Purple varietal white tea
This rare tea’s leaves come from wild purple tea trees that grow in the high mountain areas of Jinggu. The trees are a varietal often referred to as purple “ye sheng”. Since the trees are completely wild and relatively remote, this tea is produced in tiny quantities and production cannot be scaled. The cost of the tea is almost entirely due to the labor of finding and plucking the leaf material. It takes about 15 days for them to collect enough to process into 15kg of tea. I sampled 25g in 2017 and loved it. When I decided a month later to add it to the Tea Chest it had already sold out for the year. I don’t expect it to be around for me to reorder before the 2019 harvest, so get it while you can.
(I know, I know, another purple tea…I just love them so much. I’ve noticed their rarity often means more (hand)craftiness and skill goes into their making than the more common cultivars. And I’m all about that handmade tea and those heirloom and non-commoditized cultivars)
- Origin: Han Gu Di village area, Jinggu County of Simao, Yunnan, China
- Grower/Teamaster: Mr. Zheng
- Elevation: 1600-1750m
- Harvest Date: Spring 2018
- Cultivar: Camellia Sinensis var. Assamica Dehongensis, a varietal of what is often referred to as Purple "Ye Sheng".
- Cultivation: Wild tea trees growing without cultivation; naturally organic, no certification.
- Plucking Standard: Bud pluck
- Processing Notes: Brief withering and hot dry air exposure to halt the oxidation
- Nickname: Sweet Ya Bao, 甜芽苞
- History/Pedigree: This is a new tea to the market outside of China.
- Beautiful to look at in the brewing vessel and intensely aromatic for a white tea. Floral sweetness with fruit undertones. Like nothing I’ve tasted before.
Cupping the latest harvest
Long Jing is one of the most famous teas of China, and the authentic tea grown within the National Designated Protected Zone (NDPZ) of the original five West Lake villages is especially prized. The last lot of Long Jing on the LoC website was from Meijiawu Village, one of those villages. It was delicious and amazing. One of my lucky customers has bought out the last of it, on sale no less, so kudos to them. Unfortunately, due to it's rarity and the demand for it, the prices have skyrocketed way past what the U.S. market will typically support. Indeed, most of the "official" Long Jing from the NDPZ is now bought up in China and never gets out of the country. I only saw Meijiawu Long Jing in one place this year and it sold completely out in a matter of days. I also missed the opportunity to get a little of it for my own enjoyment.
I love the taste and craft of Long Jing, so I am exploring alternatives from outside of the area that use the Long Jing cultivars and are crafted with the same skill and love. Because of its popularity, Long Jing style tea is grown everywhere in China with varying degrees of success and quality. While the quality of the taste is "in the mouth" and subject to your preference and tastes, the ultimate success of the tea as "Long Jing" depends on how closely the terroir matches that of the NDPZ, the cultivars used (traditional heirloom, the commercially developed culitvar Longjing #43, or something else entirely) and the ability of the teamaker in matching the Long Jing style.
The picture above is from my cupping of a couple of candidates I am sampling. I hope to have a delicious alternative up on the website shortly. Another alternative that I love, is our Bao Hong Mountain tea, which is similar in appearance and shares some palette notes with Long Jing, even though it is a completely different cultivar than the ones use for Long Jing. And it is devotedly grown and processed by a family that has been producing this tea on their land for 10 generations.
I will notify all the subscribers when the new Long Jing is up!