I’m trying to learn about what roasting does to a tea. You don’t need to necessarily apply super high heat to dehydrate a tea for storage, but what does a more heavy handed roasting do to the outcome of the tea? I was attracted to this Fire Pool Village Roasted Green of Zhenyuan County from Yunnan Sourcing by Scott’s description here.
Fire Pool village is a small Yi Minority village in the Wu Liang mountains in Zhenyuan county of Simao. Fire Pool Village is a small village with about 250 inhabitants in the high mountains at an altitude of 2200 meters. The local tea is very pure and potent.
Spring tea is harvested, fried briefly, rolled, wilted and then finally baked in clay jars in a wood fire. The tea brews a aromatic and pungent tea soup that is gold in color. There is a toasted kind of flavor that is present in the tea, but the taste is pure and strong without any dryness.
A unique tea prepared in the traditional Yi minority fashion!
I’ve become a big fan of large leaf varietal greens. It may simply be that I have become so used to sinensis, small leaf greens and their typical flavor profiles that large leaf greens are a novelty to me. I like to think, however, that I am really attracted to the Yunnan/large leaf/assamica/taliensis/etc… leaf profile. I like the warmer, earthier, notes that I have been getting from them. It all actually started on a fluke last year. I had been eyeballing some pre-qingming greens on Upton Tea for a while, and I finally bit the bullet and paid the price to see what they were all about. They were excellent. One in particular caught my pallet. Instead of the buttery sweet summer corn and spring peas flavors, this one offered something a little more interesting at the time. It was a generically labeled “Pre-ChingMing Yunnan Mao Jian”. It was far less expensive than the others, and so it enticed my pallet and my wallet. I waited until this spring’s season and I ordered a good deal of different Pre-qingming yunnan greens and whites from Yunnan Sourcing. In addition, I threw this roasted Yunnan green into the order.
I recommend this tea to you as a daily drinker on early spring and autumn days when you crave a very well-made green tea, but want something that has more warming qualities. The dry leaves have a cocoa and a great toasted pumpkin seed scent that you will learn I am a sucker for. They are all very uniformly rolled and you can find a few nice, rustic tea flower stems in the mix. Once steeped, the leaves marry that toasted pumpkin seed with a sweet, dark, vegetal quality that reminds me of the sweetness of roasted zucchini, or even asparagus if you can think of asparagus as an “aromatic” vegetable and less of an overpowering flavor. Successive steeps transition from that sweeter nuttiness to a well balanced briskness and minerality that still holds onto a roasted complexity and doesn’t fall flat. I’ve steeped this tea 5-7 times and had it remain enjoyable as the sweet sap is exhausted from the leaves and those minerally inner flavors take over.
Do I want to drink this in the heat of the coming summer? No. I have a cache of white teas and huangshans that I can’t wait to break the days with as the days get hotter. But as I open the windows in these early weeks of a New England spring to invite the brisk, fresh air into the house, and I keep the wood stove burning, this tea is absolutely perfect. I believe that a good tea cabinet has at least one of each specimen. Where wine enthusiasts find joy in pairing wine with food, I am learning that tea drinkers like you and I find joy in pairing tea with the day; the weather, the schedule, the mood. We have a tea for every type of day. Warming teas for chilly hibernation days. Brisk teas for inspired days. Subtle teas for poetic days. Not that wine drinkers don’t have a wine for every occassion, but having worked in the food industry for years, I find tea culture very different. That is a discussion for another day, another blog, and another interview.
Back to the tea. A 5g gongfu session costs $0.28. For me, this is a no brainer daily drinker. We all know that tea is most always a daily drinker. Compared to the average latte drinker’s daily spending, tea is as affordable as it gets. I would still like to recommend different teas as daily drinkers, indulgences, and bucket list teas over the life of the blog. Sometimes you need a tea that you can just as easily have a gongfu session or a western style – fill your thermos for the day – steeping. Other times you want to share a very special tea with a guest, a tea that you couldn’t bear to steep western style to carry with you on your errands. And then there are those teas that you need to try to see what all the fuss is about. What makes a $400 bing of sheng? Why does this wulong cost $1 per gram? You certainly wouldn’t drink it every day (maybe some people do), but you should try it with one of your tea partners at some point in your lives. I could see this tea being just as suitable for brewing 2.5g in a big thermos for 4 minutes at 160 degrees as it is for steeping gongfu style. For the price, give it a shot. You may find it to be an easy purchase that finds a comfortable niche in your tea drinking patterns.