Tasting the 2009 Lotus Heart and Imperial Dragon Well

The eagerly awaited call from Grace came yesterday: the 2009 Lotus Heart and Imperial Dragon Well have arrived! Shirley and I headed to the warehouse for the first taste of the 2009 spring green tea harvest.

We didn't have much luck with Roy's electronic tasting accoutrements. The batteries on his tea scale, timer, and digital thermometer were all dead. An iPhone filled in nicely as a stopwatch and to convert metric to English units. As to tea quantities, we used a dinner spoon, so let's just say amounts are approximate.

At last we were set to start brewing tea. First we fired up the digital kettle to 70 degrees C (158 F) and brewed about 5 grams of tea for 90 seconds. We all agreed that at this temperature the tea develops a disagreeable astringency. These 2009 teas were picked early and are really delicate. They need extra-cool water to bring out their sweet, mild character.

Next we brewed fresh leaves, still about 5 grams of each variety, at 60 degrees C (140 F) for about 1 minute 45 seconds. In this infusion the nutty, chestnutty character of the lotus heart began to assert itself, while the dragon well was notably sweeter. The moist leaves even smelled sweeter. The lotus heart had a rich, creamy texture that coated the palate with a crisp, fresh flavor and provided a long, mild finish.

There was still a hint of astringency, though so we tried a third brew, again with fresh leaves, at only 50 degrees C (122 F). This time we let the leaves marinate in their tepid bath for three and a half minutes. In this iteration both teas were very sweet. The dragon well was more vegetal, while the lotus heart had distinctly more viscosity. We tried second steepings in the cool water, but didn't extract much flavor.

Here are the tasting notes Roy sent on these two teas from China:

The lotus heart is extraordinarily rich with thick viscosity and texture. It has highly fragrant aromatics with slight hints of chestnuts, and an intense and long, refreshing finish. I find this year's Imperial Dragon Well refreshingly sweet with lighter texture and viscosity. The finish is mild but persistent. The nose is delightfully fresh and fragrant.

By mid-afternoon we all felt like we knew the new tea a little better. Grace urged Shirley to scoop up the lightly used leaves and use them in wontons. I volunteered my kitchen as the testing ground. In the next post I'll share Shirley's recipe for exotic lotus heart wontons and let you know how they came out.