When blending teas with fruits and herbs, or intending to add flavor, it is imperative to know the subtle differences from one style of tea to another. These subtle differences are the determining factors between having a tea with acceptable flavor and having a tea with exceptional flavor and balance. For this reason, I decided to do a side-by-side-by-side comparison of three popular Chinese green teas used in blending, Chunmee (9371), Gunpowder (T701), and Silver Sprouts (T370).
Going forward in my blending and flavoring experimentation, I expect the results of this comparison to help me identify which of these three tea styles are most appropriate to use in future blends. Thanks to the Anhui Tea Import and Export Company for their generosity in providing these samples of various styles and grades of Chinese green tea.
For this comparison, three grams of each type of dry leaves were placed in a professional tasting infusion cup (150 ml). Purified spring water was heated to 175°F (75°C). The dry leaves were infused for one minute thirty seconds.
The dry leaves of the Chun Mee 9371 had a pale forest green to dark green color. Some sticks were present among the leaves. Leaves were rolled and curled. Most leaves appear to be medium sized fragments, with a few unbroken leaves being possible. The aroma is sweet, with hints of cocoa, dried fruit, and a slight earthiness.
The dry leaves of the Gunpowder T701 were dark forest green to dark purple-brown in color. All leaves were tightly rolled into small pellets. Based on the size of many of the pellets, there appear to be quite a few unbroken leaves. The presence of stems indicates that some leaves are still attached to the stems. The aroma is sweet, with hints of dried fruit, and slight earthiness.
The dry leaves of the Silver Sprouts T370 were dark pale forest green to very dark green in color. These leaves were generally darker than the Chun Mee leaves. The leaves are tightly rolled and curled. A few sticks are present in the mix. Buds are visible, and there appear to be more large fragments or unbroken leaves in this product than in the Chun Mee. The aroma is earthy and slightly smoky, with light dried fruit scents.
The first infusion of the Chun Mee 9371 produced a liquor with a pale yellow color, clear and transparent. The aroma had scents of fresh grass, with light fruit and floral hints also. It had a medium body, with a fairly thick, almost brothy feel. The taste had notes of fresh grass and light flowers. There was a moderate astringency which left a dry feel in the mouth. The aftertaste was floral with a respectable persistence.
The first infusion of the Gunpowder T701 produced a liquor with a slightly darker pale yellow color than the Chun Mee, clear and transparent. The aroma had a sweet and earthy scent, with hints of dried fruit and fresh grass. The body was light-medium, with a clean feel. The taste was sweet and vegetal, with notes of fruit and grass. There was a mild astringency. The aftertaste was floral, with a similar persistence to the Chun Mee.
The first infusion of the Silver Sprouts T370 had a lighter shade of pale yellow color than either the Chun Mee or Gunpowder, clear and transparent, with few particles in the cup. The aroma is fairly complex, with earthy and lightly smoky (char?) scents among hints of cocoa and light fruit. The body was medium, with a moderate brothy feel, though lighter than the Chun Mee. A mild to moderate astringency is present. The taste has notes of fresh grass, wood, and a mild sweetness and earthiness. The aftertaste is floral, and similar to the other two teas.
Second infusions were prepared for each tea. The Gunpowder T701 had the strongest aroma and taste of the three teas, followed by the Chun Mee 9371, then the Silver Sprouts T370. Although delicate and lighter than the other two teas, the Silver Sprouts produced a good tasting second infusion. All three teas easily held their ground for the second infusion. The Gunpowder could have withstood at least one or two additional infusions, while the other two may have taken one additional infusion. Larger leaves and the technique of tightly rolled pellets certainly play a roll in Gunpowder’s ability to withstand more infusions than the other teas.
The infused leaves of the Chun Mee 9371 were a fresh forest green color. The leaves were mostly fragments of various sizes, with an occasional nearly unbroken leaf in the mix. Leaves appear to be from the small leaf Chinese Camellia Sinensis Sinensis. Stems in the mix displayed a two leaf pluck, some having a very tiny bud at the end. The aroma had a slightly earthy scent, as well as fresh grass and a light spiciness.
The majority of infused leaves from the Gunpowder T701 had a fresh forest green color, while the others had a brownish-red color. Many of the leaves (65%) were unbroken and attached to the stem. Stems displayed a standard pluck of two leafs and a small bud. Leaves appear to be from the small leaf Chinese Camellia Sinensis Sinensis. These leaves were the largest and had the highest number of unbroken leaves among the three teas compared. The leaves have an earthy and lightly fruity scent.
The infused leaves and buds of the Silver Sprouts T370 had a fresh forest green color. There was a respectable amount of buds in the mix, and about 25% of leaves were unbroken, some attached to stems. The stems displayed the standard two leaves and bud pluck. Leaves appear to be from the small leaf Chinese Camellia Sinensis Sinensis. The leaves had scents of earth, wood, and cocoa.
Although all of these teas had a similar fresh grass characteristic in the aromas and tastes, there were quite a few subtle differences among them. What most surprised me was the smoky character of the Silver Sprouts T370. I expected this characteristic to be more evident in the Gunpowder T701, but that was not the case. I also did not expect the Chun Mee to have such a brothy feel, almost like the umami in Japanese green teas. By the end of this comparison, ideas began to appear as to which ingredients would best blend with each of these teas. I will post some of my ideas as I try the blends in the future.