Cupping Report from Hunan

Today, April 5, is the Qing Ming Festival, a day Chinese celebrate in memory of their ancestors by visiting their grave sites to pay respect. It is also a national holiday. After breakfast this morning, Mr. Wang of the Hunan Tea Import/Export Corp. picked me up at my hotel and we went to his office to cup all of the teas his company produced this spring. I have lived in the US for so long that I forgot that this is an important holiday and I found a totally empty office with only me and Mr. Wang. Obviously he gave up time with his family to do this with me. I felt terrible, but since we had made the trip we got to work.

After cupping some 20 teas I found and approved three teas to be shipped immediately via express mail to the US:

Longevity Green Needles - A big, tippy green tea produced just about a week ago using the steam sha qing technique. As I explained in Great Teas of China, sha qing is the process where, after withering, tea is cooked through to stop oxidation - in this case, using steam. Next, this tea is pan-fired and roasted dried by charcoal. This process retains the green color but heightens aromatics and flavor. I wasn't totally happy with the sorting, so Mr. Wang and I hand-sieved the irregular leaves out and packed the remaining tea ourselves. The total is a bit less than 5 kg.

We moved on to cup the famed Jun Shan Yin Zhen, reputed to be Chairman Mao's favorite tea. After cupping it I think I can agree with the Chairman that this is an excellent yellow tea that deserves to be named one of the top ten most famous teas of China. This tea is produced much like a pan-fired green tea, but it's wrapped in paper packets before it is completely dried, allowing the leaves to turn yellow and thus removing the grassy flavor that may be found in some green tea. The tea is then roasted dry. This year's selection is excellent; I was only able to procure 3 kg.

The final tea is an all golden-tip black tea from Guangdong Province, a da ye (big-leaf) varietal that is unlike any other China black tea. It has nice reddish color and an unaggressive nature. The mouth-feel is thick and silky with good aromatics. Everything about this tea is just different; there is a lot going on, but one doesn't know how to begin! This is definitely a tea that requires learning and contemplation.

I returned to the hotel amidst a pouring rain and blaring horns from folks returning to the city. I think I'll put my foot up and stay in the hotel tonight. I am scheduled to go up to the mountains tomorrow to see what that'll bring me...

Further to my previous post, the report from Hangzhou is that we were not hurt by the frost as badly as we feared, and some good lotus heart was produced. A sample is being expressed to my hotel here in Hunan for cupping and approval. If approved, it will be expressed to the US immediately. I've got my fingers crossed!

I'll post photos of these new teas soon.