During our most recent trip to China, we journeyed to the Weishan area. There, in back of the Buddhist temple, is an organic garden where we found a spring tea. It turned out to be a delightful discovery. Light in the cup, Weishan Mao Feng features just the right roast flavors.
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Weishan is well known inside Hunan Province for its Buddhist temple honoring Guan Yin, and like many such centers there was tea made around the temple. Originally, it was probably monks that made the tea and then passed their knowledge down the local peasants. Most of the teas are very rustic with much use of charcoal firing that makes for a very smoky (and unpleasant for most Westerners) flavor. In fact they make a blend of tough leaves and dried vegetables that is made into a soup for the hard working local peasants. Although this region is not well known outside of Hunan, we like this example of the lighter, more elegant teas that are starting to be made.
"Mao Feng means "downy tip" in Chinese, meaning the bud is young and covered with white "down" like a bird. These are the tricomes or small outgrowths that protect the very young tea tip (also called a bud) from insects and hostile weather conditions. As the leaves matures, the tricomes disappear. So when one sees the "downy" tricomes it is a sign of a very young tip with all the desired qualities of sweetness and elevated levels of antioxidants. These leaves are definitely small with a silvery tips.
The color of the this tea is very light green with a slight khaki tinge that comes from the final firing over charcoal.
Light with vegetal roasts. This is the result of a light firing over charcoal in the traditional manner.
As mentioned, the leaves are very small and there are many tips, so the body is very light.
The mixture of light vegetal flavors of steamed green beans or artichokes is accented by the definite roast flavors from the final charcoal firing.