2024 Pre-Qingming Mengding Ambrosia 明前蒙顶甘露
2024 Pre-Qingming Mengding Ambrosia 明前蒙顶甘露
2024 Pre-Qingming Mengding Ambrosia 明前蒙顶甘露
2024 Pre-Qingming Mengding Ambrosia 明前蒙顶甘露

2024 Pre-Qingming Mengding Ambrosia 明前蒙顶甘露

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Han dynasty (around BCE 200) Wu Li Zhen (吴理真), otherwise known as Ambrosia Grandmaster (甘露祖师) and Mengding Mountain Grandmaster of Tea (蒙顶山茶祖), was the oldest known person recorded in history who engaged in tea cultivation. The historical site on Mengding Mountain - or simply known as Meng Mountain (蒙山) - on which he planted and tended to seven stalks of tea was designated as a Royal Tea Garden (皇茶园) by a Song dynasty emperor, and it is still being preserved today. There has been numerous poems since the Tang dynasty regarding this tea. This tea originates from and is named after him, and is thus regarded as the oldest known tea in China. One of the top ten teas in China, it is the first Chinese tea known to be heavily rolled into the shape of hooks and snails. Greyish dark green with downy hair, it is floral, umami and refreshing.

According to Buddhist records, an Indian monk during the Song dynasty Bu Dong (不动上师) was known as Ambrosia Grandmaster (甘露祖师). He lived in Yong Xing Monastery (永兴寺) in Meng Ding Mountain, and composed two of the most common Buddhist rituals used today - a ritual of making offerings to wandering ghosts and the departed (蒙山施食), and the Eighty-Eight Buddhas Great Repentance (八十八佛大忏悔文). From then, Yong Xing Monastery became widely popular and sacred, alongside Meng Ding Mountain.

Although they have often been confused as the same person, the two Ambrosia Grandmasters were surely different individuals from different eras, apart by 1,200 years. In fact, the popularity of teas from Meng Ding Mountain gained momentum before the Song dynasty. In the prior Tang dynasty, Si Chuan (四川) famous monk Ma Zu Dao Yi (马祖道一) first initiated tea cultivation in the Buddhist Zen monasterial routine, a system further developed by his top disciple Bai Zhang Hai Hai (百丈怀海). Their work gave birth to the idea that tea and Zen cultivation are indeed the same flavour (茶禅一味), solidifying the status of tea in Chinese Buddhism. 

This tea is made in an area dominated by Meng Ding Mountain of Si Chuan (四川) and within the boundary as dictated by the Chinese government in the production of this tea. The tea grows at 800 - 1,200m. The soil is generally acidic, and the average temperature is 15.5°C. The variety is wild, so in a sense, it is a heirloom tea variety that has crossed-fertilized with the other wild flora of the mountains. The picking is one bud one leaf.

We are brewing this tea in our Parchmen Glass Gaiwan, at 3.5g to 130ml of 82°C water, for 35 sec. The dry leaves are strikingly beautiful, looking like greenish tiny hooks which are fat and broad, and adorned with a white furry coat. The brewed leaves smell of miso soup - umami seaweed - against a background of reddish flowers. The flavour is layered and complex with each brew. On the first brew, you enjoy its sweetness and umami with aromas of butter cookies, pandan cake and roasted cashews, on a smooth mouthfeel of medium weight - this is impressive as a green tea is usually light in body. The sweetness is that of white sugar. Further, the throat experiences a 'bump' when you swallow the tea, followed by some saliva flowing to the front of the mouth. Again, this experience does not occur in a green tea and is a reflection of the good soil and slow growing conditions that pack the tea leaves full of nutrients and chemical compounds. Indeed, we are tasting the terroir in this tea. On the second brew, the citrus note becomes clear, but the taste is not sour. There is some interesting tingling in the mouth when we tasted it during the first week of April 2024, given that the tea is harvested only in March. This tingling will dissipate when the tea "matures" in one month's time. 

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

 

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