Mengding Mountain Rock Essence
Mengding Mountain Rock Essence is a fine, thin, plucked bud that is manufactured as a green tea, not a yellow tea like its cousin Mengding Mountain Snowbuds. This is still an early spring tea, made from buds that are brimming with the vigor of tea bushes beginning their growth cycle. Rock Essence tea is made from the buds of tea bushes that grow at a higher altitude than Snowbuds, in a terroir that is more spare. The soil is thinner, the area more rocky and overall this location is colder and more remote. Hence the name is an appropriate one for a tea that reflects the solid nature of its stony, sparse surroundings.
This tea is exceptional among Chinese green teas and is not always available. It has a concentrated and beguiling piquant ‘rock’ flavor that also suggests windswept pines and the frosty chill of early spring mornings. Rock Essence is not a soft and sweet tea – it has a steely spine like a great Reisling wine. You can taste the effects of high altitude and thin air in this tea just as one can taste it in a Himalaya-grown tea, such as a 1st Flush Darjeeling tea. Rock essence needs several infusions to show off its deep-rooted flavor profile.
This mountain on the Tibetan Plateau in NW Sichuan Province is likely the birthplace of cultivated tea. Mengding Mountain is northwest of Mt Emei, one of the four sacred mountains in Chinese Buddhism. We fell head over heels for this tea the first time we drank it in 2004 at the monastery on Mengding Mountain.
Zhu Hai Jin Ming
Zhu Hai Jin Ming is a stunning black tea from Zhu Hai village, located in Yixing county, Jiangsu Province. Jiangsu’s most famous tea is the lovely Bi Lo Chun green tea; other than that, Yixing County is best known to tea enthusiasts in the west as the place where the famous Yixing purple clay teapots are made.
This tea caught our attention recently and we swooned over the samples we were sent. It has the tippy style and polished appearance of Panyang or Bai Lin Congou, two terrific black teas from Fujian Province that are very popular with our tea customers.
But, in addition to the soft oxidation-style that is so characteristic of elegant Chinese black teas, Zhu Hai Jin Ming has a distinctive, concentrated flavor that is elusively reminiscent of the gorgeous floral flavor of a Fenghuang Dan Cong Zhi Lan Xiang oolong tea. While Zhu Hai is indeed a true black tea, its beguiling flavor makes it seductively different than all other Chinese black teas.
Japanese Fukamushi Shincha ‘First Sprout’
This Shincha was picked around May 2nd and is sometimes called Eighty-Eighth (88th) Night Shincha. This refers to Shincha tea that was picked on the 88th day after the first day of spring in the traditional Japanese calendar. This marks a special time in the Japanese agricultural calendar ( known as “Hachijuhachiya” in Japanese ) as it is the time that all the plants and vegetation begin to sprout.
The leaves of First Sprout are very shiny, thin and delicate. The leaf is picked and then processed very quickly, in order to highlight the incredible freshness of the early spring flavor. This fresh taste can be delicate, and is sweeter than the rest of the year’s Japanese green tea. The pungently delightful aroma is a celebration of the smell that you breathe when you visit a tea garden and factory in the rural Japanese landscape in the spring.
Picked in small quantity and kept meticulously, First Sprout Shincha is available for only a short time, and is highly sought-after. It is best drunk during the season – now, when it is young and full of the moment. It is not a tea for keeping, or saving for special occasions ‘later’