Roy stopped by the teahouse yesterday with four more newly arrived spring teas, including some interesting and unusual varieties you'll surely want to try:
- Tai Ping Monkey King: This unique green tea has a long history of success in San Francisco, having won a prized Gold Medal at the Pan Pacific Exposition here back in 1915. Tea lovers in the 21st century will be equally enchanted by its enormous jade green leaves and mild, sweet taste. Tai Ping Hou Gui, as it's known in Chinese, comes from the spectacularly beautiful Huang Shan (Yellow Mountain, a UNESCO World Heritage Site) in China's Anhui Province, a region that has attracted artists, tourists, and tea lovers for centuries. The mountain's cool, moist climate is believed to be especially benevolent for tea. Tai Ping Monkey King tea is unique because it's a da ye, or big leaf green tea; almost all green tea is of the xiao ye (small leaf) type. Our selection has huge 2-3 inch long leaves that barely fit in a gaiwan and turn a rich cui lu, or jade green, upon infusion. Because of the large leaf size, use more than you think you need (4-5 grams by weight) and infuse in moderate water (around 160 degrees F) for 1-2 minutes. The result is a mild yet assertive brew that's very sweet on the tongue. Tai Ping Monkey King is an uncommon variety every green tea lover should experience.
- Organic Da Fang: Da Fang is another Anhui green tea that will remind you of dragon well, but it's actually a different variety. This is the first year we've carried it, and our debut 2009 edition is organic. You'll find Da Fang to be a mild, calming tea with a more subdued intensity than dragon well and a different mouth feel because it's fired at a higher temperature. It's extremely sweet, with a pronounced malty nuttiness, full texture, and long, pleasant finish.
- Keemun Xiang Luo: The final Anhui tea in this batch is a black tea, Keemun (qi men), the first black tea to be produced in Anhui, primarily for export. You'll recognize Keemun as what the British call "China Black," a smoky, fruity, floral tea that's a key ingredient in the English Breakfast and Earl Grey blends, famous for producing a rich, reddish brew. Our 2009 edition Keemun Xiang Luo (fragrant dew) features plentiful furry white tips twisted into compact spirals.
- Meng Ding Gan Luo: This classic green tea is from Sichuan Province. There's a saying that the best tea on earth is made with water from Chang Jiang (Yangtze River) and tea from Meng Ding. Our 2009 Meng Ding Gan Luo will take you half way to perfection! The appearance of Meng Ding Gan Luo, with its small, twisted, furry leaves, will remind you of a classic Bi Luo Chun, only not such a dark shade of green. The tea has plenty of flavor, so you only need to brew about 3 grams in a 6-ounce gaiwan, using moderately hot water, around 160 degrees F (bonus points for Yangtze River water). Roy's comments: "I think a bigger deal should be made about this tea. It's a very good tea, I'm pretty impressed. I'd already bought a lot of green tea this year, but I picked this one just because I liked it."