Monthly Archives: April 2013

2013 Yunnan Mao Feng

A fantastic fresh Chinese green tea from Stone Leaf. My fiancée describes it as “like pesto”, and she’s right. There’s the salty, the sweet, the nutty, and the green.

The aroma is gently, according to my tasting chart, empyreumatic: kind of toasty, but certainly the fresh vegetable taste carries most of the weight. We had trouble coming up with which vegetable we noticed specifically, and I think it’s watercress. Crisp and sweet.

The body is medium and not over-strong and the liquor is a spring green. The aftertaste is that Yunnan dryness, certainly, but it’s almost overwhelmed by the sweetness that lingers at the tip of the tongue.

I would say we got a good four infusions before the flavors started to wane. Even the fifth infusion was still bold and sweet, although I had to steep it a little long (maybe 2 or 3 minutes).

If you have not tasted a fresh Chinese green, I cannot recommend it highly enough. There is an energy, a bright qi, that just does not exist after a few months.

The Names of Tea

Ever since I started studying tea, I’ve been fascinated with the words I encounter. Naturally, many of them come from China. I don’t speak any Chinese dialect fluently, but I do know a word or two and I’ve made a point to learn the proper way to pronounce and write the teas I deal with every day (that’s not to say I always get it right).

To this end, I keep a list of tea as a pronunciation guide. Below is my current list (by no means exhaustive); I thought it might be interesting to the world. I’ll add to it as I learn more.

Please note that I use Pinyin for romanization, although many of the tea names you’ll encounter in the world are still using Wade-Giles or some random other phonetic transliteration.

If you are unfamiliar with Pinyin, it is worth noting that not everything is pronounced the way an English speaker might think. For example, “Sì” is pronounced something like “Tse” and “Cōng” is something like “Song”. The four tone marks (accents) are very important and visually mark how the voice rises or falls with that character, changing its meaning. (For those who do know Pinyin, remember that the first of two third tones becomes a second tone!)


  • Gāo Shān Chá (“High Mountain Tea”, applied to anything grown above 1km), 高山茶
  • Wū Lóng (lit. “Black Dragon”, proper way to say “Oolong”), 乌龙 or 烏龍
  • Shuǐ Xiān (“Water Nymph”), 水仙
  • Tiě Guān Yīn (“Iron Goddess of Compassion”), 铁观音 or 鐵觀音
  • Bāo Zhǒng (“Wrapped Package”), 包種
  • Cuì Yù (“Jade”), 翠玉
  • Dòng Dǐng (“Frozen Summit”), 凍頂
  • Fèng Huáng Dān Cōng (“Phoenix Single Trunk”), 凤凰单丛
  • Dà Hòng Páo (“Big Red Robe”), 大红袍
  • Bái Háo / Dōng Fāng Měi Rén Chá (“White Hair”/”Oriental Beauty Tea”), 白毫 / 東方美人茶
  • Sì Jì Chūn (“Four Seasons Spring”), 四季春
  • Āli Shān (“Mount Ali”, from central Taiwan), 阿里山


  • Lù Chá (“Green Tea”), 绿茶
  • Lóng Jǐng (“Dragon Well”), 龙井 or 龍井
  • Diān Lù É Shān Máo Fēng (“Yunnan Green Lofty Mountain One Bud Two Leaves”, 峨 = “lofty”) 滇绿峨毛峰
  • Huáng Shān Máo Fēng (“Yellow Mountain One Bud Two Leaves”), 黄山毛峰
  • Mòu Lì Huā Chá (“Jasmine Flower Tea”) 茉莉花茶
  • Liù Ān Guā Piàn (“Melon Seeds from Liu’An”), 六安瓜片
  • Bì Ló Chūn Tài Hú (“Green Snail Spring from Lake Tai”), 碧螺春太湖 (sometimes “moves Buddha’s heart”, 佛动心)
  • Pǔ Tuó Shān Fó Chá (“Putuo Mountain Buddha’s Tea”), 普陀山佛茶
  • Simáo Lóng Zhū (“Simao Dragon Pearl”, Simao/Puer is a city in Yunnan), 思茅龙珠
  • Tiān Mù Lóng Zhū (“Heaven’s Eye Dragon Pearl”), 天目龙珠
  • Máo Jiān (“Furry Tip”), 毛尖


  • Yín Zhēn (“Silver Needle”, pronounced like “een jhun”), 银针
  • Baí Mǔ Dān (“White Peony”), 白牡丹


  • Qí Mén Hóng Chá/Qí Hóng Máo Fēng (“Great Gate Red Tea”/”Great Red One Bud Two Leaves”, Qimen is in Anhui), 祁门红茶 or 祁門红茶 / 祁红毛峰
  • Diān Hóng Chá (“Yunnan Red Tea”), 滇红茶
  • Zhèng Shēn Xiǎo Zhǒng (“Right Mountain Small Type”, the proper name for Lapsang Souchong), 正山小种
  • Jīn Zhēn (“Golden Needle”), 金针 or 金針


  • Hēi Chá (“Dark Tea”, the proper category of Puer, which is regional), 黑茶
  • Qī Zi Bǐng Chá (“Seven Sons Cake Tea”), 七子饼茶
  • Shoú Pǔ Ěr (“Ripe Puer”, Accelerated Aging), 熟茶
  • Shēng Pǔ Ěr (“Raw Puer”, Natural Aging), 生茶
  • Lǎo Shù Bǐng Chá (“Old Tree Cake Tea”), 老树饼茶
  • Xiāng Wèi Túo Chá (“Sweet Smell Bowl Tea”), 香味沱茶
  • Bái Yá Bǐng Chá (“White Bud Cake Tea”), 白芽饼茶
  • Qīng Bǐng Chá (“Green Cake Tea”, another name for Shēng Puer), 青饼茶


  • Gōng Fū (“Skillful”), 功夫
  • Lǎo Chá (“Old Tea” or aged tea), 老茶
  • Gài Wǎn / Gài Bēi (“Lidded Bowl”/”Lidded Cup”), 盖碗 / 盖杯
  • Chá Hú (“Tea Pot”), 茶壶 or 茶壺

Hawaiian Oolong

A gift from the kind owners of Dobra Tea, this Hawaiian oolong is really a fascinating mystery. I haven’t felt adventurous enough until today to give it a try. Until a few months ago I didn’t even know that there was tea grown in Hawaii, and now I’ve sampled several.

The dry leaves are large, dark green, and quite waxy in appearance. A few blushes of red are also apparent.

The buttery, clove and cardamom-like aroma of the warm leaves reminded me instantly of christmas cookies. The liquor is a dramatic pumpkin orange, more glowing than any oolong I think I’ve seen. A little woody, the flavor of cardamom definitely lies in the flavor as well and a noticeably rich sweetness that remains on the tongue.

I managed a good 4 infusions, and I think a few more are present, but my obligations take me away from the gaiwan for now.

2012 Tai Ping Hou Kui

I have to confess that I started this tea session with the plan to use my jade gaiwan. The last time I used it was just after its purchase in Dali (大理) with some average shou puer. It didn’t work particularly well. I had the thought that maybe it would work better with some green tea. When I started warming everything, I poured some hot water (probably around 90 C) into the gaiwan and heard the terrifying sound of cracking stone. Ah, impermanence! The gaiwan is still intact, but I’ve made the decision that it is definitely more of a show piece than a tea pot. Back to the shelf it goes!

For the tea, I chose a large-leafed green that I don’t make enough: Tai Ping Hou Kui (太平猴魁), usually called “The Monkey King”. Hou Kui tea is from Liu’An (六安) in Anhui (安徽) province, where I spent a few days last spring. This particular Hou Kui was purchased from some friends we met there who owned a small tea company.

The cultivar, according to Wikipedia, is Shi Da Cha. The leaves are massive. I think that they’re larger than any Hou Kui I’ve had before. When I was in Liu’An I didn’t have a chance to see the bushes where these leaves were harvested, but now I wish that I had made an effort. Beautifully pressed into flat, patterned leaf sets much like Hangzhou Long Jing, they melt into the gaiwan like long pasta once water is poured on.

What a delicious experience! It was stronger than I expected. Greener tasting, too, for a year-old tea. Bold and sweet, a bit spinach-like with a crisp finish. I started brewing with 1 minute at around 80 C to begin with, by the third infusion I am steeping it for 3 minutes. Still, the crisp green flavor remains.

I thought that some bold green tea (even from last year) might be a good choice for today to help start the season. The sunshine is appearing on and off, and there’s definitely the feeling of Spring in the air. The qi of this tea is solid and stout; it’s energizing but not overly so. A delicate pale-green liquor reminds me of new-grown grass.

Still potent after 5 infusions (3.5 minutes), it’s impressive what can be made from so few leaves. I didn’t weigh them, but I generally infuse around 4g of leaf tea and this was probably half of that.

All told, I managed 6 good infusions before they started becoming a bit lightweight. With a few more leaves in the gaiwan, I bet I could have managed 8 easily. Well done, Xian Ming Xiang Li Pin Cha She (纤茗香礼品茶社)!