February 2023 Tea Subscription
Thank you for drinking tea with us.
"Royal Banquet" aims to bring tea drinkers into the world of very fine and exclusive teas. These teas used to be inaccessible to commoners in time gone by, but today we are able to bring it to you via our network of sourcing direct from the farms and our friendship with the producers.
The three teas on feature are a green tea, white tea and wulong tea, namely:
- 2022 Fukuoka Yame Gyokuro green tea (福冈八女玉露), 6 gm
- 2022 Vietnam Silver Needle, 6 gm
- 2021 Xing Chun Qi Dan wulong tea (星村奇丹), 6 gm
First, let us enjoy the Japanese green tea. The highest style of Japanese green tea is the gyokuro, which is shaded with a reed mat called sumaki for at least 20 days before harvesting by hand. Kyoto and Fukuoka are famous for their gyokuro teas. In Fukuoka, gyokuro is produced in Yame City (八女市) in the Chikugo area of Fukuoka prefecture. Before the Meiji era, this area used to be called Tsukushi Province (筑紫国) where the north is called Chikuzen (筑前) and the south is called Chikugo (筑後). The Fukuoka region has been inhabited earlier than the rest of Japan since ancient times, given its proximity to Korea and China, and her friendlier climate being at the southern tip of temperate Japan. It was said that the first tea seeds planted in 1191 at Sefuri Mountain (1,100 m) located between Fukuoka and Saga prefectures were brought back by the patriarch of Japanese tea ceremony Myōan Eisai (明菴栄西). In 1423, another monk Eirin Shuzui (荣林周瑞) brought back more tea seeds when returning from Zen Buddhist studies in Ling Yan Monastery (灵岩寺) in Suzhou China. He travelled throughout Japan to preach Buddhism and when he reached Yame, he was struck by the resemblance of her beautiful mountains to where he trained in China. At Kurogimachi Kasahara (黒木町笠原), he built a temple and named it Reiganji Temple (霊巌寺), the same name as the monastery he studied in Suzhou China. He planted tea around the temple which grew well thanks to the suitable conditions of high diurnal range with high day temperatures and cold night temperatures. Fogs and mists form naturally when sun falls, blanketing the tea plants till early morning. This natural shading complemented the sumaki shading today, brewing up the characteristic intense sweetness in Yame tea. It is no wonder this area became the largest tea cultivation area in Fukuoka today. It also has the honour of being the first tea in Japan registered under the national Geographical Indication Protection System.
We are brewing this tea in our new glass gaiwan, with 3 gm of tea to 45 ml of 60°C distilled water for 2 mins. The brew is lime green in colour, a sweet and umami ‘espresso’ of orchid flowers and roasted nuts. It is smooth and round, without any astringency. We brewed it again at the same parameters to a thinner body but with similarly delicious profile.
The next tea is a white tea from Ha Giang, Vietnam made in the style of Silver Needle of Fujian China. This tea is from old tea trees growing wildly in the high mountains of Ha Giang, the tea master spends 2 months annually in the mountains during the tea harvesting session to make tea in a small hut he built. From tea picking to firing to rolling to packing, he handles the entire tea making process with his wife. The leaves are plucked from wild trees of the Assamica variety estimated to be hundreds of years old grown at 1800m-2200m. Sun-dried with no shaping, this tea style retains the enzymatic flavour notes of the terroir - soil, climate, wind, sun-facing, and the old tea trees. The tea master is skilful in preserving these notes without diverting from these characteristics through his processing. Compared with the Zheng He Silver Needle we offered during spring last year, both are of assamica variety with the Ha Giang tea being much older in age and higher in elevation. While Zheng He tea is sweet and mild, with aromas of fresh cut grass, butter and grains, Ha Giang tea smells of flowers like red roses, has a thick and round mouthfeel and a lasting but mild aroma reflective of the age of the trees.
We are brewing this tea in our new glass gaiwan, with 3 gm of tea to 100 ml of 90°C distilled water for 1 min. The colour is dark yellow, which lightens with more brews. We brewed this tea for two more times, and enjoyed its lingering sweet floral aromas in all the brews.
Lastly, we continue our study of Scarlet Robe since two months ago. As a recap, the Scarlet Robe planted in Wuyi Royal Tea Garden (御茶园), Chen Qi Tea Garden (陈起茶园), primary Scarlet Robe stock at Fu Jian Tea Institute (福安市社口镇福建茶科所), Tian Xin Cliff #2 and its clone Tian Xin Cliff #6, and the Qi Dan (奇丹) stock at Lin Shi Zhong Tea Garden (林士忠茶园) are of the same genetic sequence. This is the reason why Qi Dan is known as Pure Breed Scarlet Robe (纯种大红袍). Curiously, Qi Dan display a red glow when it is budding, adding another layer of myth of its association to Scarlet Robe. Same as our Scarlet Robe, this Qi Dan is made in Xing Cun (星村) by famous tea master Wang Guo Xing (王国兴). He is among the prestigious first batch of China government-appointed custodians for “Intangible Cultural Heritage” of the techniques for “Scarlet Robe” in 2006. He was also a privileged member of the team which made tea from Tian Xin stocks before 2006.
We are brewing this tea using the “Compass” zisha tea pot which is the same tea pot we used for the Scarlet Robe last month. The brewing water is the same - distilled water (Life - NTUC house brand) and we are drinking from small and thick-walled teacups about 50 to 60 ml to give an added dimension of roundness and smoothness to the tea. Using 6 gm of tea leaves to 150 ml of 95°C water for 30 sec, it can be brewed up to four times to a dark amber but transparent colour. The characteristic flavour is "floral on a mineral base" (岩古花香), and the floral aroma reminds one of osmanthus (gui hua in Chinese), thus earning its other name of Dan Gui (丹桂). We always pick up cranberries, champagne grapes and cream from roasted Wuyi wulong teas and the Qi Dan is no exception. Note the tingling acidity which is special of Wuyi wulong tea.
Thank you for drinking tea with us!