Confining scope to just the teas of China, it seems to me that tea drinkers in the United States tend not to approach green teas with the same level of seriousness that they afford rare aged pu’er teas or high quality oolongs.
But there are indeed some fabulous and exquisite green teas from China, some of which have been well-known and respected enough to get regularly included in the “Top Ten Chinese Teas” lists, most commonly Bi Luo Chun and Long Jing (Dragon Well). And there are other lesser known but wonderful green teas that we’re lucky enough to encounter here in the United States. Lan Xiang Xian Zhi (Orchid Fairy Twig, 蘭香仙枝), sourced by Life in Teacup, is assuredly one of the nicest I’ve run into lately.
This rarely exported green tea comes from Jiangxi Province, situated near the middle of the southern part of China. It is very lovely, complex and for the most part unlike any other tea I can think of. The tea has a very interesting pre-brewed appearance. The leaves are tiny and very narrow, but mostly straight rather than curly like Bi Luo Chun dry leaf. They’re rich and varied in color and have a nice grassy-sweet scent. The brewed liquor yields a nice grassy, alpine-lake quality, a little like heavily diluted mint or lemon.
I brewed this tea using slightly cooled water, and initially steeped it for about 20 seconds. The brewed liquor had a warm, silky quality to it and a delicious aroma. Its underlying tones and variation from infusion to infusion deemed it exceptionally unusual. It held up to five very satisfying infusions before it began to lose its character.
Interestingly the only two green teas that I can think to compare it to are Gushan Baiyun (Drum Mountain White Cloud) from Fujian Province and Trà Móc Câu (Fish Hook Tea) a green tea from Vietnam. But these other teas are only slight references and pale in comparison. The Gushan Baiyun I have tasted was good, but not nearly as interesting as this Lan Xiang Xian Zhi. The Trà Móc Câu I’ve had was of considerably lower quality and did not have anything close to the special, delicate flavors of the Lan Xiang Xian Zhi, although it did have a vague similarity in the sweet, slightly pleasantly bitter character of the brew.
The tea I tasted was last spring’s harvest and is not currently available for sale on Life In Teacup, but I would recommend trying to get some of this coming spring’s harvest if it becomes available for sale.
Read more about this tea on Life In Teacup’s blog: “Two Great Teas of Jiang Xi Province (1) – Orchid Fairy Twig 蘭香仙枝”.