4 New Teas at MastersTeas.com
Yu Qian Anji Bai Cha
The name Yu Qian Anji Bai Cha name is is a misnomer in many ways. Its name means white tea, its leaves are a pale sage color associated with white teas, and it is brewed lightly like a white tea. Yet, it is a green and barely processed as all Chinese greens are with light withering and air drying and only a quick brush on the hot work to shape the leaves.
It was the most sought-after tea of Emperor Huizong Huizong aka Zhao Jl ( 1082-1135) the eighth emperor of Song Dynasty (960-1279.) Although an incompetent leader, Emperor Huizong was admired as a painter, developed a new style of calligraphy, considered a fine poet and gugin player, and in the world of tea, esteemed for raising the level of tea drinking. The emperor was so dedicated to tea that he wrote the first book on Chinese teas in 1107, “Treatise on Tea,” in which he extolled, among others, his favorite, bai cha tea. He developed the Chinese “Art of Tea” ceremony; established protocols for Tribute Teas and rules for the export of teas; conducted tea competitions in the Imperial Court in which powdered green teas were whisked to a froth, not unlike how the Japanese now use matcha during their own tea ceremony (The Way of Tea.) Emperor Huizong even introduced the whisk to the Japanese. And, many of the first teahouses were opened during his reign.
ORIGIN: Yu Qian Anji Bai Cha grows in the Anji County in Zhejiang Province surrounded by 60,000 hectares of bamboo groves which lends a certain sweetness to the terroir and subsequently to the tea grown nearby.
THE LEAF: Its spear-like leaves are plucked early in the spring and their tenderness requires gently picking. (Adagio’s selection was plucked in April 2019.) They have a white color which is reflected in the name, Anji White Tea, however, its true category is a green and it is processed like a green.
HOW TO BREW: The farmer who grows our selection, Yu Feng, suggests using a glass container to brew the tea and to use a low temperature for mineral or spring water, no higher than 170° for 2-3 minutes to avoid bruising the tender leaves. Multiple infusions of a pale yellow-green in the cup will result as will multiple infusions. If you do not have a heat-resistant glass pot or glass, any small pot or cup will do, preferably ones with a white interior so you can enjoy the beauty of the pale color.
THE TASTE: A soft green with only the sweet essence of grassiness with none of its sharpness. The complexity of this tea includes notes of spring flowers and the fruitiness of lychee. This is an excellent beginner’s green for those new to this style of tea processing.
CAFFEINE: Contains a moderate level of caffeine with high amounts of L-theanine, a unique amino acid which appears in all tea. It offers clarity to the mind by modulating certain aspects of brain function, particularly the alpha frequency band which helps the mind relax while it keeps it alert.
Formosa Fancy Bai Hao
Taiwan is home to sophisticated tea farmers who still name their most prized oolongs Formosa for the moniker given the island by colonial Portuguese traders in the 16th century. Our Formosa Fancy Bai Hao is a connoisseur’s dream oolong. It is fragrant in the dry leaf, liquid silk on the tongue with a sweet stone-fruit essence and has a lingering honey aftertaste. Bai Hao represents the finest in growing, harvesting, and processing techniques that date back several centuries and are characteristic of the finest Taiwanese tea production available today.
ORIGIN: The birthplace of Taiwan tea growing began during the original handover of Taiwan from Japan to The Republic of China in 1945. Our Fancy Formosa Bai Hao is grown in Wen Shan, at 650 meters elevation, in the mountains surrounding Taipei. The Wen Shan District, formed in 1990, is ideal for tea growing with four distinct seasons, high elevations, abundant rainfall, and rich fertile soil. Wen Shan is most famous for its Bao Zhong teas, and the finest pouchongs. Tourists flock to the area for its many teahouses.
THE LEAF: Beautifully shaped into long, elegant leaves with a rolling process, Bai Hao is great fun to watch unfurl in a glass teapot or cup. Typical for prized hand-picked oolongs, only the top two leaves and the bud are used. Our selection is grown under the experienced watch of Yu Kui Weng on whose family farm she has worked for more than thirty years. This Bai Hao reflects her skillful hand work and her processing expertise in every leaf. Typical oxidation levels are 45 to 60% which keeps the leaves lushly green and the flavor intense.
HOW TO BREW: Steep at boiling water (212°F.) for 2 to 3 minutes. For a more nuanced flavor, consider brewing at slightly lower temperatures, (195°F.) for 3 to 4 minutes. Adjust to your taste. Typically, this tea offers 3 flavor-filled infusions.
For iced tea lovers, brew in cold water with a heaping teaspoon per cup then refrigerate the container overnight or for 8 hours. Decant the leaves and serve. Or, for a quicker brew, and a smooth softer flavor, add tea leaves to room temperature water and allow the leaves to brew for 40 minutes. Decant and serve. Hot or cold, this tea is best served plain.
THE TASTE: Our rare oolong is redolent with a heady floral oolong fragrance and ambrosial peach blossom flavor. With its long, tippy leaves, you can enjoy this tea hot or iced without losing any of the intensity of the lingering honey notes that are the signature of this exquisite oolong.
CAFFEINE: High levels of caffeine make this an ideal tea for breakfast or mid-morning pleasure.
Ali Shan Special
To our new favorite Masters Tea Selections comes Ali Shan Special, this extraordinary oolong, a relative newcomer to the oolong tea category available only since 1983. Taiwanese oolongs are, generally, descendants of oolong plantings brought to the island by tea farms from Fujian, the premier oolong tea growing area of China. While it is true that any tea can be processed as green, oolong or black, some cultivars are especially suited to the broad scope of oxidation that oolongs use ( a few percentage to perhaps 80%.) Several newer styles of oolong have emerged in the last several decades, and our Ali Shan Special is a stellar example.
Most Taiwanese tea farms produce four or five harvests a year, but Ali Shan Special has only two pluckings because the trees grow slowly and its leaves are not the longish style typical of other tea trees. Ali Shan’s leaves provide a fragrant buttery floral scent in the dry leaf some liken to lilacs and, when infused, provides a creamy grassiness on the tongue that is enormously satisfying.
ORIGIN: Grown at 1200 meters in the mountain ranges that cover Taiwan’s central south region, Ali Shan teas are often called Ancestor Mountain teas, perhaps a misnomer, as these teas have only been produced for less than four decades. Our selection comes from veteran farmer Yu Ting Chen whose handicraft makes this tea as beautiful to see as it is delicious to drink.
THE LEAF: Ali Shan leaves are naturally stunted, because they receive less sunlight than other oolong tea-growing areas. The upside to this anomaly is a leaf highly concentrated in both nutrients and complexity in the flavor. The hand plucking includes 2 to 4 young leaves that are withered and oxidized 30 to 40% on traditionally-made bamboo trays. Next, they are rolled into balls prior to gentle firing which produces an intensely green, tender leaf. The dry leaf has a floral scent not unlike a buttery sweetness.
HOW TO BREW: This tea can be brewed at boiling water (212°F.) for 2 to 3 minutes, or, if preferred, at less-than-boiling water, 195°F., and for 4 minutes with a heaping teaspoon, more or less to your taste to emphasize the green character of the leaf. Multiple infusions will provide similar flavor with each pouring, extending the pleasure and the value.
THE TASTE: This is an exceptional stand-alone tea that needs no accompaniments. Its wonderful creamy mouth feel segues into a long lasting aftertaste that is sustained over multiple infusions.
CAFFEINE: High level.
Ancient Tree Green Puerh
Puerh, the intentionally aged tea of China, is either shou (ripe) or sheng (raw) and in a category all its own. Our Ancient Tree Green Puerh is a delicious example. The process for raw, or sheng, puerh teas begins in a way similar to that of any green tea, but it will be intentionally aged in a loose-leaf style or pressed into thick dense cakes, skipping both the air drying or withering stage and the firing process used for most greens. Sheng puerh has a high level of polyphenols, powerful anti-oxidants that can improve one’s health, and like all puerhs, can impact digestion in a positive way. That makes it an ideal as an after-dinner drink, especially following a bountiful meal.
ORIGIN: Our Ancient Green Puerh is grown on trees at elevations of 800 meters in the mountain ranges of the birthplace of puerh, southern Yunnan. Harvested by Master Tea Farmer Xia Jun, Ancient Green Puerh is an exceptional addition to your green tea larder, one that offers the typical green tea essence, yet with the complexity of a skillfully-produced, highly complex puerh.
THE LEAF: In the dry state, the aroma is earthy yet full of fruity edges and the buds are silvery and long. The infused leaves are piquant and smoky-sweet.
HOW TO BREW: Steep at 212°F. for 3 minutes and expect a minimum of three infusions of medium-light amber liquor. Unlike its delicate green tea sisters, sheng puerhs can be brewed for longer times without developing astringency or bitterness. Use conventional teapots or opt for a glass vessel to enjoy the unfurling of the leaves.
TASTE: Because of the intentional aging process, puerhs have no astringency so they’re delightful to drink any time of the day. They provide a deep rich body some describe as akin to damp forest elements like mushrooms, or slow roasted root vegetables. Our selection has a soft, sweet smokiness with hints of honey and apricot and its liquor is exceptionally smooth on the palate with a layered, lingering aftertaste. It gets mellower and softer with time so the urgency one sometimes has to finish green tea selections quickly is moot with a green puerh.
CAFFEINE: High level.