Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Exploring the Green Teas of Sichuan with Four Seasons Tea Co.



I've been meaning to get this post out for a while now but my backlog is vast. So much tea, such little time! The Teavana location that I worked at finally shut its doors so I'm no longer juggling two jobs. Hopefully, this will give me a lot more free time to get back to what I love doing. Thank you all for hanging with me and still supporting everything I do here on the blog!

Jeff from Four Seasons Tea Co. has been my go-to guy for oolong and fine black teas ever since we were introduced a few years ago. When he emailed letting me know that he just got in some Sichuan green teas I jumped at the chance to give them a try. Rather than review them separately, I thought it might be fun to compare each of the teas in one post. All three teas are actually from the same mountain within Sichuan.

As I try to do with most reviews each of the teas was brewed according to the vendor's recommendations. In this case, it was a glass gaiwan with 5g of tea. Water temperatures ranged between 175 and 195 degrees depending on the tea.

Meng Ding Gan Lu


Meng Ding is probably the tea that comes to my mind first when I think about Sichuan green teas. The name gan lu means "sweet dew" and Meng Ding refers to the mountain where it is produced. The dry leaves were teeny tiny with lots of visible buds. Those tiny hairs you can see in the picture below are called trichomes. They help to protect developing leaves from excess sun and other environmental threats.

The brewed tea was incredibly aromatic. I had forgotten how intoxicating a fresh green tea can be. Jeff advised keeping these teas in the refrigerator in order to keep them fresh. I'd love to have a separate fridge just for tea storage one day. A girl can dream! It started out sweet and light with hints of roasted chestnuts. Later infusions were a bit more vegetal but not overwhelmingly so. Think fresh snow peas or edamame.




Mao Feng (Highest Grade)


Mao Feng is closely associated with the green teas produced in Anhui but it is also used to describe similar teas from other provinces as well. The name means "fur peak", referring to the small white hairs that cover the leaves. As you can see in the pictures below, the leaves are not as delicate looking as the diminutive Meng Ding. That by no means indicates that it is poor quality. Different teas have different plucking standards. Meng Ding is composed primarily of buds while Mao Feng usually includes the first two leaves.

The first thing that I noticed about the Mao Feng was the thick, almost oily mouthfeel. It was a bit more savory than the Meng Ding with a pronounced nuttiness. I was reminded of cracking open a really fresh walnut. Yum! There was still a considerable amount of trichomes visible in the brewed tea even after five infusions and filtering. Jeff recommends drinking this grandpa style and I will definitely have to give that a try soon.





Signature Snowflake Jasmine Tea


I generally don't write about flavored teas anymore but traditionally scented teas are an occasional exception to that. I've seen this tea called Bi Tan Piao Xue elsewhere and I've been wanting to try it for some time. The green tea base is similar to the straight Meng Ding but it was produced at a slightly lower elevation. It was still very high quality, especially in comparison to the jasmine teas that you'll find in Chinatown or at big box tea stores.

It was difficult to snap a picture of while brewing gongfu style but this tea's signature is that the jasmine blossoms float prettily on top of the water while the tea leaves sink to the bottom. The effect is supposed to be that of snowflakes falling on a jade pool. Overal the taste was very balanced and smooth. It was floral, of course, but not overly heavy or perfumy. The fresh, vegetal notes of the green tea were still able to shine through. This is the jasmine tea for people who don't like jasmine. Seriously!




Samples provided by Four Seasons Tea Co.