Saturday, September 14, 2013

Dongting Mountain Biluochun Tea ● 洞庭山碧螺春茶

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Dongting Mountain Biluochun Tea ● 洞庭山碧螺春茶

Bilochun is another from China's varying list of Ten Famous Teas, Bilochun is usually ranked second, after Dragon Well. It grows beside Dongting Mountain in Jiangsu Province.

Bi Luo Chun (Green Snail Spring, 碧螺春), was originally named "Scary Fragrance" (Xia Sha Ren Xiang, 嚇煞人香). Legend tells of a girl who discovered the tree and after she'd filled her basket with leaves she resorted to stuffing her breast with them. When her body heated the leaves, the emitted a strong scent that surprised her. When the Emperor visited the area in 1699, he thought it deserved a more elegant title and renamed the tea Biluochun since the tiny green leaves are coiled like a snail and they are harvested very early in spring.

Though Dragon Well is listed as the most famous, Biluochun has long been considered the superior of the two. When I first inquired at the teashop about high quality Chinese green tea, Biluochun is what Mr Ahn sold me. However, the next spring, when I asked for more he said the quality of Biluochun had dropped but the price had risen. Lately, when I asked about Biluochun, Mr Ahn would point to the box of Taiping Houkui (太平猴魁) and said if I want good Chinese green tea, I should buy that! Part of the reason is that with the increase of income in China, many of the great teas aren't leaving the country anymore. Great for China, unfortunate for the rest of us!

A couple of months ago, I found a box of Biluochun on the shelf among some other specialty Chinese teas. The box contained rows of 3.5 gram packets for individual sale. Per gram, they were still extremely expensive, but for a small sample, it wasn't an issue (and they gave me a second one for free!).

The packets were nicely designed with a beautiful (yet pixelated) image of Kwan Yin holding a tea leaf in her outstretched arm. Emptying out the leaves, I was pleased to see a great amount of "tea down", tiny hairs that bundle together like dust bunnies during the processing. It's a key feature of Biluochun and the amount of hair is a good signifier of the quality of the tea.

The scent of the leaves was pleasant but faint. With most teas, there is some familiar comparison to be made, peach, honey, rose, citrus, but with green tea I often find myself grasping. Perhaps the scent of a dry summer's breeze on a hot day as it brushes over a flowery meadow, surrounded by Chestnut trees? I don't know... Something's still missing. Sort of like Mr Ahn says there's something missing compared to the Biluochun of a few years ago.

Pouring the first cup, the tea is almost chalky from the down. It adds a thick texture to an otherwise soft, gentle tea. The taste is nice but in a tea that is already known for its subtlety, losing any flavour leaves little to appreciate. The second and third steep were similar, delicious but thin and little remaining in the leaf after. In a second session, I used a smaller pot and was able to stretch out a few more cups but, for the value there are better teas to spend your money on. That said, I won't mind enjoying a sample now and then.



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3 comments:

  1. You know, the last bi luo chun I tried was also really lightweight, I guess we're just going to have to go to China to get the good stuff!

    You take the most glorious pictures, btw.

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  2. Research has shown the black tea can be used in fighting against cancer. Properties of the tea slow down the growth of cancerous cells without destroying healthy cells.

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  3. Good tea, drink can refresh... Function with tea.

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