Yunnan Graceful Purple “Zi Juan” Green Tea from What-Cha

Today’s review will focus on the Yunnan Graceful Purple “Zi Juan” Green Tea from What-Cha. You may view and purchase this tea on the What-Cha website by clicking here.

Purple tea leaves are a natural phenomenon that has been recognized for a long time, but not necessarily promoted or marketed until the past eight or so years. Basically, it is believed that the tea bushes produce an antioxidant (phenol) pigment called anthocyanin to help protect the bush during times of hot and humid weather. Anthocyanin is also present in blueberries. The enhanced production of anthocyanin in tea bushes gives some of the tea leaves a purplish color.

Some countries, Kenya for example, have put much effort into creating cultivars that are intended to produce more purple tea leaves, hoping that the claimed health benefits will allow the purple tea market to thrive, thus creating more revenues to the tea farms and industry. China has successfully developed a purple tea cultivar known as Zi Juan. The bush that this cultivar was isolated from was found in Menghai, China. This cultivar has been praised for its resistance to excess cold and heat, as well as insects. For a thorough article on purple tea, click here.

Purple teas from China are more frequently found in the form of a sheng pu’er cake, but the Yunnan Graceful Purple “Zi Juan” Green Tea from What-Cha is in loose leaf form. Also, I am always skeptical on the classifications (green, oolong, etc) of purple tea products, and you will see why when you look at the photo of the dry leaves. However, for lack of personal knowledge on how the leaves are processed, I will yield to the description given by the vendor.

The sample packet has been opened, and a scent similar to sheng pu’er is filling the air. Let the journey begin…

Yunnan Graceful Purple "Zi Juan" Green Tea Dry Leaves
Yunnan Graceful Purple “Zi Juan” Green Tea Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a charcoal color, with an occasional purple streak on some leaves. The leaves are almost entirely whole and unbroken, and the pluck consists of one fine leaf enveloping a bud. There are few leaf fragments, a few standalone buds, and no bare stems in the mix. Some of the leaves appear to be lightly twisted. The leaves average about one inch (25 mm) in length, and are quite slender. They have a very dry, somewhat coarse texture, and crack easily into coarse crumbs. The smell has scents of earth (barnyard and hay), forest floor, leather, smoke, and dried dark cherries.

Three grams of dry leaves were placed in a five ounce (150 ml) porcelain infusion cup. Purified water was heated to 185°F (85°C). The leaves were infused for 3:00 minutes.

My suggestion for at home preparation is to use three grams of dry leaves for every six to eight ounces (180 to 240 ml) of water to be used. Heat water to 175°F (80°C). Steep the leaves for 2:00 minutes. Expect three quality infusions out of the same serving of leaves.. Add 30 seconds to each subsequent infusion steep time.

Yunnan Graceful Purple "Zi Juan" Green Tea Infusion
Yunnan Graceful Purple “Zi Juan” Green Tea Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with a light pale yellow color and a barely detectable tint of purple, clear and transparent. The aroma has scents of earth (hay, forest floor), mineral (wet stones), leather, barnyard, smoke, and light cherry. The body is light, with a smooth, clean texture, and a refreshing character. There is no astringency or bitterness. The taste is fairly complex, with notes of mineral (wet stones), earth (hay, forest floor), light leather, light smoke, light roses, and very light cherry. There is a clean aftertaste with light notes of mineral and hay.

Much like a sheng pu’er, the taste and character of this tea evolves nicely over multiple infusions. As I write this, I am on the third infusion, which I find to be the cleanest tasting and most refreshing of the infusions thus far.

Yunnan Graceful Purple "Zi Juan" Green Tea Infused Leaves
Yunnan Graceful Purple “Zi Juan” Green Tea Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform fresh forest green color, with a few showing a reddish-purple tint. The leaves are almost entirely whole and unbroken, with a few medium sized fragments, a few lonely buds, and no stems. The pluck is one fine (unopened) leaf enveloping a bud. The unopened leaves have a long, narrow, sickle-like shape, with an average length of 1.25 inches (31 mm). The leaves have a very smooth texture. The buds of this Zi Juan cultivar are not plump, as compared to those of the Da Bai Hao cultivar. The smell has scents of mineral (wet stones), earth (forest floor, hay), barnyard, leather, and cherry.

Despite descriptions that may seem unpleasant (earthy, leather, barnyard), this Yunnan Graceful Purple “Zi Juan” Green Tea will please the more adventurous tea drinkers and the sheng pu’er lovers. This tea is definitely not a conventional green tea, and if you like grassy, nutty, or vegetal green teas, then this tea is not going to meet those requirements. On the other hand, if you like mineral, earthy, complex aromas and tastes, then give this tea a try. The clean, refreshing character of this tea is very satisfying. If you do not care for the first infusion, do not give up on the tea. As I mentioned above, I most enjoyed this tea with the third infusion. This tea will provide you with an interesting and unique experience, regardless of your preferences.

Thanks again to the management of What-Cha for providing this sample of Yunnan Graceful Purple “Zi Juan” Green Tea. Cheers!