Spring Tea Premier Event at Modern Tea
Yesterday evening, while the sun still shone, 15 people gathered with anticipation at Modern Tea Restaurant in Hayes Valley, San Francisco. They were there for the premier of our new spring teas: Rare Pre-Qing Ming Dragonwell from Lion's Peak in West Lake, China; and 3rd Prize Competition winning Baochong from Wen mountain near Pinglin, Taiwan. This was the first chance to taste these spring teas, tell our stories and Below is a copy of the handout each guest received at the tasting. A heartfelt thank you to everyone who came.
Rare Pre-Qing Ming Dragonwell from famous Lion’s Peak
In the misty mountains outside of Hangzhzou City in northern China, there is a famous tea growing area called West Lake. High altitudes, sweet clean air, and precious, well balanced mineral content in the soil all contribute to some of the most famous tea on earth: Dragonwell. On this mountain, there are several peaks, which all have names, and corresponding reputations for the tea they give.
The lowest peak is Mei Ja Wu. Its tea is green and attractive, but it has the lowest altitude. The next peak is Wan Tai. The next highest peak is Fu Pao. The fourth and most famous peak is Lion’s Peak (Shi Feng), and its tea is considered the crème de la crème by connoisseurs. The tea from this mountain peak was traditionally reserved for the Emperor.
On the first weekend of April was the celebration of the Ancestors. Food, gifts, and paper clothes are offered in tribute. This is also an important time for tea picking. There are only about 10 days before this date that tea can be picked if the conditions are right, and some years that time frame is even shorter. If conditions are right, the tea is ready, and the farmer knows his crops, picking of the best grade of tea: Pre-Qing Ming can begin.
The tea from Lion’s Peak is not the most attractive of all the teas because it does not fit the standard for judging a tea on its appearance. But it is the best tasting, and therefore the most sought after of Dragonwell teas. This Dragonwell has all the classic flavors and in addition, it was expertly processed and triple sifted to ensure only the full leaves remain. Expert farming and processing lead to the best possible flavor profile. Accessibility – someone you trust who is willing to sell it to you is the last key. Then, finally, you have an opportunity to experience the sweetness, the bright top notes, the chestnutty depth and the silky texture worthy of the title “Rare Pre-Qing Ming Dragonwell”. Not only is it a pleasure to drink, to share with friends, it is a privilege to use this tea as a benchmark to build your taste-memory in order to better appreciate future harvests of Dragonwell.
Rare Competition-Winning Baochong from Pinglin Wen Shan
Up the winding roads of Pinglin on verdant Wen mountain in northern Taiwan grow the most unique of Taiwan’s teas: Baochong. “Wrapped Kind” (Baochong) is called a “blue” tea by the Chinese, and the Taiwanese insist it is a green. In the West, because of its processing and in particular it’s oxidation time (longer than green but not brown like oolong), it is classified as an oolong.
Baochong is the staple of northern Taiwan tea farming and twice a year there is a competition to see who has the best spring and the best fall Baochong. In speaking with the competition judges, we learned there are 5 major criteria, all equally considered in choosing a winner. Dry leaf aroma, wet leaf aroma, aroma of the beverage, color of the beverage, and finally the most subjective criteria of all: taste. This tea exhibits some of the best qualities of Baochong. It’s nearly stemless leaves are perfectly twisted, and still retain the outer leaf edge for varietal identification. There is a golden halo discernable around the leaves, denoting expert processing. The flavor never goes sour or bitter, even when oversteeped.
This tea took 15 hours to process by hand and this years’ window for picking was shorter than usual. With high notes of lily, gardenia, orange flower blossom and sweet pop corn and a complimentary depth, this is a fantastic tea. It was chosen only after tasting 12 other teas of similar grade from different vendors.
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