longer than the normal Mao Feng or Mao Jian. This tea is OK but it is not a great tasting tea like my two favorites from Emei: Zhu Ye Qing and Xue Ya. The tea costs 18 Yuan for 250 grams so it is about the same price as the common Emei Mountain Mao Feng we bought at different stores in Emei City.

Here you can see the expended leaves. These made seven infusions before I decided to take the pictures and blog it. The first infusion, I admit, was astringent due mostly to the fact that I put too many leaves in the pot. After the third time, the tea was quite pleasant and it is this third infusion that I am basing my opinions on concerning the tea. The tea is OK. The name is interesting and the write up on the back was cute. Overall, a pretty interesting tea to get to know.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Meng Ding Gan Lu (Sweet Dew) Tea Tasting

We finally got around to opening the Meng Ding Shan Gan Lu we bought last month at the Chengdu Tea Culture Street. I was anxious to try it as it is listed as one of the top ten teas in China. The Gan Lu that we bought was supposed to be the real thing. We bought only 100grams to give it a try.

The leaves are very light with alternating green and almost yellow leaves. When I write that the leaves are light, I mean very thin and very delicate looking. The 100 grams of tea we bought is quite a bit of tea. It takes a lot of these leaves to make up a single gram. This is nothing like the green tea from Emei.

Close up you can see the light yellow with a lot of white hair along the sides of each leaf.

Here is what the internet says about this tea:

MengDing Gan Lu tea is a famous mountain tea in China, belonging to tender green tea classification. The rainy season there is as long as nine months each yearand the temperature is relatively cool on the slope of the mountain. This environment is ideal for this mountain tea.

As early as in the western Han Dynasty (202 BC - 24 AD), a farmer named Wu Li Zhen discovered a special tea species amid the foggy peaks on Mount MengDing. He is believed to be the founder of the MengDing tea gardens.

During the Tang Dynasty, the best tea gardens were assigned to be royal gardens. Every year around the Qing Ming Festival (April 5), the local governor would be dress in ceremonial attires, offering sacrifices to gods, and asked the Buddhist priests
to worship the tea trees, then picked up 365 pieces of tea leaves. When processing the leaves, the Buddhist monks would continue with their prayers. These 365 tea leaves would be called the "holy tea" and reserved in two silver bottles. The tea would be used in the Emperor's sacrificial ceremony to his family's ancestors. The local officers would also pick some other leaves, process them to the tea product, then reserve the tea in another 18 tin bottles, which was called "ordinary tea" or "secondary tea" for the royal family's daily life.

This traditional was maintained from the Tang Dynasty (618-906 AD) to the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911 AD) for more than a thousand years. (

The first cups from the Gan Lu tea show a pale yellowish to golden color. The tea is light, offering a sweet first taste, with a smooth and refreshing sensation as it moves from tongue to throat. There seems to be a slightly sweet aftertaste, extremely pleasant. As I drank this Gan Lu tea, I tasted or experienced absolutely no astringency even when I let the tea steep a few minutes extra on the third infusion.

Who would not like this tea? It is subtle and mild and energizes one's senses quite a bit. Unlike the puerh I drink, I felt no numbing sensation on my cheeks. I did, however, experience an awaking of my spirit as I drank my fourth and fifth cups. This is as good as advertised! What a pleasant tea!

The only thing I might have done incorrectly is not put enough leaves in my little teapot. Even with more leaves, I cannot imagine the tea changing much in taste and performance. It simply appeared that the leaves had not filled up the pot as I had expected they would.

Here are the expended Gan Lu leaves. As you can see, they are truly small and picked very young. The green color is pretty consistent on each one and each stem looks to have a bud and two leaves. A very wonderful experience I had with this tea. We definitely will add this tea to our MUST HAVE list.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Da Hong Pao (Big Red Robe)

Da Hong Pao is considered the strongest full-bodied Oolong comparable to a top "espresso" in the coffee world. Multiple infusions of this tea will keep offering a uniquely multi-dimensional oolong flavour along with a silky-smooth aftertaste. It is a really good (maybe the best) mild-tasting, mid-roasted tea from Wuyi Mountain.

From the internet:

Dà Hóng Páo (大红袍) is a very important Wuyi Oolong tea. Legend has it that the mother of a Ming Dynasty emperor was cured of an illness by a certain tea, and that emperor sent great red robes to clothe the four bushes from which that tea originated. Three of these original bushes, growing on a rock on Mount Wuyi and reportedly dating to the Song Dynasty, still survive today and are highly venerated. Less than one kilogram of tea is harvested from these plants each year, of which a portion is retained by the Chinese government. The remainder of this original and real Da Hong Pao is auctioned, with an initial asking price of 4000 RMB/100 g, but often reaching millions of dollars per kilogram[1]. Cuttings taken from the original plants have been used to produce similar grades of tea from genetically identical plants. Taste variations produced by processing, differences in the soil, and location of these later generation plants is used to grade the quality of various Da Hong Pao teas.

Xiao Hong Pao, or Small Red Robe refers to Da Hong Pao grown from plants of fourth or greater generation, but the term is rarely used. In some cases Xiao Hong Pao is simply sold as Hong Pao, presumably for marketing purposes.

As it's of very high quality, the Da Hong Pao is usually reserved for honored guests. (

On our last trip to Chengdu, we bought some of the most expensive as well as some mid-priced Da Hong Pao tea. Here are the results of the tasting of these teas.

This is the most expensive Da Hong Pao we bought. We had the store put them in little individual bags which is quite common in most of the area tea stores in Emei City.

The leaves are dark and tightly curled. This seems to be typical of Oolong teas all over China. I wonder if one can really tell if a tea is a Oolong just by looking at these leaves. I would say one probably could.

This is a cheaper version of Da Hong Pao. Quite frankly, I could not really tell the difference between the two. This seemed to have less tiny pieces than the more expensive but this is probably because it was taken from a jar with a lot of teas and the flakes and dust were probably on the bottom of the container.

A close up reveals the texture of the dark orange colored tea leaves. Again, I could not see any great difference between the two teas. Sunee fixed herself some of the cheaper brand and let me taste it. The Da Hong Pao I was drinking definitely had a stronger and more distinct flavor but is it worth the difference in cost?

The first infusion (steeping) came out fairly strong with a bit of astringency but not bad. The "floral" taste must be the woody or earthy taste I experienced. Now that I think about it, I can taste the hints of floral but it is a quasi-floral with no distinct tastes coming to mind. The astringency part was probably because I let it seep a bit too long before drinking it. Nothing as astringent as we experienced with our yellow tea, however. This was not altogether unpleasant.

This is the third infusion and it remains consistently "floral." The taste is a bit stronger than the Guan Yin Wang I tasted yesterday. The floral taste was much more floral in the later infusions. This is a great tea for special occasions. It is not cheap by any standards. Even the mid-priced Da Hong Pao was, for our small pocket book, quite expensive. I can see why this is considered in the top ten best teas in China. It is time to make plans to visit Fujian and find out where this tea comes from. It should be a great trip, don't you think?

These are the wet leaves after three infusions. I ended up using the tleaves another four times before discarding them. Probably could have gotten another two out of them if I had pushed it. Kinda makes the tea not so expensive after all.

Just to prove that the tea came from a Da Hong Pao tea bag. The bags were small, just enough for a gaiwan.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Guan Yin Wang

Guan Yin Wang means the king of the Iron Goddess Teas. Tie Guan Yin is listed as one of the top ten best teas in China. Guan Yin Wang, therefore, is supposed to be the king of Tie Guan Yin. According to what I found on the internet, the taste of this tea is light and can make people's mouth fresh and clean. The best way to make this tea is to use a small pot with hot water. It is supposed to be able to make 6-7 steepings. Let's check this great tea out as we bought a couple of pounds when we were in Chengdu last time.

As you can see, the leaves are a mixture of dark and green. Most of them are tightly curled with some easily recognized as tea leaves. The color seems to be about 60 percent green and 40% dark. Rather an interesting looking tea.

A close up of the leaves pretty well looks like tea leaves with the green being a very pretty shade. The dark leaves are definitely dark as you can see.

Here is the label from the bag we bought the tea in. We had the loose leaves placed in the container from the store that specialized in this tea. This just proves that the tea at least came from a Guan Yin Wang tea bag.

With my cute little pot, I placed about a spoonful of the dried leaves in the pot and filled it with hot water. Did my first drain and then refilled the pot. I let the tea leaves steep for about a minute and had my first Guan Yin Wang tea. Was it light? Absolutely and it was also very refreshing.

As I surfed the web, I had three more steepings of the tea and I found that the fifth was, indeed, the best. The tea is mild and refreshing with indications that it has affects on my senses. By the time I had a couple of cups, I felt slightly alert, not that I was falling asleep or anything. This tea is very, very good. We will be taking some of it back to Thailand with us for sure.

The leaves unfurl and are quite large in relation to what we have been drinking before. As you can see in the pot, the leaves are definitely leaves from the tea plant. This is a wonderful tea to drink throughout the day.