Regular readers might remember that some time ago I popped over the Öresund strait and paid a day visit to Copenhagen in search of interesting leaves and cool tea toys.
This is one of the teas I spotted at Sing Tehus – a Sejak (South Korean green tea) from the volcanic island of Jeju. The island’s humid subtropical climate combined with its nutrient rich volcanic soil make it ideal for tea cultivation.
One thing that Sing note in their description of the tea is the fact that during processing it is both steamed and pan fried, which results in the tea having characteristics of both Japanese and Chinese green teas respectively.
I drunk the tea a couple of times when I got it home, but once late summer slipped into Autumn my mind turned back to darker roasted Oolongs and the like, and this tea sort of half fell off the radar. I’ve kind of chipped away at it since then, sporadically drinking it when the fancy took me, but a recent cupboard reorganization combined with the triumphant return of warmer weather has propelled it back to the top of the “drink me” list. There’s nothing quite like a good old hot and sticky Nordic heatwave to prod me back in the direction of cool steeped green teas.
|Weight of dry leaf:||6.5 grams|
|Infusion style:||Gong-fu / Asian|
|Steeping vessel:||150 ml glass gaiwan|
|No. & duration:||a 1st. infusion @ 5 seconds, then @ +5 seconds until 30 seconds for a total of 6 infusions|
After warming up the teaware, I dropped the leaves into the gaiwan, and let them sit there for a few seconds. Removing the lid I was met with an aroma very similar to that of a Longjing, somewhat at odds with the tea’s appearance, which is more like that of Chun Mee.
The early infusions were a mixture of Broccoli tops with a kind of caramel, dark, sweet vegetal undertone that reminded me of spicy Indian stir fried green cabbage.
The liquor had a fragrance that took me back in time to my dad’s vegetable garden, and his one concession to pretty and ornamental over functional and nourishing – sweetpeas.
The Japanese-like qualities of the brew became apparent once the tea had cooled sufficiently, when a marine note popped up to say hello.
After 6 good infusions the tea was nevertheless showing signs of tail-off, so I called time on the session at that point.
What surprised me was how soon that 6th round came and went, less than an hour after the first. It had been quite some time since I had steeped a green tea, and I was feeling a bit out of practice, having forgotten that cooler water and fine leaves make for shorter sessions.
I also got good results when steeping these leaves more in line with a Japanese green tea, with 3 grams in a 200 ml side-handled Kyusu, using water at 75°C. I managed 2 good infusions – a first at 2 minutes and a second at 2½ minutes.
This method really seemed to bring out the Japanese characteristics of the tea – the marine note was much more prominent, and came riding in on a wave of asparagus and lemon. To complete this flip-flop effect, the Chinese, Longjing-like aspect was now really only noticeable as a lingering aftertaste.
It has to be noted that this tea is getting a bit long in the tooth, and that its advanced (for a green tea) age might have affected the outcome of the sessions, although on the other hand the leaves were well stored and furthermore looking back at my tasting notes from late last year I can’t really see a great difference between my observations of then and those made more recently.
All in all then an interesting tea, this. Summing up I suppose you could say it borrows a bit from Japanese tea culture, as well as a bit from Chinese tea culture, and manages to blend them into its own distinctive thing. Playing around with the steeping method seems to allow you to pick and choose if you want to let the Chinese or Japanese side of the tea’s characteristics come to the fore.
Well worth sampling, if you get the chance…