2024 Pre-Qingming Harvest En Shi Jade Dew 明前恩施玉露
2024 Pre-Qingming Harvest En Shi Jade Dew 明前恩施玉露
2024 Pre-Qingming Harvest En Shi Jade Dew 明前恩施玉露

2024 Pre-Qingming Harvest En Shi Jade Dew 明前恩施玉露

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The story of Jade Dew is one of tea romance between China and Japan for a millennium. It started when Japanese Buddhist monks came to China to learn Buddhism during the Tang dynasty, and they took part in the daily monasterial routine of tea cultivation and making, as we have learnt in the story of Mengding Ambrosia. The techniques and tea seeds were then introduced to Japan by Myoan Yosai (明菴栄西) who in 1202 (during the Chinese Song dynasty) founded Japan’s first Zen temple in Kyoto called Kennin-ji (建仁寺), in which he was buried. The technique of steaming tea leaves to make green tea has become the default method of tea making in Japan today whereas in the country of origin, it is used exclusively in Enshi to make Jade Dew. Tea making techniques remained much the same way from the Tang to the Yuan dynasties, with development only in form and style. Coarsely-made tea cakes of the Tang dynasty became neatly pressed with auspicious patterns of dragons and phoenixes during the Song dynasty and continued till the Yuan dynasty. Serving styles also became more refined during the Song dynasty with the whisking of tea powder in a small bowl to make a thick foamy beverage instead of directly boiling the tea powder in a pot with salt during Tang dynasty. This also gave rise to the development of paraphernalia for this style of tea whisking which was then exported again to Japan to subsequently become the standard tools for the Japanese tea ceremony.

During the Ming dynasty (since mid 14th century), the royal court outlawed tea cakes and favoured loose leaf tea. Tea steaming which aided in tea leaves sticking together to make tea cakes now became an obstacle to the shaping of individual leaf in the loose form. New methods and equipment which produce definitive shapes in the dried tea leaves became popular, leading to pan-frying becoming the dominant method of tea processing. At this time, while Enshi as a tea region was affected by this new law, the inaccessibility of its mountainous area meant that new techniques and equipment had problems reaching the tribes which made the tea. As everyone advanced to the new style of tea making, Enshi continued their old ways which was frozen in time to become the living fossil of the ancient tea making world. In parallel, Japan was in the stage of refinement of their tea ceremony protocol, with the Cha-no-yu (茶の湯) steps developed by Sen no Rikyu (千利休) towards the end of the 16th century. This ceremony was developed for green tea powder. A softer tea was needed to achieve a good flavour, and the steaming method remained important in achieving this. Henceforth from the Ming dynasty, Chinese and Japanese teas parted ways in tea style. While China moved forward with loose tea leaves, Japan was frozen in tea time on green tea powder and steaming of tea leaves, just like in the Tang dynasty. It was much later that Japanese loose leaf teas became popular.

Enshi located in the southwest of Hubei is home to lush terraced mountains and communities of Tujia and Miao ethnic minorities. This is also one of the few places in the world that is rich in selenium, a micro-nutrient that is a strong anti-oxidant and boosts thyroid health. The tea is harvested from high-altitude areas where the year-round average temperature is just 16.4°C and the humidity is very high at 82%. The leaves are fine-picked - one bud one leaf. Enshi Jade Dew was previously known as Jade Green (玉绿) and changed name to Jade Dew in 1939. Japan adopted the same name to refer to their highest grade of green tea (gyokuro) made with similar methods. The beauty of this tea is that it fulfills the standard of the 3 Greens in Chinese green teas - green dry leaves, green tea liquor and green wet leaves. Enshi Jade Dew is a China Geographical Indicator registered product.

We are brewing this tea in our Parchmen Glass Gaiwan, at 3g to 120 ml of 70°C water, for 30 sec. The dry leaves are dark green, finely tipped and slender like needles. The brewed leaves smell like a meaty broth,   seaweeds and miso soup. This means that it is laden with umaminess. The brew is sweet and syrupy, with floral and green notes that reminds one of the sea or forest after a rain. The smell is clean and fresh, translating perfectly into the brew. Small white flowers perfume the brew. The tea is smooth and sweet from hot to cold. The second brew can be done with the same brewing parameters.

This tea is packed in 30g or 50g in a tin tea caddy.  

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