For lunch today, my family and I went to my preferred Chinese restaurant in Cranberry Township. I made my usual beverage order of hot tea. I have been quite certain for some time that they serve Da Hong Pao oolong, or something very similar. I was correct on that assumption. However, confirming my hunch was shortly forgotten, as a much more interesting conversation had been sparked with the waitress. The waitress is from Fujian province, China. We spoke about the Wuyi mountains, and the great Da Hong Pao oolongs produced there, some of which are so expensive and rare that only the wealthy and famous get to experience them. She commenced to tell me the story of how Da Hong Pao (Big Red Robe) got it’s name. It was a story I had read before, but it sounded much more interesting being spoken.
Her family has a small tea farm in Fujian province, where they produce green tea. Her family sends her fresh green tea. She keeps some of the tea in the back room of the restaurant for her own personal consumption. Her face seemed to brighten as she spoke of her family farm and their tea. Then, she was generous enough to go back and brew a fresh pot for me.
As soon as I opened the lid, I could tell it was a gunpowder green tea. The smoky smell is unmistakable. The leaves were very fresh, and a lively green color. The pluck was two and a small bud, with absolutely no oxidation being evident. Mostly fully intact leaves with little breakage and no particles.
Despite the longer brewing time that she suggested, and I dare not to put my own general knowledge of green tea above the woman who lived on the tea farm, there was not a touch of bitterness until the bottom 20% of the pot, which by the time I got to it had been sitting there for about 25 minutes. The taste was smoky, yet fresh, unlike any other gunpowder that I have had. This is a green tea that I could drink daily.
The woman told me that her family’s tea is usually sold at about $70 per kilo, which is pretty expensive compared to other gunpowder green teas that I have seen on the wholesale market. Considering the smell, the flavor, and the obvious hand plucking and processing, I do not think that is an unreasonable price.
This woman said she has not had Silver Needle White Tea (Bai Hao Yin Zhen), so I promised to bring her some on my next visit. I would not mind trading for some of her family’s gunpowder green. I was very impressed.
Being somewhat shy at times, I am glad that I overcame that characteristic today to ask this woman about the tea. This simple question turned in to a very interesting conversation and an opportunity to try some phenomenal and fresh Chinese green tea. Finally, this woman promised to have a fresh pot of this tea waiting at my table each time I came back, so there is another reason to go on a weekly basis.