First Taste: 2010 Harvest Jun Shan Yin Zhen

We're pleased to announce the return to the teahouse of a popular tea we haven't offered for a couple of years: the yellow tea Jun Shan Yin Zhen (Laird Mountain Silver Needle) from Hunan Province. A former Imperial Tribute Tea, this uncommon tea is also renowned as the supposed favorite of Hunan native Mao Zedong.

Yellow teas are produced by a unique process. First, the downy young spring leaves are withered a bit, then they're pan-fired until they're not quite dry. At that point, the tea is divided into small quantities that are wrapped in paper packets for a time, a process that allows them to yellow a bit, giving the tea it's unique color.

Roy advises covering the bottom of your gaiwan with Jun Shan Yin Zhen and then adding one third more leaves. Pour near-boiling water into the room-temperature gaiwan (not pre-warmed) and brew for a couple of minutes with the lid off to facilitate cooling. Decant into a pitcher.

In our First Taste, the tea yielded a pale yellow infusion with a slightly greenish hue. Both the infusing leaves and the liquor had a delightfully fresh, spring green aroma that tea lovers recognize as a hallmark of the first newly picked teas of the year. Belying its pale appearance, the tea is full of mild but assertive flavor. It's powerfully sweet with substantial body, enhanced by the abundant fur that puts the "silver" in its name. The combination of rich viscosity and sweetness creates a unique, buttery sensation on the palate.

The surprise with this tea: the flavor stands up to a large number of infusions, many more than a typical spring green tea. No matter how often it's brewed or how long it's steeped, it never gets bitter. A delicious taste of spring!