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ELLEN'S KITCHEN

Greens, Oolongs, Pu-erh and Jasmine Teas

The visit of Chinese friends recently prompted tea research and resulted in many fine cups of tea. For even more tea information, check out this comprehensive tea history link.

Jasmine Dragon Phoenix Pearl, or Dragon Pearl

Dragon-phoenix ball or pearl tea was a general designation for Song's North Garden tribute tea, which included the Dragon ball tea and the Phoenix Cake Tea. The North Garden was located in Phoenix Mountain of Jian'ou, Fujian Province. The Dragon-phoenix ball tea was already made during Song Taiping Xingguo period (A.D. 976-983). During the Xianping period (A.D 998-1003), Ding Wei made "Big Dragon Ball" to pay tribute. During Qingli period, Cai Xiang made "small Dragon Ball" which got the better of the "Big Dragon Ball". The Dragon-phoenix ball tea was the greatest achievement of ancient Chinese cake tea production.

This lovely tea is now grown in the Fujian and Jiangxi provinces, and Guandong province. Some say Dragon Phoenix Pearl gets its name from the tea bushes "climbing the hillsides like a Dragon rising from the waters". Others suggest it refers to the way the green and white leaves of the tea twist and swirl around one another. It is grown in a mountainous, often fog-shrouded area near the border of the Fujian and Jiangxi provinces. Dragon Phoenix Pearl is one of the finest jasmines shipped from the port of Foochow.

Jasmine pearls are tightly rolled white tea leaves (in tea talk, white = buds only) that have been suffused with Jasmine essence in the drying process. Lower grade Jasmine teas are packed with the flowers included; the best jasmine teas are not, since the scenting process has completely infused a very strong flavor and essence of Jasmine over a very delicate tea. Guandong province tea is excellent and very similar to the Jasmine Pearls from Imperial Tea Court at almost half the price. The base flavor of the Imperial Tea Court Pearls is superior, but it is not an exceptional difference.

The tea is plucked in April and May and stored until August when the finest jasmine blossoms are in bloom. Night blooming white jasmine flowers are picked in the morning when the tiny petals are tightly closed and kept cool until nightfall. In the early evening the flowers begin to open with a popping sound which is the signal for the scenting to begin.

Once open, the "mating" of the jasmine and tea leaves takes place in up to seven applications, each taking up to four hours, after which the jasmine petals are removed. Once the petals are removed each leaf and bud set are skillfully hand rolled into a tiny pearl size ball. The tea is then wrapped in silk mesh and dried to set the form. The "pearls" vary somewhat in size, with the higher grades containing larger and fewer broken pearls.

When steeped, these leaves unroll and produce a tea with a pronounced floral and fresh green tea scent, a full-bodied refreshing sweet taste, and a pleasing long lasting floral aftertaste. The hue of this tea is a light peach color.

During the first infusion the boiling water causes the tiny pearls to open like flowers and then sink slowly to the bottom of the cup. Amount? It is recommended to place 12 to 20 of these tiny pearls in a clear glass mug (10-12 ounces) to watch their graceful unfurling- some Western restaurants even serve it in a wine glass. Enjoy the superb fresh bouquet, delicate flavor and unique leaf without milk or sugar. This tea is special due to the scenting process, the tea that is used as its base, and the care taken afterwards. A typical grade of jasmine tea is scented once with jasmine petals, but in Pearl Jasmine the tea leaves are scented seven times. The green tea that is used as the Pearl Jasmine's base is a very high grade of green tea grown in China.

Dragon Pearl tea leaves are customarily reinfused by adding additional hotter water to the cup for a morning of drinking. Tea connoisseurs suggest pleasant differences in the flavor can be perceived for four to seven brewings.

It is recommended that oolong and white teas be brewed at a slightly lower water temperature than black tea, as the flavors are more delicate and volatile. Remove the freshly boiled water from the heat and allow it to stand for at least one minute- temperature 170-180 degrees. For multiple infusions, increase time and water temperature with each infusion.

The water used to steep this tea should be about 160-180F or 70-80C. Use about 2 teaspoons (3 grams) of tea leaves for about every 5 ounces (150 milliliters) of water. A steeping time of about 3-5 minutes with more or less time is recommended depending on the desired concentration. As a rough guide, the hotter the water or the greater the amount of leaves used, the shorter the steeping time should be. The use of a covered glass or ceramic cup is recommended for steeping in order to appreciate the tea leaves.

http://www.redtopcrane.com- best price on line for a good quality dragon pearl- special 4 oz was on sale for 9.99 July 2001(usually $20-30) Stash is widely available, but you can get better quality for their price.

Jasmine Teas

Jasmine Teas are famous teas made from Green or Pouchong (Chinese Green) tea leaves that are scented with jasmine flowers. Pouchong (China), also called Bao Jong or Baozhong, is allowed to wither before firing; hence it is just shy of being oolong. The jasmine flowers are harvested during the day when they are tightly closed and stored in a cool place until night. During the night, the flowers bloom with full fragrance. The flowers are layered over the tea leaves during the scenting process. The quality of Jasmine tea is determined by the quality of green tea used as its base and the effectiveness of the scenting.

Silver Needles Jasmine

Exquisite Silver Needle tea from Fujian province provides the luxurious base for this extraordinary scented tea treasure in which the rich and distinctive flavor of silver needle tea is expertly infused with the sweet, delicate fragrance of fresh summer jasmine blossoms. Its pale, almost clear liquor has a unique, subtle, and complex taste unlike any other grade or variety of jasmine tea- making it a true Imperial connoisseurs beverage.

Yin Hao Jasmine

Attractive large, twisted leaves and abundant silver tips (the name in Chinese means Silver Hair) combine with the delicate sweetness of summer jasmine to create a superior jasmine-scented green tea that's rich, smooth, and full of flavor. It is also packed with caffeine.

This very high quality jasmine consists of green tea grown in China, scented with jasmine petals three to four times. A typical grade of Jasmine tea will be scented once with jasmine petals. The green tea leaves used as Super Fine Jasmine's base are very tender and young as indicated by its white streaks. Tea made from these leaves have a light peach color hue. It has a strong sweet floral and fresh scent, sweet refreshing taste, and a lingering aftertaste that is fresh and floral. It can be reinfused several times.

For intermediate price jasmine teas, the green tea leaves used as the base are often young as indicated by slim needle-like leaves. Tea made from these leaves has a light yellowish-green hue. It has a sweet floral scent with green tea undertones, light refreshing and sweet taste, and a lingering aftertaste that is pleasantly pure and sweet.

The least expensive jasmine tea is usually Chinese Green Tea (Pouchong), grown in Taiwan, and is scented with jasmine petals. Accompanied by a few jasmine petals, these leaves are larger than green tea leaves and rolled. Tea made from these leaves have a yellowish-green hue. It has a mild floral scent, light refreshing taste, and a lingering aftertaste that is decidedly pure and natural.

The water used to steep jasmine tea should be about 160-180F or 70-80C. Use about 2 teaspoons (3 g) of tea leaves for about every 5 ounces (150 mL) of water. A steeping time of about 3-5 minutes with more or less time is recommended depending on the desired concentration. It usually is infused only once.

Pu-Erh Tea

Pu-Erh Tea is a famous and popular beverage in Canton province and Southwestern China, many grades are grown in Yunnan province. It is a post-fermented tea. Pu-erh is an unusual large-leafed oolong with a characteristic earthy flavor. The color is very dark, almost red. It is marketed in bulk as Pu-erh or shaped into cakes as Pu'er Cake Tea. Some varieties are cultivated to develop a thin layer of mold on the leaves. (Although this is unusual for most tea, skittish Western tea drinkers ought to keep in mind that mold is also a key ingredient in widely consumed Western products such as cheese.) In some Chinese dialects, this tea's name is pronounced 'po lay'.

Pu-erh is renowned for its alleged medicinal effects on the digestive tract. Some Chinese, in fact, drink it only as medicine. In any case, it is an acquired taste. The term 'earthy' applies almost literally, as some pu-erh tastes remarkably like dirt. This is not a criticism, but novices should taste the tea before buying it. When brewed Pu-Erh tea has a dark reddish color with a strong, full and earthy taste. 1st Grade Pu-Erh Tea has a very dark reddish brown color. The aroma is distinct with an earthy undertone. The taste is lightly roasted with a prominent initial flavor and the aftertaste is slightly sweet and roasted which lingers.

2nd Grade Pu-Erh Tea has a light brownish orange color. The aroma is a strong earthy scent with an aged quality to it. The tea has a very strong earthy flavor with a sweet undertone and a longlasting strong aftertaste which is earthy and somewhat sweet.

3rd Grade Pu-Erh has a light orangish brown color. The aroma is a faint earthy scent with roasted and sweet undertones. The tea has a mild roasted and sweet earthy taste. The lingering aftertaste is slighty sweet and lightly earthy.

The water used to steep this tea should be at the boiling point, 212F (100C). Use about 2 teaspoons (3 grams) of tea leaves for about every 5 ounces (150 milliliters) of water. A steeping time of about 3-5 minutes is recommended with more or less time depending on the desired concentration.

Yunnan Tuo Pu-Erh Tea is comprised of Pu-Erh leaves taken and pressed into the shape of a small bowl. Quality is quite variable, TenRen has requested that its Yunnan Tuo be made of better quality Pu-Erh tea leaves than the typical Yunnan Tuo. In order to break a piece off the Yunnan Tuo for tea, we recommend that it be wrapped in a towel and a hammer carefully used to smash it into pieces.

Boiling water at approximately 200-212F/95-100C should be used for steeping. Use 1-2 ounces (3-6 grams) of loose Pu-Erh tea of every 1-1.5 cups (150-300ml) of water. Steep for about 2-3 minutes or until desired concentration is used.

Oolong Teas

Oolongs are semi-fermented teas known for rich taste and pleasant lasting aftertaste. Grading for oolongs goes from Fanciest or Extra Fancy (best) to Common (cheapest). Unlike other tea types, which grade the LEAVES, this grading system one actually rates the quality of the DRINK you can get from the leaves. The top grades are Fanciest or Extra Fancy, Fancy, and Extra Choice (or Extra Fine).Oolongs can be further classified as Dark or Green with Dark Oolongs baked longer than Green Oolongs. Green Oolongs (which are not related to Green teas in any way) tend to have a stronger fragrance while Dark Oolongs tend to have a stronger aftertaste.

First Grade Green Oolong consists of the finest oolong harvested during the premium seasons, spring and winter, and from the best area to grow oolong, the mountains of central Taiwan. Each tea leaf is handpicked to ensure harvests of young terminal buds. Because Green Oolong is not baked as long as Dark Oolong, the steeped tea has a light green hue, sweet flora aroma with roasted undertones, brief tartness as the initial flavor, and a wondrously sweet, pure aftertaste which lasts long after the sip.

The best quality oolong is grown and harvested from the mountains of Taiwan such as the Tianli Oolong, one of the finest and most rare oolongs.

The water used to steep oolong tea should be about 185-195F or 85-90C. Use about 2 teaspoons (3 grams) of tea leaves for about every 5 ounces (150 milliliters) of water. A steeping time of about 3-5 minutes is recommended with more or less time depending on the desired concentration. As a rough guide, the higher the temperature of the water or the greater the amount of leaves used, the shorter the steeping time should be. The tea leaves should uncurled for full flavor. For the ultimate enjoyment, a traditional Chinese Yixing teapot is recommended for loose oolong tea. The teapot should be half filled with leaves and initially steeped for 45 seconds to 1 minute with the steeping time increased by an additional 15 seconds for each successive steeping. The leaves may be steeped multiple times.

Ti Kuan Yin

Ti Kuan Yin is often grouped with the Oolong tea family because it is a semi-fermented tea. It is a very close relative of Dark Oolong tea because it is baked longer than Green Oolong, however Ti Kuan Yin differs from all Oolongs because it is allowed to ferment longer. Ti Kuan Yin tea leaves tend to be more spherical than Oolong tea leaves. Due to the dark appearance of the dry leaves and a ancient story, Ti Kuan Yin is named after the Iron Goddess of Mercy. Tea brewed from Ti Kuan Yin typically has a golden brown color, strong baked aroma, rich taste, and a sweet roasted aftertaste.

Ti Kuan Yin (Tie Guan Yin or Tieguanyin) consists of quality tea leaves, usually harvested and processed in Taiwan. Anxi Ti Kuan Yin is from Anxi, a town in the southeastern part of the Fujian Province in China, known for producing the finest Ti Kuan Yin in the world. The cost roughly corresponds to the quality and may be as high as $9-10 per ounce or as little as $6-7 per pound. When brewed, Ti Kuan Yin has a golden brown to dark golden-brown color and its leaves have a twisted shape. The tea has a roasted aroma: the finest grade has a sweet heavy roasted aroma, enduring sweet roasted taste and a strong sweet aftertaste which lingers for awhile, while the 4th grade has a light taste and a light sweet roasted aftertaste.

The water used to steep this tea should be about 185-195F or 85-90C. Use about 2 teaspoons (3 grams) of tea leaves for about every 5 ounces (150 milliliters) of water. A steeping time of about 3-5 minutes is recommended with more or less time depending on the desired concentration. As a rough guide, the higher the temperature of the water or the greater the amount of leaves used, the shorter the steeping time should be. For the ultimate enjoyment, a traditional Chinese Yixing teapot is recommended for loose Ti Kuan Yin tea. The teapot should be half filled with leaves and initially steeped for 45 seconds to 1 minute with the steeping time increased by an additional 15 seconds for each successive steeping. The leaves may be steeped multiple times.

"Monkey-Picked" is a term applied in memory of the time when the most highly prized teas were harvested from wild tea bushes found in the steep rocky mountain areas of China's Fujian province. Stories describe dedicated tea aficionados with trained monkeys that could easily climb up to the highest growing, most inaccessible plants and retrieve with their treasured leaves. Since the modern cultivation of more hospitable gardens in Fujian's famous Anxi country, monkeys have long since been unemployed in the business of tea, but their services (legendary or not) have been commemorated in the name of our most famous tea: Monkey-Picked Tieguanyin - whose intensely aromatic infusion offers the connoisseur an unforgettably rich tasting experience.

Green teas Unfermented, refreshing, and available in an enormous range of flavors and qualities, green tea remains the preferred drink for spring and summer. A sampling of green teas offered by Imperial Tea Company.

Gunpowder (pellets, tightly rolled from young leaves and buds) Young Hyson (young leaves rolled long and thin), Imperial (pellets loosely rolled from older leaves), Twankay (unrolled leaves of poor quality)

Gunpowder is rolled very tightly; the leaves look like small pellets. The Chinese term for this tea, Zhucha, means 'Pearl Tea'. It is grown in Zhejiang province, near Shanghai. Gunpowder is one of China's best known teas, famous for its pleasing pearl shape and strong, slightly smoky flavor. Excellent with food.

Imperial Green: Striking leaves with enchanting floral aroma and unexpected depth of flavor.

Golden Brow: The tiniest, most perfect leaves make up this wonderfully sweet & nutty tea.

Dragon Well (also called "Longjing" or "Lung Ching"): complex, subtle and almost sweet. Fancy Dragon Well has distinctive pan-fired leaves with a fresh aroma and rich, smooth, surprisingly full-bodied taste.

Snow Water: One of the most beautiful green teas of the year - crisp, full and smooth.

Bi Luo Chun: One the most famous of all Chinese green teas - known for its tiny, curled leaves and buttery flavor.

Wu Xi Hao Cha: Utterly unique down-covered leaves whose full-bodied liquor is subtly flavored & textured.

Goat Rock Green: A beautiful, bright green Zhejiang tea with a full flavor and a funny name.

Green Bamboo: Limited production open-leaf and silver bud green tea with a dense aroma and smooth taste.

Gua Pian: One of China's "10 Famous Teas" - an Anhui specialty unique in appearance and big on flavor.

Jade Mist: A special new addition to the collection that's unique in appearance and full and nutty in flavor. Quan Gong White Cloud: A crisp, tightly rolled glossy white green tea from Zhejiang province.

Jiang Shan Peony: Tiny, flawless, petal-like leaf and bud sets with a rich and savory full-bodied infusion.

Lu Shan Cloud & Mist: The legendary "Cloud & Mist" tea of Lu Mountain in Jiangxi.

Yang Xian Snow Buds: Ancient "tribute" tea of Yixing - the teapot capital of China.

Tai Ping Monkey King: A new and exotic bright green tea from Anhui province.

Sichuan Yellow Bud: A uniquely hearty yellow tea from Sichuan province. Not a green tea at all, but instead a yellow tea - a variety little known outside China. (An extra step during the processing gives the leaves their unique golden color.) Formerly a "tribute" tea reserved for the emperor, this exquisite tea proudly displays its imperial heritage. Meticulously harvested and pan-fired, the character of Sichuan Yellow Bud is not unlike that of a superior Dragon Well - with a sweetly floral, rich vegetal flavor and crisp, refreshing finish.

Huoshan Huang Ya: Deeply floral "yellow bud" tea of Anhui province.

Huangshan Mao Feng: One of China's Ten Famous Teas. Delicate, fragrant and surprisingly floral.

Misty Mountain: Long, elegantly twisted silvery down-covered leaves with a distinctively crisp, fruity flavor & smooth texture.

Misty Island: A delightfully flavorful green tea grown in a unique island setting.

Genmai Cha: A popular and attractive selection featuring a rich and savory blend of green tea and lightly roasted rice.

Mao Jiang: Beautifully curled deep green leaves and shimmering silver buds with a light, refreshingly smooth taste.

Purple Bamboo: Famous for its lovely open leaf and bud sets and for the refreshment of its crisp, nutty infusion.

Yunnan Green: A bold green tea with a sweet aroma, full body, and bright floral flavor and a crisp, clean aftertaste.

Jade Fire: Rich, full-bodied and smooth with a delicate hint of smokiness. Exceptionally flavorful and refined.

Pine Needles: Steamed and tightly rolled deep green leaves with a rich grassy aroma and crisp, clean taste.

Dragon Whiskers: Curly aromatic dark green leaves and abundant silver tips with a robustly sweet and nutty infusion.

Sencha: A famous steamed green tea known for its bright cup, full body and distinctively fresh grassy flavor.

Green Peony: A beautiful hand-tied blossom of tea leaves with a distinctively rich, smooth flavor lasting through many infusions. "Red peony" is the comparable fermented or black tea.

Sword of the Emperor: Exotic green leaves and silver buds whose fragrant infusion is smooth & fruity.

When preparing tea for drinking, oolong teas are made using hot water, while that used for black tea (which is the only kind produced in India and Sri Lanka) should be virtually boiling. The water used for green tea should be much cooler, never more than 70 degrees C. and for the first cup of a really good tea, such as, water as low as 40 degrees C. has been used to produce the best results. If the water is too hot, or is allowed to remain too long on the leaves, the finest taste is lost and the bitter elements emerge.

Tea production and black or red teas

Decaffeinating tea by brewing, and Taiwan Bubble Tea

 
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