Tai Mu Long Zhu

Jasmin Tai Mu Long Zhu - dry leaf

Mrs. Teaist decided that she needed a bit more variety in her tea drinking. More specifically, although she was still enjoying her early morning pot of Rize, she was getting a little tired of the same thing in the evening.

“Something different, but not too different. Nothing fancy,” she said.

“I’ll see what I can do,” I replied.

Later that very same morning I was in our local supermarket, when I spotted their own brand “Söderblom” tea, a black tea blend with orange peel, rose petals, and strawberries. Thinking it just might fit Mrs. Teaist’s bill, I popped a packet in my basket.

That evening I was just about to tell her of the purchase I’d made on her behalf, when she announced that after thinking about it all day she had come to the conclusion that what she really needed was Jasmine tea.

Oh.

I knew for a fact that her previous experience of Jasmines had been in the form of lower quality stuff from supermarkets and the like, so I decided that she deserved better. My first port of call was my old favourite on-line shop, House of Tea. A quick browse brought me to this particular tea, which seemed to tick all the right boxes. A couple of clicks and some plastic magic later, and a cargo was on its way to us.

The raw material comes from Taimushan, Fuding county, Ningde prefecture, Fujian province. In their notes House of Tea describe the tea as a spring pluck comprising of a bud and two leaves, which are flavoured in the traditional way, by undergoing drying overnight mixed with Jasmine flowers, before being hand rolled into those sweet little orbs.

The first thing I noticed about this tea, as you might expect, was the aroma. This was a sweet, natural floral fragrance, that for want of a better description felt smooth and rounded, as compared to the cheaper varieties of this tea, which as I understand it are sprayed with **cough**flavourings“, giving them a more harsh, angular feel, if that makes sense.

Steeping method
Water Used: Imsdal
Weight of dry leaf: 7 grams
Infusion style: Asian / Gong-fu
Steeping vessel: 150 ml porcelain gaiwan
Water temperature: 80°C
No. & duration: a first infusion @ 25 seconds, then @ +5 seconds until 50 seconds, then @ 60 and 90 seconds for a total of 8 infusions.

That first long steep was needed to get those little bullets opening up. The early steepings were dominated by that wonderful, floral sweetness, which reminded me a lot of acacia honey.

Jasmin Tai Mu Long Zhu - a cup of

Early on in my tea journey I drank an awful lot of cheap Jasmine tea, so much so that I ultimately grew thoroughly sick of it. A while back out of a sense of morbid curiosity I bought some, a small tin’s worth at a local Chinese supermarket, just to see how I got on with it.

I still couldn’t stand the stuff, which meant that I was more than a tad apprehensive about sampling these leaves.

I needn’t have worried. The chemically slathered sharpness of those cheaper versions were totally absent here, something as delightful as it was surprising.

Even though the body had a quite lightish feel to it, I found that it coated the inside of my mouth and tongue with a nice sweet residue.

By the time the third infusion rolled around the leaves had well and truly opened up. That unleashed the beginnings of a refreshingly tart kick, which by the fourth round nicely balanced the sweeter aspects of the liquor.

The sixth infusion saw the tea starting to slide a little, so I upped the steeping times for each round to compensate, but by the 8th. round it was clear that the session was over. When teas show such strong character, I think it’s a shame to push them too far. Quit while you’re ahead, and all that.

Going forward, it’s a tad unlikely that these leaves will see a lot of gong-fu action. More likely than not, I’ll be steeping this tea Western style for Mrs. Teaist, 3 grams in a 200 ml pot, and 2 infusions, at 1½ and 2½ minutes duration. If I feel like joining in, I’ll up it to 6 grams in a 400 ml vessel.

Jasmin Tai Mu Long Zhu - used leaf

In conclusion, then – this is a refined, elegant version of something that can be seen as a cheap, slightly rough around the edges tea. It’s certainly reprogrammed my tea-appreciation chip when it comes to this type of tea.

It’s rather like trading in poly cotton bed-sheets for silk ones, and well worth the extra expense.

Good stuff.

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