This coming weekend the consultants are excited to present a flight of Chinese green teas from Zhejiang province. The first is Jin Shan, a green and white curly tea with a pale liquor and a subtle sweetness of caramelized sugars. Chun Lu, one of the stronger Chinese greens with a robust flavor of steamed asparagus. Last, but certainly not least is Lung Ching (a.k.a Dragonwell), possibly China's most famous green. Dried in woks, it has a sweet, smooth grassy flavor, countered by aromas of roasted nuts.
Jin Shan is both a tea and an ancient-tea growing region. The bushes thrive in the cool mountains that separate Zhejiang from Anhui province. Jin Shan is located just outside a large Buddhist monastery, where the monks developed the tea for their own consumption, for tribute to the emperor and for sale to support their monastery. These same monks may have also been responsible for introducing Japan to green tea when in the ninth century they gave Jin Shan tea to monks visiting from Japan. Jin Shan's brew has a compelling aroma; a mixture of floral, citrus and vegetal notes, whereas the flavor tastes more of steamed artichokes.
Chun Lu is produced in a region called Thousand Islands (Qiandao Lake). These gardens are truly spectacular because they are one of the few that are surrounded by water. The region was a mountain range that was filled since the completion of the Xin'an River hydroelectric station, creating 1,078 large islands, with thousands of smaller ones. Chun Lu has a dark, curly leaf and is harvested later in spring which allows the leaves to mature a bit more. This lends itself to the teas darker, more vegetal flavors of asparagus and spinach, something a bit uncharacteristic of Chinese greens.
Lung Ching is to Chinese green teas what French Champagne is to sparkling wines: the standard against which all others are measured. With almost no tip, it has the classic green tea qualities of steamed bok choy and toasted nuts. Though Xi Hu, or the West Lake, has been producing tea for centuries, Lung Ching became a tribute tea during the Qing dynasty. Lung Ching means "Dragon's Well", which refers to an old well halfway up a hill outside Hangzhou, where the tea was originally grown.