Thank you for coming onboard Parchmen & Co and travel with us to savour our world in a cup!
We aim 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:
- 2023 Pre-Qingming First Pick An Hua Pine Needle Green Tea 安化松针, 6g
- 2015 Wu Liang Shan Raw Black Loose Leaf Tea 普洱景东无量山生普洱散茶, 6g
- 2023 Spring Wuyi Golden Peony 武夷金牡丹, 6g
We start this month's tea appreciation with a green tea. An Hua county in Hunan (湖南) province of China has been a natural environment for wild tea since the Song dynasty. Two mountains in the county stood out, namely Fu Rong Mountain (芙蓉山) and Yun Tai Mountain (云台山). The Fu Rong Green Tea (芙蓉青茶) and Yun Tai Cloud and Fog Green Tea (云台云雾) were royal tribute teas in the dynasty. However, with the change of dynasty and over time, the techniques for making these two green teas have been lost. In fact, it is more well known for black tea - the famous An Hua Black Tea (安化黑茶).
In an effort to revive these famous green teas, the local tea institute in 1959 spent four years of research and experimentation. The outcome of this effort was impressive - a single green tea combining the features of the two ancient teas, with a shape that resembles pine needles and an aroma that is often compared with the Japanese gyokuro. The tea leaves spread themselves out in the brew and resembles pine leaves, hence its name.
This tea is harvested before Qingming of 2023, i.e. before 5th April 2023. Being first grade, it is 1 bud 2 leaves. The farm is at Yan Xi Town (烟溪镇) Da Yang Township (大阳村), within the foothills of the Xue Feng Mountain Range (雪峰山脉) of Hunan. This area has a subtropical monsoon humid climate, with average temperature of 16°C and high humidity. The elevation is from 300m and the farm is located around 300-400m.
We are brewing this green tea in our Parchmen Glass Gaiwan, at 3g to 150ml, at 70°C for 45 sec in the first brew and second brew. The flavour is delicate, forward on umami on a smooth body, cooling to an aroma of wild flowers in the field. There is some throat resonance, but without any bitterness and astringency. It is uplifting and light, and is best enjoyed in just two brews. We recommend drinking it in the morning before breakfast, and it will probably set your good mood for the rest of the day.
The next tea is a tea with richness of evolutionary history. Yun-Gui Plateau (云贵高原) spans Yunnan and Guizhou provinces in southwest China, stretching from Red River Fault in the southwest to Wu Lin Mountain Range (武陵山脉) in the northeast. The Red River Fault is named after the Red River, which runs along the fault line. Wu Lin Mountain Range in central China has the famous peak of Fan Jing Shan where our Fan Jing Shan Maofeng green tea is from. East of the Red River is Heng Duan Mountain Range (横断山脉), a north-south oriented vertical relief which connects southeast of the Tibet Plateau with the Yun-Gui Plateau. At the intersection of these two great terrain features is Wu Liang Shan (无量山) where our tea comes from.
Lying at the northwest of the u-shape Jing Dong county (景东), Wu Liang Shan stands on the east of Lancang River, where it departs from its general north-south direction and turns eastward at the county. Known as Meng Le Shan (蒙乐山) in ancient times, it has tea trees which are wild and ancient, as seen from their very thick trunks of up to 2.9m. The tea trees are in various stages of evolution, from wild to field mutated types, offering rich bio-diversity for the study of pu'er teas and its history. Wu Liang Shan has high elevation, ranging 1,600m to 2,200m. The high altitude shrouds it in fog and mist, reducing the sunlight exposure, slowing the development of these ancient tea trees and preserving its sweet and umami flavour. These conditions give a softer touch and limits the astringency of the teas which would otherwise be strong and astringent.
The region is competing with other famous names in their area. About 200 km south is another famous tea region of Bangdong (邦东) and Bangma (邦马). Without a distinct representative village, the source of these tea leaves are seldom known, as the fresh picked leaves are usually sold off to tea processing factories for blending and branding.
We are brewing it in the 'Chrysanthemum' Zisha Tea Pot. We use 3 gm tea to 100 ml of water, at 95 degrees filtered water for 75 seconds for the first few brews, slowly reducing as flavour starts to get strong. The brew colour is a beautiful orange. In the first brew, we detected forest rain and moss. It also has a pleasant sweetness and hints of rock sugar and golden raisins, cooling to a sweetened chrysanthemum tea. There is a gentle bitterness on a thick and smooth mouthfeel. Astringency is barely noticeable. These supposed negative attributes are a reflection of the age of the trees and the rich soils. The slight bitterness and astringency do not seem out of place or out of balance with the other attributes of the tea, but rather complement and integrate well with the entire experience of the tea, on a good balance. An easy tea to appreciate and drink, the tea has good acidity and energy which does not disturb.
The last tea this month is Golden Peony, a new cultivar from the result of more than two decades of experimentation by Tea Research Centre of Fujian Agricultural Science Institute (福建省农业科学院茶叶研究所). By crossing Tie Guan Yin (铁观音) as the mother plant and Huang Dan (黄棪) as the father plant since 1978, the final cultivar finally stabilised for release in 2002. Selected for its high aroma and long afterflavour, it also display resistance to drought, cold weather, higher productivity as compared to its parents and is highly adaptable to new environment, making it suitable for mass cultivation.
Indeed this cultivar has been gaining popularity in recent years, owing to its high aroma. This, as well as other new cultivars, have been slowly making their way into the core of the Wuyi production areas. When consumers clamour for new teas and high aroma, farmers are digging up old tea bushes and replacing them with new cultivars.
The aroma of a tea depends very much on its genetic makeup and processing techniques. A lightly roasted tea preserves its enzymatic notes, while a heavily roasted one gives strong roasty notes. A heavily oxidised tea departs from green notes and presents more fruity notes. An early pick tea has more catechins and caffeine, allowing more brewing stamina, but has accompanying raw bitterness. A tea from the core production area of Wuyi mountain with oxidised granite soils can withstand higher roast, while one from outside can only be roasted light to present the attractive floral and fruity aromas without need for brewing stamina. In summary, a tea from within is highly roasted, has high aroma and brewing stamina, while one from outside will lack this full experience. Our tea is from outside the core area, but is of competition grade. It is named as Golden Peony because of its aroma of peony flowers on a bright golden brew.
We are using the Parchmen Glass Gaiwan, at a ratio of 3 gm to 100 ml of 95°C filtered water for 1 min 30 sec. The brew is dark amber, and the brewed leaves smell clean without roastiness or smoke, and with intense aroma of stewed fruits. This experience is carried into the brew, with the characteristic Wuyi minerally sweet earthy note against a clear caramel aroma. It has no bitterness, and complex acidity dances in the palette. There is a clean afterflavour of berries and luscious flowers like peony, with throat resonance. We switched to a 'Authority' Zisha Tea Pot and brew using the same parameters. Surely, there is a marked elevation in flavour experience. Firstly, the brew exhibits clearly notes of peony flowers and cream, on top of the caramel and sweet earthiness. Further, its sweetness becomes more defined, as if it has been sweetened with cane sugar, and leaves behind an afternote of malt sugar (maltose). Throat resonance is more forthcoming and stronger. The empty tea cup smells like a baked products - a chocolate cake perhaps, and maybe chocolate milk. Flavour is overall more transparent and elegant in a zisha tea pot than in a glass gaiwan, although the latter brew is already clean and sweet. Zisha is a porous ceramic, with the air gaps slowing down heat loss, thus coaxing more flavour notes to be extracted. This means more intense flavour experience and clearer notes. The zisha tea pot gives three brews of decent strength, while the glass gaiwan gives two. If you use all 6g in the zisha tea pot, you can get up to five brews of good intensity.
Thank you for coming onboard with us to travel and savour our world in a cup!