Category: Green Tea

A rare find: Golden Green tea from a White tea variatel

TeaLeafster

A white tea varietal, previously processed into Anji Bai Cha green tea and since a few years called Golden Sprout because of its golden leaves. Confusing right? The story
of this tea from Dutch tea seller Thee van Sander is interesting before you even start tasting.

A little educational note to begin with: Anji Bai Cha (Anji White Tea), made in green tea province Zhejiang, is a highly sought after and often pretty expensive green tea. It is a green tea because it’s processed in a similar way as other green teas, but the tea is actually from a white tea cultivar, called Bai Ye. Anji Bai Cha leaves start green when steeped but that color slowly fades and the leaves turn white, a beautiful transformation that makes a tea session even more special to me.

TeaLeafster

White, green, or golden?

Now, until a few years ago these bushes were processed as an Anji Bai Cha as well. However, they noticed these leaves to be very yellow/gold in color.  So at the beginning of this decade the farmers started a new plantation using these odd looking plants and the last few years they slowly begin to pick and process from this new plantation.

The reason why these leaves are so golden is the soil the plants are growing in. According to Thee van Sander both the soil and water contain a lot of selenium, a trace element that works as an antioxidant as well and that has all kinds of health benefits, and on top of that makes the heavy metals in your food in case of contamination less harmful (toxic).

Although labeled as a different tea, this Golden Sprout still has lots of Anji Bai Cha characteristics. For me, drinking Anji Bai Cha requires having a completely clean tasting palate. If I would drink it after eating food that is spicy, has a thick, sweet sauce or is really salty, I wouldn’t taste any of it. Anji Bai Cha is a very light yet very complex tea. It’s not outspoken but has a lot of subtle layers that are very interesting if you are in the mood for some real taste geeking.

TeaLeafster

In transition: from gold to white

I often do a session after a glass of water or two in the morning and before breakfast, so that I get every subtlety on my tongue. That’s what I did with this Golden Sprout too and the signature of Anji Bai Cha is all over this tea. It has those same vegetal notes with sweet hints of tropical fruit and a tiny little bit of star anise in it. It has a lingering sweetness that might be more present than in other Anji Bai Cha, but differences are hardly noticeable. I love the clear taste of this tea, which makes it extremely refreshing and suited for summer days.

Golden Sprout & Anji Bai Cha

Golden Sprout & Anji Bai Cha

Although there are many types or cultivars within a type of tea available, there is a certain group of famous tea (names) that you’ll always find in shops. But there must be so much more in China than those well-known teas. Plants of varietals grown in such small quantities that it never reaches the bigger public but always stays among the locals. Or a few bushes like these that are tucked away in the corner and produce a different taste than the rest, because of soil, sunlight, or whatever reason. There must be hundreds or thousands of teas like this and it’s nice that Sander brought some of these rare or new finds with him last year to share something new to tea lovers in Holland.

Getting the hang of this cup sniffing

Getting the hang of this cup sniffing

Tea Battle: Roasted vs Unroasted Zhu Ye Qing

Are you ready to RUMBLEEEEEE! In this battle: roasted Zhu Ye Qing versus unroasted Zhu Ye Qing from Thee van Sander. How different can those two be, I hear you think. Well, VERY different! Let’s fight.

Zhu Ye Qing is a tea from Sichuan province, from the mountain Emei to be exact, and the difference between this roasted and unroasted version lies, of course, in the process of making the tea. Where most Zhu Ye Qing is roasted in a wok to make the tea softer, Thee van Sander offers the chance to taste the unroasted version as well (with the warning that unroasted Zhu Ye Qing might not be so good for the stomach, I had no problems in case you are worried now).

Roasted Zhu Ye Qing

I started off with the roasted Zhu Ye Qing, a tea picked on March 8 2016. This is early in the plucking season, which is why the buds were very small and tender. The leaves were even in color and shape and the first brew revealed a very sweet, slightly vegetal and little fruity, melon aroma. The taste was rich and present, even sweeter than the aroma, and the vegetal tones were there as well. The bright taste gave a feeling of spring. It was thirst-quenching and was round and soft in the mouth. The more brews, the sweeter it got.

Yes, this was a very good start of this battle and I couldn’t imagine the unroasted Zhu Ye Qing to top this. But in a way… it did.

The Unroasted (left) and Roasted (right) Zhu Ye Qing

The Unroasted (left) and Roasted (right) Zhu Ye Qing

The unroasted Zhu Ye Qing was much different than the roasted one. Actually, it could have been another green tea. And that made this comparison so interesting for me: how every step in the process of making tea could be of such great influence on the taste.

Unroasted Zhu Ye Qing

This tea was picked in March as well, but a bit later then his roasted brother and you can see that clearly when looking at the leaves. The unroasted Zhu Ye Qing had a bigger bud, and the first leaf was much looser. The aroma of the unroasted Zhu Ye Qing was very vegetal, exactly like spinach. It tasted more like a raw leaf, with still a lot of sweetness in it, but this time on the background, with vegetal tones dominating. This tea had a lot of character for me.

The Unroasted Zhu Ye Qing

The Unroasted Zhu Ye Qing

And the winner is…

Of course there are no winners or losers (blabla), but this tea session the unroasted Zhu Ye Qing was the real surprise for me. I think the sweet, roasted Zhu Ye Qing is more like a high quality day to day tea. It always works, every part of the day, every moment. The unroasted Zhu Ye Qing was newer to me, flavors I never tasted before. It made me alert from the first smell to the last sip. So, based on the performances of the teas that day, the unroasted Zhu Ye Qing was the winner for me. Needless to say, both were very delicious teas and what really stood out as well were the tiny little buds of the roasted Zhu Ye Qing, really young and fresh!

See you at the next battle!

Maojian – the best of China and Japan

Maojian

Maojian is the most famous tea from Henan province and as far as I know this was my first try at a Maojian or a Henan tea ever. The Maojian turned out to be a great choice for a hot after summer day in Amsterdam.

I’m getting more and more into Chinese green teas, especially teas with roasted nutty tones. This Maojian, however, doesn’t have the typical Long Jing flavors. It is more related to the Sichuan Zhu Ye Qing, or maybe even a Japanese tea. The tea starts very light in the mouth with sweet and grassy tones and gives a subtle salty feeling on the tongue. That saltiness grows with every steep. It has vegetable tones, spinach-like, combined with a lovely sweetness. Those savory, salty and sweet tones give an interesting combination in the mouth.

Maojian

Maojian is plucked very young (this one was from March 15) and consists only of very fine leaves. The dry leaf is pretty compact: 5 grams doesn’t really look like 5 grams. It has that ‘spikiness’ of a Japanese Gyokuro and the smell as well, which is light, fresh and grassy. The dry leaf is a bit green-greyish and transforms into a beautiful, fresh, light green, young bud that is very pleasing for the eye.

Maojian

This Maojian was perfect for the occasion (a very, very hot day). Light, refreshing and the complexity of sweet, salty and savory fighting for their place on your tongue made this an interesting session again! I can’t imagine a day being good without a good tea session!

Maojian

Dry leaf (l) & wet leaf (r) Maojian