Premium Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea From TeaVivre

I found myself today yearning for a Chinese green tea. That is a rather broad term for such a diverse category of teas. Unfortunately, I must admit that at the moment my selection of Chinese green teas is rather limited. Fortunately, those few green teas I do have come from a reputable source, TeaVivre.

This particular sample today is one I have been holding on to, and looking forward to the day when I had the time to truly enjoy the experience. Tai Ping Hou Kui green tea, particularly those of good quality, is arguably one of the most interesting teas to visually observe in all stages of the review: dry, steeping in water, and exhausted. I made sure to keep some extra memory on my phone/camera for this review.

TeaVivre sources this Premium Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea from the Houkeng Tea Garden, located in the famous Huangshan area of Xinming County, Anhui Province, China. This tea garden sits at an elevation of about 2,600 feet (800 meters) above sea level. The leaves used for this tea are harvested from the Shidacha seedling bush, a large leaf species. This harvest is usually performed in late April. This particular sample is from the 2017 spring harvest.

Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea is in the list of top ten Chinese green teas, and is renowned for, among other things, the uniquely flattened, long leaves. The leaves are seriously as flat and thin as a piece of paper. It’s appearance is unlike any other style of tea I have ever come across, and is immediately identifiable.

Let’s get to the review… Be prepared … There are more photos than usual, and this tea deserves the extra attention.

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Premium Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea – Dry Leaves (shot 1)
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Premium Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea – Dry Leaves (shot 2)

The dry leaves vary in color from pale bright green to pale dark green. The leaves are all unbroken, fully intact leaves still attached to the shoot. There are no fragments or bare stems in the mix. The leaves all measure between 3 and 4 inches long (75 to 100 mm). I expect there to be two to three leaves and a bud attached to the shoot. The leaves have the standard paper thin, flat appearance, as Tai Ping Hou Kui teas should have. The classic checkered pattern is also present on the leaves (see the photo below), a result of the process used to flatten the leaves. The aroma has scents of fresh cut grass, light brown sugar, and a subtle touch of wild flowers.

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Premium Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea – Dry Leaves (Close Shot)

Forgive me for this, but I had to use my clear glass infuser mug to steep these leaves. I really wanted to observe the infusion process. So I used the full contents of the five gram sample packet in the twelve ounce (355 mL) mug, and infused in 175°F (80°C) water for 2:00 minutes.

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Premium Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea – Infusion Process
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Premium Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea – Liquid

The liquid has a pale, light yellow-green color. The aroma has scents of fresh grass, sweet corn, wild flowers, peas, and a touch of brown sugar. The body is medium, with a silky, refreshing texture. There is a medium level of astringency, and no bitterness. The taste has notes of fresh grass, sweet corn, wild flowers, peas, and a touch of lemon. The aftertaste starts off grassy, and evolves into an impressive, lasting flowery essence. This flowery essence is truly remarkable.

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Premium Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a fairly uniform fresh forest green color. The blend consists entirely of unbroken, whole leaves and buds still attached to the shoots. The pluck varies from two leaves and a rather developed bud to three leaves and a developed bud. The  opened leaves are long and very narrow, and have an incredibly soft, smooth texture. The aroma carries the scents of grass, peas, and wild flowers.

This Premium Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea from TeaVivre is, in my opinion, a very good quality specimen of this style of tea considering the price that TeaVivre offers it at, and the fact that this is only their “premium” version (i.e. not their best quality offered). In addition to the enjoyment I got out of observing the leaves in all stages of the review, the aroma and taste quality of the infusion itself was very admirable. I also got four quality infusions out of the leaves, and a fifth that was still worthy of drinking. There is no question in my mind as to why this is in the top ten best styles of green tea from China. This product has all the characteristics of a Chinese green tea that people are looking for, with some specific qualities that cannot be found elsewhere. This is a tea worthy of the time it takes to fully observe and enjoy at all levels.

Thank you to TeaVivre for supplying this sample of Premium Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea! Cheers!

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Premium Dragon Well Long Jing Green Tea From TeaVivre

Today, I will reviewing the Premium Dragon Well Long Jing Green Tea from TeaVivre. You can purchase 100 grams of this tea for USD $18.90 through the TeaVivre website.

This Long Jing Green Tea was grown and harvested in April of 2017 in the famous district of XiHu (West Lake), Zhejiang province of China. Below is a map showing the general location of XiHu.

Although Long Jing green teas are among the most famous and beloved green teas from China, it is (admittedly) historically not one of my preferred green teas. I decided to request this sample from TeaVivre, and give it another chance since it has been a year or two since I last had a Long Jing green tea. My tastes and preferences do change and evolve, so it is always interesting to circle back to a tea that I did not care for a few years ago, and see how I interpret it now.

Let’s get to the review…

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Premium Dragon Well Long Jing Green Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves vary in color from pale light green to pale dark green. There are also some yellow-brown leaves in the mix. The blend consists of medium to large leaf and bud fragments, with a few unbroken leafs and buds. There is also a bare stem or two in the mix. The stems show a two young leaf and bud pluck. The leaves have the standard flattened appearance, with the few fully intact plucks coming to a point where the bud ends. The abundance of medium sized fragments indicates that this is, with all due respect, a fairly standard grade of Long Jing green tea. The aroma has scents of roasted peanuts, chocolate, dry grass, and a touch of dry orchid.

Five grams of dry leaves were placed in an eight ounce (240 mL) bizen-ware kyusu, and infused with 175°F (80°C) water for 30 seconds. Each subsequent infusion had another 30 seconds of time added.

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Premium Dragon Well Long Jing Green Tea – Liquid

The liquid has a pale, light green-yellow color. The aroma has scents of fresh grass, boiled peanuts, cooked spinach and chard, and orchids. The body is medium-full, with a rich, velvety smooth texture. There is a pleasant, balanced astringency. The taste has notes of fresh grass, cooked spinach, chard, orchids, a light touch of floral bitterness, like lavender or jasmine, and a light touch of boiled peanuts. The aftertaste strongly carries the floral character, and lingers on the breath.

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Premium Dragon Well Long Jing Green Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform fresh forest green color, with a few leaves having a brown spot of two. The blend consists mostly of medium to large leaf and bud fragments. There are a few unbroken leaves, and a few leaves and buds still attached to the shoot. The vast majority of leaves are fragments, though. There is a bare stem or two in the mix. The leaves are young, fairly small, and tender. The buds are also rather young and tender. The aroma carries the scents of fresh grash, spinach, chard, and light orchid.

I have enjoyed this experience with the Premium Dragon Well Long Jing Green Tea from TeaVivre more so than I did in the past. Most notably, I really enjoyed the texture of this tea, and the strong and lingering floral aftertaste. This experience is encouraging me to try the higher grades of Long Jing from TeaVivre and other vendors. I can imagine that a much more refined, higher quality of this style of green tea could certainly live up to its reputation as one of the best and most famous styles of Chinese green tea. Not to take anything away from the grade of this sample, which provided an excellent aroma and taste experience. This product is an excellent and affordable option for exploring the Long Jing style of green tea.

Thank you again to TeaVivre for providing this sample of Premium Dragon Well Long Jing Green Tea. Cheers!

Spring 2017 Huang Shan Mao Feng Green Tea From TeaVivre

Today, I will be focusing on the Spring 2017 harvest of Huang Shan Green Tea provided by TeaVivre.

The TeaVivre website is among my favorite tea vendor sites because it provides so much interesting content on each of its products, including harvest information, garden information, history, etc. A website with this amount of information on each product is a great credit to the owner of the business, proving that they care about the quality of products they are offering, and actually know and want to teach about the products they are offering. They are not just sourcing cheap teas and selling at retail price to make the most profit. They are proud of where their products are sourced from. Cheers to TeaVivre for their care and efforts!

True Huang Shan Mao Feng green teas are sourced from the Yellow Mountain (HuangShan) in the Anhui province of China. The tea bush used to make this style of tea is of the HuangShan large-leaf type. This type of tea bush is known for the number of buds it produces, and the abundance of downy-like fuzz on those buds. It is also quite cold-tolerant, which is important since it is grown in the mountains.

This particular Huang Shan Mao Feng green tea is sourced from the Dailing Tea Garden, which is owned and operated by Mr. Ke, in Da Guyun Village. Mr. Ke has been working with his family in tea growing since the age of 15.

You can purchase 50 grams of this Spring 2017 Huang Shan Mao Feng Green Tea for USD $10.90 from the TeaVivre website.

The map below shows the general location of HuangShan.

Let’s get to the review.

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Huang Shan Mao Feng Green Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a bright, fresh forest green color, with the buds having silver downy-like fuzz on them. The stems have a green-yellow color. The pluck is mostly two leaves and a tender bud intact on the shoot, and a few detached leaf fragments. There are no totally bare stems in the mix. There are no obvious signs of oxidation on the leaves, indicating that the leaves were properly processed to stop the oxidation process very shortly after being harvested. The leaves are very lightly rolled, and have a light, fluffy density. The aroma has scents of fresh hay, light brown sugar, light vanilla, and a touch of pecan and dried chrysanthemum. The aroma is gently sweet and very attractive.

Five grams of dry leaves were placed in a 5 ounce (150 mL) porcelain gaiwan, and infused with 175°F (80°C) water for 30 seconds. Each subsequent infusion added another 30 seconds.

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Huang Shan Mao Feng Green Tea – Liquid

The liquid has a light, green-yellow color. The aroma has scents of chrysanthemums, fresh hay, and lighter scents of steamed asparagus and baby spinach. The body is medium, which is more than I expected, with a very smooth, buttery texture. There is a nice astringency in the earlier infusions, which provides an uplifting energy to the tea. The taste has notes of chrysanthemums, hay, steamed asparagus, and a lighter note of baby spinach. The aftertaste carries the floral notes, and leaves a refreshing, lingering floral essence in the mouth.

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Huang Shan Mao Feng Green Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform fresh, bright forest green color. There is no reddish tint on any of the leaves, confirming that very minimal oxidation had occurred in the leaves prior to processing, as is expected from a green tea. The leaves, buds, and shoots appear to be rather young and tender. There appears to be signs of bug bites on a few of the leaves, perhaps indicating a lack of chemical pesticides being used on the farm, which is definitely a good thing. The aroma carries the scents of chrysanthemum, hay, grass, and lighter notes of steamed asparagus and baby spinach.

The Spring 2017 Huang Shan Mao Feng Green Tea from TeaVivre is an excellent example of a classic, world-renowned Chinese green tea. Neither overpowering or underwhelming, this green tea is a perfect way for black tea drinkers to begin their expansion into other styles of tea. The fresh, floral character of this tea provides an uplifting, refreshing experience. The body is fuller than expected, and provides a nice depth of texture that serves as an excellent first impression of the tea liquid as it passes the lips. Tea drinkers who want and prefer that grassy, vegetal punch from a green tea may find this style to be underwhelming and generally unimpressive. But for those who can appreciate the varying styles of green tea, this one will be a highly satisfying experience.

Thank you to TeaVivre for providing this sample of Spring 2017 Huang Shan Mao Feng Green Tea! I am looking forward to reviewing the other products included with this sample packet. Cheers!

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!

Nonpareil Cha Wang Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea from TeaVivre

Today’s review will focus on the Nonpareil Cha Wang Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea from TeaVivre. TeaVivre does many things well, like offering many varieties and grades of Chinese teas (and some Taiwan oolongs), being generous with offering samples, having competitive pricing, and reasonable shipping times. However, I think the best thing about TeaVivre is how much information on every single tea is provided on the website. Every tea that I have looked at has two full pages of useful and interesting maps. photos, and information, from the history of each tea product itself, to the specific production methods, to the grower, and the history of the region that the tea originated in. I cannot think of another tea retailer, myself included, who provides such in depth information about the products offered. Knowing much about the tea you are about to drink makes the experience that much more interesting, and TeaVivre does a phenomenal job of giving you all the information you could want about each product.

So, rather than repeat all of the great information that TeaVivre already offers on the product page, I will simply highlight a few details. This product is grown and manufactured in Hou Keng, on the famous Huangshan Mountain of Anhui Province, China. This tea is completely handmade. The unique production method of this tea causes the leaves to be flat and thin, with very specific textured markings. There is no mistaking the Tai Ping Hou Kui style of green tea from other styles. The cultivar used is the Shidacha (Shiyecha), a large leaf member of the Camellia Sinensis Sinensis family.

The sample packet has been opened, and the unique look of the Tai Ping Hou Kui leaves is immediately recognized. Let the journey begin…

TeaVivre Nonpareil Cha Wang Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea Dry Leaves
TeaVivre Nonpareil Cha Wang Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea Dry Leaves

The dry leaves range in color from light forest green to dark forest green. There is a reddish stripe visible on some of the leaves, which is characteristic of Tai Ping Hou Kui. The leaves are mostly whole leaves and large fragments. There are some crumbs and medium fragments, but I am assuming that these are the result of having to break some of the larger leaves to fit into the sample packet. The pluck appears to be two leaves and a medium sized bud. The average length is around two inches (51 mm). The leaves are flat, thin, and have the textured imprints typical of Tai Ping Hou Kui. There are no bare stems in the mix. The smell has scents of brown sugar, raw cacao, toasted nuts, dry grass, and dried apricot.

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 (75°C). Steep the leaves for 1:30 to 2:00 minutes. If possible, use a glass teapot or even a tall drinking glass for infusion so that you may watch the leaves open in the water. Expect three to four quality infusions out of the same serving of leaves.

TeaVivre Nonpareil Cha Wang Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea Infusion
TeaVivre Nonpareil Cha Wang Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with a pale, light yellow color, almost like the flesh of an apricot, clear and transparent. There is a mild amount of fine particles in the cup. The aroma carries scents of fresh grass, toasted nuts, light brown sugar, steamed asparagus, butter, and lighter scents of flowers and apricot. The body is medium, with a clean and crisp texture. There is a medium level of astringency. The taste has notes of toasted nuts, fresh grass, steamed asparagus, light butter, light flowers, and apricot undertones. The aftertaste carries the grass and asparagus notes, and evolves into a strong, persistent floral essence that lingers on the breath for minutes. As the aftertaste evolves into the floral character, the tea will have a drying effect on the mouth and tongue.

TeaVivre Nonpareil Cha Wang Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea Infused Leaves
TeaVivre Nonpareil Cha Wang Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform fresh forest green color. The leaves are mostly large fragments and whole leaves with stems intact. The stems show a two leaf and medium bud pluck, with the leaves enveloping the bud quite securely as a result of the unique production method. The leaves unfold into fairly long and narrow leaves, indicating the Shidacha cultivar. The leaves have a lightly grooved texture (as shown more clearly in the photo below), and are quite fragile. There are some leaves with a few small black specks on them. According to the TeaVivre website, this is a result of the manual drying method (as compared to the mechanized drying method) used by the manufacturer. The smell has scents of fresh grass, flowers, light apricot, and asparagus broth.

TeaVivre Nonpareil Cha Wang Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea Infused Leaves Texture
TeaVivre Nonpareil Cha Wang Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea Infused Leaves Texture

The Nonpareil Cha Wang Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea from TeaVivre is a very good quality product of this type. The appearance of the leaves is immediately recognizable. The aroma and taste of the liquor are both highly attractive and consistent through three infusions. The slightly brisk, crisp quality of the tea is refreshing and uplifting. Tai Ping Hou Kui is among my preferred Chinese green teas, both for the visual qualities, as well as the taste/smell. This Nonpareil Cha Wang version from TeaVivre provided the full experience that I come to expect from a good quality Tai Ping Hou Kui green tea.

Thanks to TeaVivre for providing this sample of Nonpareil Cha Wang Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea. Visit the TeaVivre site, and check out the wealth of teas and information, by clicking here. Cheers!

Comparing Three Jasmine Green Teas

Today, I am comparing three different jasmine green tea products. Two are Jasmine pearls, and one is Jasmine Huo Qing. I will not necessarily get as detailed on the aromas and tastes, as I do not want to use the description of jasmine hundreds of times in one post. What I will focus on are the differences in appearance, strength of the aroma and taste, and any other factors that may indicate quality.

Two of the products are from a tea supplier with estates and headquarters located in Hefei, Anhui County, China. The other product is from a Taiwan based company.

Let the journey begin…

Jasmine Green Tea Dry Leaf Comparison
Jasmine Green Tea Dry Leaf Comparison
Jasmine Dragon Pearl # 1 Dry Leaves
Jasmine Dragon Pearl # 1 Dry Leaves
Jasmine Pearl # 2 Dry Leaves
Jasmine Pearl # 2 Dry Leaves
Jasmine Huo Qing Dry Leaves
Jasmine Huo Qing Dry Leaves

The dry leaves of the two pearl products are identical. The pearls are finely hand-tied, with plenty of fuzz-covered silver tips. The Huo Qing has an appearance more similar to the pellets of a gunpowder style of green tea. There are some silver tips, but not nearly as many as the two pearl products. The leaves of the Huo Qing are darker green, and there are jasmine petals in the mix. The aroma of the Huo Qing is the strongest of the three products. The appearance of the pearl products is more attractive than the Huo Qing.

Three grams of dry leaves were placed in a five ounce (150 ml) ceramic infusion cup. Purified spring water was heated to 175°F (75°C). The leaves were infused for one minute thirty seconds.

 

Jasmine Green Tea 1st Infusion Comparison
Jasmine Green Tea 1st Infusion Comparison
Jasmine Dragon Pearl # 1 - 1st Infusion
Jasmine Dragon Pearl # 1 – 1st Infusion
Jasmine Pearl # 2 - 1st Infusion
Jasmine Pearl # 2 – 1st Infusion
Jasmine Huo Qing 1st Infusion
Jasmine Huo Qing 1st Infusion

The infusions of the two pearl teas are again identical in color (very light, pale yellow), strength of aroma, body, texture, and strength of taste. The body is light-medium, and the taste is quite fresh, fairly delicate, and not overwhelming on the jasmine strength. The Huo Qing had a darker shade of pale yellow color, with a medium body. The aroma and taste of the Huo Qing are stronger and more robust, both in the natural tea taste and the jasmine taste, than the pearl products. It is easy to determine that the Huo Qing consists of more leaves than the pearl products, which generally have fewer and young leaves, longer stems, and more tips. The more delicate taste of the pearl products reflects this observation.

All three products easily lasted through the three infusions, and could have provided at least two additional infusions with good flavor.

Jasmine Green Tea Infused Leaf Comparison
Jasmine Green Tea Infused Leaf Comparison
Jasmine Dragon Pearl # 1 Infused Leaves
Jasmine Dragon Pearl # 1 Infused Leaves
Jasmine Pearl # 2 Infused Leaves
Jasmine Pearl # 2 Infused Leaves
Jasmine Huo Qing Infused Leaves
Jasmine Huo Qing Infused Leaves

The infused leaves of the two pearl products are identical in color, pluck, size, and aroma. The pluck is two and a bud, with the second leaf being removed, leaving only the fine first leaf and bud on a longer stem. Two separate pluckings were tied together to create each pearl. The Huo Qing consists of a two leaf and small bud pluck, with the second leaf being left on the stem. The stems are not as long as the pearl products. The amount of fuller, more mature leaves in the Huo Qing is substantially more than the pearl products. The Huo Qing has the strongest aroma of jasmine after three infusions.

Upon review of my observations of the two pearl products, and knowing the wholesale price of both, it is quite simple to determine that the Taiwan based company is purchasing the Jasmine Pearl product from a Chinese manufacturer, maybe even the same manufacturer as the Jasmine Dragon Pearl used in this comparison, then reselling it. Both of these pearl products were identical in every single detail. I can honestly say that I would not be able to tell the difference if someone switched the position of the samples on me. The Jasmine Huo Qing was quite different in every way except the obvious jasmine aroma and taste. The liquor was darker, the body was fuller, the aroma and taste were stronger on the natural tea characteristics. The appearance of the dry and infused leaves were much different than the pearl products, as well.

Personally, I would pick the Jasmine Huo Qing due to the stronger tea taste. However, if having to pick a product that I feel would be most acceptable to a casual tea consumer, I would pick the Jasmine Dragon Pearl direct from the Chinese manufacturer in Anhui. The taste is fresh and delicate, without being overpowering. The appearance is also very attractive, with the fresh and fuzzy appearance of the silver tips being tied neatly together. With the significantly lower price, that makes it the easy choice over the comparable Jasmine Pearl product of the Taiwan based company.

Thank you to the two companies that supplied the samples used for this comparison. Cheers!

Yong Xi Huo Qing Green Tea from Anhui Tea Import & Export Co.

Also known as Yong Xi Jade Fire, Yong Xi Huo Qing originated in the Yong Xi town in Anhui Province, China. Although similar in appearance to Gunpowder styles of Chinese green tea, Yong Xi Huo Qing typically uses higher quality leaves than gunpowder teas. Traditionally, the leaves of the Yong Xi Huo Qing are charcoal fired during processing, giving a slightly smokey character to the aroma.

Thank you to Yanfei at Anhui Tea Import and Export Co. for providing this sample of Yong Xi Huo Qing. Yanfei is another young and passionate student of tea. I always enjoy seeing the lovely photos of her tea experiments on Instagram.

The sample packet has been opened, and a fresh, herbacious, and lightly smokey aroma is escaping into the air. Let the journey begin…

Yong Xi Huo Qing Dry Leaves
Yong Xi Huo Qing Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a dark forest green to nearly black color. There is a polished, shiny look to the leaves. The leaves are tightly rolled in to a elliptical semi-ball shape, not quite the round pellets found in gunpowder teas. Leaves appear to be large fragments and whole leaves. Pluck is difficult to determine but based on the size of the semi-balls, I assume a two leaf and bud pluck. The aroma is sweet, slightly herbacious and smokey.

Five grams of dry leaves were placed in a 9.4 ounce (280 ml) Tokoname teapot. Purified spring water was heated to 175°F (75°C). The leaves were infused for one minute on the first infusion, thirty seconds on the second infusion, and one minute on the third infusion.

Yong Xi Huo Qing 1st Infusion
Yong Xi Huo Qing 1st Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with a light, pale jade green color, perfectly clear and transparent. The aroma has scents of fresh grass, flowers, and a light smokey hint. The body is light-medium, with a soft, almost creamy texture. The taste is very refreshing, with notes of fresh grass and flowers. A mild astringency provides a nice compliment. The aftertaste is refreshingly grassy, with a pleasant floral bouquet essence persisting on the breathe for an extended period.

Yong Xi Huo Qing 2nd Infusion
Yong Xi Huo Qing 2nd Infusion

The second infusion produced a liquor with a slightly darker shade of light, pale jade green color. The aroma remains very refreshing, with scents of fresh grass and flowers. The body remains light-medium. The taste has lost no quality whatsoever. This second infusion smells and tastes as fresh and enjoyable as the first infusion. The flowery essence on the breathe also remains strong and persistent. Excellent second infusion.

Yong Xi Huo Qing 3rd Infusion
Yong Xi Huo Qing 3rd Infusion

The third infusion produced a liquor that was the same light, pale jade green color as the first infusion. The aroma still remains refreshing with scents of fresh grass and flowers. The aroma smells as good as the first infusion. The taste is very slightly lighter, but still a very high quality, refreshing infusion. The notes of fresh grass and flowers are still dominant and enjoyable. I am impressed with the quality of this third infusion.

Yong Xi Huo Qing Infused Leaves
Yong Xi Huo Qing Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a very fresh, bright green to fresh forest green color. There are very few large fragments, as most of the leaves are either unbroken and still attached to the stem, or detached but whole. The pluck is two leaves and a generous bud. These are beautiful leaves and buds. The aroma is very refreshing, with scents of fresh dew-covered grass and flowers. Excellent!

I am very impressed with every aspect of the Yong Xi Huo Qing green tea from Anhui Tea Import and Export Co. Any fan of Gunpowder green tea should experience this tea, as it retains many of the popular characteristics of Gunpowder tea, but also provides the fresh, clean, and more refined character that comes with higher quality leaves. This is truly a green tea that needs no help in smelling and tasting great. This tea provides an uplifting, energizing, and refreshing feeling that is hard to match.

Thank you again to Yanfei at Anhui Tea Import and Export Co. Cheers!

 

Green Tea Comparison: Chunmee 9371, Gunpowder T701, Silver Sprout T370

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.

Chinese Green Tea Comparison Dry Leaves
Chinese Green Tea Comparison Dry Leaves

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.

Chun Mee 9371 Dry Leaves
Chun Mee 9371 Dry Leaves

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.

Gunpowder T701 Dry Leaves
Gunpowder T701 Dry Leaves

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.

Silver Sprouts Dry Leaves
Silver Sprouts T370 Dry Leaves

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.

Chinese Green Tea Comparison 1st Infusions
Chinese Green Tea Comparison 1st Infusions
Chun Mee 9371 1st Infusion
Chun Mee 9371 1st Infusion

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.

Gunpowder T701 1st Infusion
Gunpowder T701 1st Infusion

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.

Silver Sprouts 1st Infusion
Silver Sprouts T370 1st Infusion

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.

Chinese Green Tea Comparison Infused Leaves
Chinese Green Tea Comparison Infused Leaves
Chun Mee 9371 Infused Leaves
Chun Mee 9371 Infused Leaves

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.

 

Gunpowder T701 Infused Leaves
Gunpowder T701 Infused Leaves

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.

Silver Sprouts Infused Leaves
Silver Sprouts Infused Leaves

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.

 

Liu An Gua Pian Green Tea from TeaVivre

It is unfortunate to say that this is the last tea, the Liu An Gua Pian, to be evaluated in the sample package from TeaVivre. So far, I have had nothing but good things to say about their products. Liu An Gua Pian is one of my preferred styles of Chinese green tea, so I wanted to save this sample for last. As always, I recommend that you visit the TeaVivre website here, as they provide a noteworthy amount of information on each of their products.

Liu An Gua Pian is unique from other Chinese green teas in multiple ways. Unlike other Chinese green teas, there are no buds used in the production of Liu An Gua Pian. The second leaf down from the bud is the only leaf used. The leaves are separated from the stems. The main leaf vein is also removed. Liu An Gua Pian leaves are plucked from a variety (cultivar) of the tea bush known as San Hao Xiao Ye Zhong, a local bush found in Anhui Province, China.

The sample packet has been opened, and the fresh forest green color of the leaves has caught my eye. Let the journey begin…

Liu An Gua Pian Dry Leaves
Liu An Gua Pian Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a fresh forest green to dark green color. The leaves are rolled, and vary in length. There are no stems whatsoever. There are few crumbs. Leaves appear to be large fragments, with perhaps a few unbroken. The leaves have a slightly shiny appearance, the result of repeated rounds of pan firing. The aroma has scents of fresh grass, sweet hay, sweet brown sugar and molasses.

Three grams of dry leaves were placed in an 8.5 ounce (240 ml) kyusu teapot. Purified water was heated to 175°F (80°C). Leaves were infused for forty seconds on the first infusion, one minute on the second, and one minute and twenty seconds on the third.

Liu An Gua Pian 1st Infusion
Liu An Gua Pian 1st Infusion

The first infusion has a light, pale, jade green color, clear and transparent. The aroma is mostly fresh cut grass, with light scents of roasted nuts and brown sugar. The body is medium, with a fresh and brothy (umami) texture that coats the tongue and throat. The taste has notes of fresh cut grass, vegetables (corn and asparagus), with a sweet umami character. The aftertaste provides a lasting floral essence.

Liu An Gua Pian 2nd Infusion
Liu An Gua Pian 2nd Infusion

The second infusion has a slightly fuller shade of light jade green color. The aroma remains grassy, with a light floral scent blending with roasted nuts and brown sugar. Body remains medium with a brothy texture. Taste remains mostly grassy with vegetable, and a slightly sweet (melon) taste coming through. This second infusion maintains a pleasant umami character, and a lasting floral aftertaste.

Liu An Gua Pian 3rd Infusion
Liu An Gua Pian 3rd Infusion

The third infusion has a slightly lighter jade green color than the second infusion. The aroma has lightened, but is still full, and has a light spice coming through and blending with the grassy, sweet scent. The body has lightened some. The taste remains grassy with vegetable, and the umami character has lightened some, but still exists. The floral aftertaste is still quite strong and lasting.

Liu An Gua Pian Infused Leaves
Liu An Gua Pian Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform fresh forest green color. All large fragments, no fully intact unbroken leaves were found. Some leaves had the main center vein intact, which is inconsistent with the description of the processing technique. No stems were found. The leaves are quite soft and delicate, but based on the taste of the third infusion, I believe one additional infusion is possible. The leaves have a fresh, grassy, and cooked vegetable smell.

The Liu An Gua Pian from TeaVivre is a good quality green tea that is a nice change from other styles of Chinese green teas. The brothy (umami) texture gives this tea a characteristic similar to a Japanese green tea, but maintains most characteristics of the traditional Chinese green tea. This tea has a refreshing and revitalizing effect, and the texture gives it a healthy, hearty feel. This tea would be an excellent bridge for fans of both Chinese and Japanese green teas who are looking to cross borders to find and develop a taste for new styles of tea.

TeaVivre, it’s been a pleasure reviewing these five products, and I look forward to reviewing more of your products in the future. Thanks for the opportunity, and for the five great teas!

Premium Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea from TeaVivre

There are some styles of tea out there that cause excitement and curiosity as soon as you open the container. For those of you who have experienced Tai Ping Hou Kui green tea, this is one of those styles of tea. Every aspect of the appearance of this tea is unique, and the aroma is usually very fresh and pleasant.

According to the TeaVivre website (click here), Tai Ping Hou Kui is traditionally grown in Hou Keng, Xinming village, Huangshan City, Anhui Province, China. This style of tea is produced from a specific cultivar called Shidacha (Shiyecha). This type of tea bush produces rather large leaves, which are easily noticeable in Tai Ping Hou Kui due to the unique processing method of this style of tea.

Let the journey begin…

Tai Ping Hou Kui Dry Leaves
Tai Ping Hou Kui Dry Leaves

The dry leaves vary in shades of green color, from bright to dark green. The leaves vary in length, but are uniformly flattened. The length varies from one (25 mm) to three and a half inches (90 mm). The bud and two leaf pluck is apparent in several of the leaves. Many leaves appear to be unbroken, while others appear to be large fragments. The leaves are quite large overall, indicative of the Shidacha cultivar. The aroma of the dry leaves is that of fresh cut grass, sweet hay, and a slight toasted nuttiness.

Four grams of dry leaves were placed in an 8.5 ounce (240 ml) kyusu. Purified water was heated to 175°F (80°C). Leaves were infused for one minute, with an additional ten seconds added to subsequent infusions.

Tai Ping Hou Kui 1st Infusion
Tai Ping Hou Kui 1st Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with a light and pale shade of green color, clear and transparent. The aroma has scents of orchids, fresh cut wet grass, sweet butter or cream, and a slight nuttiness. The body is medium, with a rounded and mouth filling feel. The taste has notes of water chestnuts, orchids, and a sweetness most similar to citrus fruits. There was a slight bitterness to the otherwise floral and lingering aftertaste. As usual with a good quality tea, the flowery essence in the olfactory glands persisted for minutes after swallowing.

Tai Ping Hou Kui 2nd Infusion
Tai Ping Hou Kui 2nd Infusion

The second infusion produced a liquor with a slightly livelier shade of pale green. The taste balanced out some, having stronger orchid notes and lighter water chestnut notes. Other than that, there was little variance from the first infusion.

Tai Ping Hou Kui 3rd Infusion
Tai Ping Hou Kui 3rd Infusion

The third infusion was nearly identical to the second infusion in all aspects. A nice aroma, great flavor, medium body, floral aftertaste. I am truly enjoying the consistency from infusion to infusion. I will continue with two additional infusions.

Tai Ping Hou Kui 5th Infusion
Tai Ping Hou Kui 5th Infusion

The photo above depicts the fifth infusion. As you can see, the color is still quite consistent with the third infusion. The aroma, body, and taste are also surprisingly consistent, with a very slight lightening in character. Overall, the quality of this liquor is amazing for a fifth infusion of a green tea. And this is not even the highest quality of Tai Ping Hou Kui offered from TeaVivre. If I were not running out of time at the office today, I would have tried two additional infusions just to see if it could last. Interesting to note that these are not flash infusions. This fifth infusion steeped in water for two minutes.

Tai Ping Hou Kui Infused Leaves
Tai Ping Hou Kui Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a rather uniform fleshy green color, with a slight variation in the shades of green. The pluck of a bud and two leaves is apparent. Many leaves are unbroken and fully attached to the stem, while others are very large fragments. The leaves are quite large. They are quite delicate at this point, but I still believe another infusion or two is possible. The aroma is very pleasant, with scents of orchids and fresh cut wet grass. There is some taste left in these leaves.

I have been intrigued by Tai Ping Hou Kui since the first time I tried it about a year ago. I can honestly say that the TeaVivre product is the best that I have had to this point. I would love to try the Nonpareil variety that they offer, just to see if the higher price tag can provide such a better experience than this premium variety. This is an excellent style of Chinese green tea, and one that I highly recommend to any green tea enthusiast out there. Just be careful on the brewing technique. Again, I must highlight the consistency that this tea had over five infusions. I cannot remember the last time a Chinese green tea gave me five consistent infusions. Excellent product. Thanks, TeaVivre. You are four for four so far! 🙂