Thursday, September 24, 2015

What-Cha's Yunnan Graceful Purple 'Zi Juan' Purple Varietal Green Tea

What-Cha's Description
A brilliant and rare tea produced from purple varietal tea plants, with a smoky aroma and taste combined with a wonderful smooth texture.

My thoughts
I love me some Chinese green tea. There are so many different parts of the world that grow good green tea, but I always come back to China when I want a really good green. This is one I've had my eye on for a while, and purple varietal teas always intrigue me. This one is made from the Zi Juan varietal (a.k.a. Purple Beauty), which is a man-made cultivar, as opposed to the other two purple varieties (Ye Sheng and Zi Cha) that are both naturally occurring mutations.

Dry leaves - The leaves are rolled lengthwise into long points and look like a dark silver needle white tea. The aroma is definitely unique, with a smoky, earthy, vegetal pungency being at the forefront. It almost reminds me of a very young sheng puerh, but without the bite. I've had young shengs that made me sneeze from the pungency, and this wasn't nearly that strong.

Brewing parameters - 175F, 60s first, +20s after. What-Cha recommends a longer steeping time of 2-3 minutes, but I can't bring myself to steep a green for that long. I've ruined too many greens by oversteeping.

Tasting notes - Pungent, vegetal, smoky, green wood, astringent

Is this a sheng? The ever-so-slightly-purple-tinted soup gives off a pungent bitey vegetal aroma that immediately brings me to a very young sheng. Not at all what I was expecting from a green tea. The taste is similar, starting off with a vegetal bite, drifting into a mild smokiness, and finishing with an earthy, green wood, and legume blend. It does have slight hints of the soybean/grassiness that I typically associate with green teas from Yunnan, but those hints are mostly overpowered by the tangy vegetal pungency.

The second steep has mellowed out somewhat, but it is still a very sheng-like brew. I can detect very slight notes of green grapes or something fruity in the finish as well. Steeps #3-6 are mostly the same, with the sheng qualities taking the lead. I have to keep reminding myself that I'm drinking a green tea, and not a puerh.

For a green tea, this is certainly one of the most distinctly flavored brews I've tried. If you handed me this tea without telling me what it was, I'd almost certainly say it was a young sheng, and I'd probably even argue that point. This tea is worth trying simply because of its uniqueness, though it may not appeal to everyone due to its odd piquant aroma and flavor profile.

You can buy this tea at What-Cha here:

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