On November 27th, a sample of Organic Gunpowder Green Tea (XF13112/03) was evaluated to determine if it could be used as a replacement base tea for a Moroccan Mint blend. In my undying attempts to improve quality and control over sourcing, I requested samples of various gunpowder green teas from China. This particular sample was provided by the Hunan Xiangfeng Tea Industry Co. Ltd.
Let the journey begin…
The dry leaves have a fairly uniform dark green color, with a few leaves have a lighter shade of green. The leaves are rolled and curled into tight and dense semi-ball forms of varying sizes and shapes. The leaves do not have the shiny and glossy look that I have seen in other gunpowder green teas, indicating that this tea was not sprayed with the substance that some people claim contains gluten. The aroma is sweet, like molasses or honey, with just a slight touch of grass. There is no smokiness to the aroma.
In an earlier post, I mentioned a woman from Fujian province that works at my favorite local Chinese restaurant. She had served me some gunpowder green tea, and had given me instructions to let it brew longer than other Chinese green teas. With her advice in mind, I decided to brew this tea at 175°F (80°C) for four minutes. I have to admit that I was quite nervous about it being bitter. Nine grams of dry leaves were used with twenty ounces of purified water.
The first infusion produced a liquor with a bright yellow color and slight green tint, clear and transparent. The aroma has scents of sweet hay and light fresh grass. The body is light medium, with a subtle and refreshing feel. The taste has notes of asparagus, fresh grass, and a mild astringency. The aftertaste lingers with floral notes (dandelion). Surprisingly, despite the long brew time, I cannot say that I noticed any bitterness, and I was looking for it. Other tasting notes, there was no smokiness or nutty flavors. The longer brew time also created a slight savory effect on the taste.
I have to admit that I was worried about brewing the second infusion for four minutes again, so I cut the infusion time to two minutes, and I am glad that I did. The second infusion produced a liquor with a lighter shade of yellow-green. The aroma has a less sweet smell, and a stronger fresh grass smell. The body was lighter. The taste has notes of fresh grass, hay, a light dandelion note and lower astringency. There is an almost unnoticeable bitterness, but it feels like another thirty seconds of infusion could have ruined this infusion. Overall lighter than the first infusion, but refreshing and enjoyable.
The third infusion also used two minutes of brewing time. The liquor was similar to the second infusion, perhaps a shade lighter. The aroma has lightened, and remains grassy. The body is light. The taste has lighter notes of grass and hay, and a light dandelion aftertaste. Overall, this was a much lighter infusion. It is acceptable, but I do not intend on testing a fourth infusion.
The infused leaves have a uniform fresh green color. Some of the leaves are much larger than I expected, and also much larger than I have seen in other Chinese green teas. In fact, these large leaves seem like they belong in an oolong tea. Anyway, most of the leaves are fully intact, many still attached to the stem. Some are coarse plucked with two leaves and a bud, some are imperial plucked with one leaf and a bud, and some leaves are those that I mentioned earlier, large with no other leaves attached. The leaves are quite delicate, indicating that the taste may be exhausted. These infused leaves have some very nice specimens, and I am impressed by the level of unbroken leaves.
Overall, I really enjoyed this High Grade Gunpowder Green Tea from Hunan Xiangfeng Tea Industry Co. The taste was fresh and uplifting. Again, I am most impressed by the looks and properties of the leaves after infusion. After seeing the leaves post infusion, it is interesting to look back on the look and feel of the dry leaves. I expected the leaves to have more breakage and have been stuck together during the rolling process, but it is evident now that those larger semi-balls were actually just unexpectedly large fully intact leaves.
Having said that, I do not believe that this is a suitable base tea for a traditional Moroccan Mint blend. The lack of smoky character is the main reason I feel this way. My preferred Moroccan Mint teas have a nice mix of smoky and minty flavors, which I believe blend well together. However, with the remaining tea in this sample, I will blend some peppermint in, and do a side by side comparison with the Moroccan Mint tea that is currently being offered by my brand, Hē Chá Tea. I will post the results later this week.