Every year we are thrilled to see the return of our long-time green tea friend – Huangshan Mao Feng – from the season’s early harvest.
For our 2021 offering we once again have been able to source a Tribute Grade – meaning that it was plucked from a careful culling of tiny leaf and buds plucked during one of the earliest periods of the spring season in the famed Huangshan – the Pre-Qing Ming (Ming Qian) picking. The attribution Tribute Tea means that the quality is so high that in an earlier time it would have been given only to the reigning emperor. In fact, Huangshan Mao Feng is one of a select small group of Famous Chinese Teas that have a long and noble history.
Huangshan Mao Feng is such a delicious tea – it is one of our top picks for instant ‘likeability’ in the cup. It is an excellent example of the easy, appealing nature of eastern Chinese green tea – it possesses an earthy, sweet vegetal aroma, extreme deliciousness, and a beautiful appearance. Huangshan Mao Feng is easy to steep and it is nearly impossible for this tea to become astringent.
The 2019 & 2020 crops were both ‘vintage’ years, and 2021’s tea is as good as either of those!
Our 2019 & 2020 offerings of Huangshan Mao Feng were among the most delicious that we have had in the last six or seven years. The rains that came back these past two years and the relatively early warming in the spring encouraged the tea bushes to produce abundant new leaf.
In many parts of South and East Asia these two seasons were just about perfect in their classic timing and composition. Tea gardens throughout the region responded with what was an extraordinary early crop. The concentration of flavor was high and the sweetness glorious. These years’ style was representative of what has made this tea such a famous one for centuries. It actually helped the bushes that they could not be fully picked last year due to the pandemic.
Some Chinese tea enthusiasts expect a faint whiff of charcoal fire (sometimes described as a ‘toasty’ flavor or aroma) in the mao feng that they drink. We here at Tea Trekker enjoy that aroma and flavor when we drink tea in China, but we don’t find that our Western green tea customers tend to want that flavor profile in their Huangshan mao feng.
So, we select our ‘lots’ (or ‘batches’) of leaf for Tea Trekker’s Huangshan mao feng from ones that do not have this characteristic taste – it is sweet, and clean and perfect for those who enjoy a green tea that is lush and pure.
This mao feng pluck green tea comes from the Huangshan (translates to ‘Yellow Mountains’) – one of China’s most famous mountain ranges. This series of rugged and craggy peaks has been depicted in classic Chinese brush paintings for centuries, and historically has provided peaceful refuge for sages, poets, monks, artists and other solitary souls.
The Huangshan is a microcosm of natural wonders – soaring cliffs and pinnacles, ‘balancing-stones’, waterfalls, dense forests, and vocally active birds of many types. At the top of these peaks, vegetation is thin and sparse, and in many places pine trees cling to the sides of rocky ledges through threadbare soil, stretching towards the light. Lower down the mountain the pine and bamboo forests provide nurturing habitat for patches of tea gardens.
This landscape provides a rich terroir for this tea. The tea gardens are protected and very lush. One feature that makes this tea so delicious is the daily formation of ‘clouds & mist ‘ that rise up the canyons and swirl throughout the peaks, bathing the tea gardens in nourishing moisture and providing gentle protection from the sun.
We visited the Huangshan on our very first tea-buying trip to China, twenty-one years ago, and to say that this is a magical place is an understatement. One can walk up a series of long, steep and crumbling stone stairs to eventually arrive at the top, or take a cable car ride from the half-way point. We opted for the cable car as the stone steps are always wet from the clouds & mist and the walkways appeared to us to be a challenging undertaking, best left for those with more daredevil blood in their veins.
However, the cable car ride that carried us up, over, and between the peaks suspended us over chasms and canyons during the slow ride through dense pockets of clouds & mist. The landscape was magical and the ride proved to be a breath-taking thrill.
The gossamer mist that develops here creates an astonishing atmosphere of serenity and delicacy in an otherwise rugged and sometimes forbidding landscape. The fineness of the swirling mist makes time and place disappear.
It is no small wonder that some of the finest tea in China comes from gardens in this general area.
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