Friday, May 15, 2009

Green Tea Semi-Marathon Tea Tasting

We scheduled a tea tasting to give the Gap Guys one last opportunity to share their ability to taste and develop the "qi of cha". Unfortunately, Tom was sick with an ear infection and John was being stalked by several of the young students he had met at the University. Made for a short but enjoyable tea tasting.

In addition, we had to attend the closing ceremonies for the ongoing English Culture Week. One of our students was going to take part in the opening of the singing contest as a guest singer. Seven finalist meant the opening duets needed an extra. She was the only member of the Foreign Affairs Department to take part in the singing contest. The winner of last semester's contest, our own Giselle, opted out as she was preparing for the finals of the Sichuan-wide speech contest. Other talented members also decided not to participate. We also found out later that Mr. Yao had been the official translator for one of the VPs who closed the week.

Anyway, here is the report from our last tea tasting with the Gap Guys.

We set up our Chinese Tea Service set on my desk which gave us a bit more room to enjoy the tasting. The plan was to do as many greens as we could. Things never turn out as one expects.

John insisted on taking a picture of one half of my now fully stocked tea cabinet. Do you think that my wife and I are serious about tea? She also has a corner full of tea that we plan to send back to Thailand when her family comes to visit us in September. Most of that is Yunnan Dian Cong, Golden Tips and lots of Puerh Beeng Cha.

The three tea stalwarts pose for the beginning of what we hoped would be a green tea tasting marathon.

The first tea was the Ying Bin Cha or welcome tea. I have been looking all over the internet to get information about this tea. "Welcome Tea" is what the wholesaler in Kunming called it. I think it is simply the traditional tea that Yi people in Yunnan Province and elsewhere offer their guests when they first arrive. It is part of the traditional "three tea" ceremony in the Yi culture. First the welcome tea, then the "let's talk and have a good time" tea and, finally, the "sorry to see you go." Hey, it sounds good to me. There really is a three-tea ceremony of the Yi. I am just not sure what kind of tea they use. The information I wrote down in Kunming just stated that it was a traditional welcome tea.

Here I am checking out the "welcome tea." The liquor appeared to be a green tea with nothing to distinguish it from a Yunnan blended green tea. I tried but I found very little to like about it other than as a remarkable green tea.

John received his "welcome tea" with the same dexterity as before. We all open this tea tasting with a hearty "WELCOME ONE AND ALL."

John gets the same reaction as I did with this tea. A weak and mild tea. John, however, in his unusual ability to taste the essence of tea, suggests that it is not really from the tea plant but a herbal tea. He does not think it tasted anything like a tea.

Dave takes this unusual picture that really shows off the beauty of one of the tea cups I bought in Yunnan. We discuss the possibility that John brings up.

All of us then check out the dried leaves once more to see if it is a herbal tea. Here is a picture of the dried leaves. We all concluded that this was, indeed, a herbal tea and not a real tea.

Dave shows his disdain for this herbal tea. He says it is uninspiring while I added that I would never again welcome any guest to my home with this tea.

While taking pictures, John also takes another good taste and agrees with our assessment.

Finishing the herbal "welcome tea."

A stalker calls John and takes him out of the tea tasting "game" for several precious moments. It is obvious that we have lost him as a viable taster of fine teas. This continues through the late afternoon until we are forced to shut things down and attend the singing contest.

We next do the Zhu Ye Qing green tea that Dave had brought from Mengding Mountain near Ya'an. He had gone there with Robert and had found a plantation that offered Zhu Ye Qing. They had tried the best and it was marvelous. The tea that Dave had given me was not the top quality but was probably number two. Our goal was to compare it to a top quality Zhu Ye Qing from Emei Mountain.

Here John, get off the phone and try this fine quality green tea from the number one tea green mountain in all of China - Mengding Mountain..

John forced the stalker to hang up so he could try this Mengding Zhu Ye Qing green tea. He liked it as he sits back and enjoys its "qi." A full-bodied "qi" he quips.

Dave agreed that this was a good green tea with a lot of "qi."

The Mengding Zhu Ye Qing has the familiar yellow green liquor found Zhu Ye Qings from Emei Mountain. Beautiful color!

Next up is a top quality Zhu Ye Qing from Her Majesty - Emei Mountain. This tea as given to me by the University for my work getting ready for the CCTV Speech Contest last month. People do not go to the trouble of putting cheap tea in expensive little bags like this. This stuff was expensive!

John is given the honor of trying the first cup of Emei's finest. He was not disappointed. This tea could very well be the world's finest green tea.

Dave frantically takes notes on what we think of this Zhu Ye Qing. He, too, has an inner feeling that we are enjoying the world's finest green tea, or at least the finest green tea that the likes of middle class working stiffs like us could afford.

Emei Mountain Zhu Ye Qing in all its golden green beauty. Simply the best.

To get John away from his stalker machine (cell phone), Dave and I insist that he take over the Tea Meister's slot. Here I explain the fine art of tea processing.

With confidence way beyond his years, John proves to be a novice expert at tea processing. as he pours all of us some fine green tea we picked up in Chuxiong - Bai Zhu Shan Lu Cha or White Bamboo Mountain green tea.

The stalkers do not leave John alone and we are only able to do this one last green before it is time to head out to the final installment of English Culture Week.

Before we head out, we take some much needed sustenance in the form of cookies. These are now a tradition at our tea tasting parties.

In addition, Sunee brings us some dumplings that she has unfrozen and prepared for us. They are inexpensive, convenient and very TOM DELICIOUS!

Hey do they look like this:

Notice the comment below from someone probably from Russia. I saved the recipe for these Russian dumplings and they are, indeed, very similar.

We closed out this tea tasting early because of the constant stalking of John and the start of the singing contest. Soon the Gap Guys will be back in England. Hope they carry on the tradition of tea tasting.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009