This month’s tea tasting featured 4 teas, 3 green teas and one Oolong known as Green Jade or Jade Cloud), and Da Hong Pao. All of them from China. Green Mint Jasmine was unanimously selected as the favorite, with Da Hong Pao next in line, and the small sampling of just 9 people attending. However, all the teas were deemed delicious. One of the participants noted that she did not agree with the suggested steeping times of some teas, which is 2-3 minutes for green tea.
My opinion is that no one can tell you what you taste. It is entirely up to the individual. So, it’s up to you to decide how you like your tea.
The nice things about all the teas we tried on March 18 is that all of them are good for multiple steeping. So, while the price tag may sometimes seem high, it is a gift to yourself all day long. As we noted in the presentation, green tea especially took hold of Buddhist countries because of the humility- it can be enjoyed by the rich as well as the poor, and coincides nicely especially with the teachings of Buddhist philosopher Lao Tzu.
“Tea is the elixir of life”- Lao Tzu
The Mint Jasmine tea is made with Gunpowder Green tea. Gunpowder is the English name for the tea, given back in the 19th century by the British, who thought that the rolled grayish green pellets resembled the stuff they put in the earlier versions of weapons (not actually powder by modern standards). It seems appropriate to me that Gunpowder green tea would have a high level of caffeine in it. And, I recently read that it will keep much longer than the usual green tea (2 years versus up to 10 years!). However, once you put those nice herbs, jasmine and mint, you can count on the staying power to diminish, so don’t count on it lasting too long).
Green Dew Organic from the Hubei Province of China. This tea has a smooth, light body that stays nicely on the tongue that has an interesting combination of savory to start, then finishes sweet. If you’re looking for a green tea and want to expand your palate a little, this would be an excellent choice.
Finally, we tasted the Oolong. Da Hong Pao is the name of a small tea garden of about 25 trees. Original Da Hong Pao tea is the most expensive tea in the world, and given only to special visitors. Our Da Hong Pao is more likely to be a cutting from those original trees. One notices first that the leaves are huge, unruly things, difficult to measure and to put into a tea bag. The body is light, and smooth. It is a perfect afternoon tea, IMHO. Which is why I chose to finish the tasting with my personal favorite.
Due to time and equipment deficits, we didn’t get a chance to taste Japanese teas. Perhaps next St. Paddy’s Day!
A question came up during the program regarding proper tea preparation. Here are some guidelines:
- Heat the pot and the cup with hot water before you begin.
- Water for white and green teas should generally be between 170 and 185 degrees Fahrenheit. Oolong should be brewed between 180 and 190. And black and herbal teas should be brewed between 208 and 212 degrees.
- Vendors usually provide the correct steeping time on the teas themselves.
The Chinese have another way to determining temperature, based on the look of the water:
- Tiny bubbles that resemble “shrimp eyes” are good for delicate Japanese green teas. The temperature is roughly 160 at this point.
- Slightly larger bubbles resembling “crab eyes,” with steam beginning to rise for Chinese green teas, white teas, and oolong teas. The temperature is roughly 175 Fahrenheit at this point.
- When the bubbles look like “a string of pearls, then the temperature should be about 200 degrees, which is perfect for dark oolongs, black teas, or Darjeelings.
- Finally, if you are making puehr tea, you want the water to be really hot, resembling a “raging torrent,” boiling violently. According to the Chinese, this is too hot for other teas because you run the risk of de-oxygenating the water.
Another time, we will go into why I think supporting fair trade is important. For now, let’s just get to the basics. Tea needs room to expand. Do not use the little ball infusers. Make sure you have plenty of space for your tea to unfurl. Otherwise, you’re cheating yourself of the aromas and flavors. I love the Finum brand large tea filters, which are biodegradable, unbleached, and without glue.
Where you sip your tea, and with whom you sip, will likely influence your taste of the tea. So, please keep coming back to sample more teas.
The next tasting is Wednesday, April 17 at 2pm. We will sample 4 teas and discuss the science behind claims of health benefits of tea.
See you there!