Si Ji Chun

si ji chun - dry leaf

These leaves landed on my tea table as so many others have done in the form of a free 3 gram sample that was kindly included in an order I placed over at House of Tea.

That order, by the way, was for a further 140 grams of their very nice Keemun Congou, as well as 70 grams of their equally pleasant Bai Mu Dan King. As good as the Congou has been as an early morning tea, I was kind of missing my occasional start-the-day sessions with the white tea, so into the cart it went.

As I explained in an earlier post, I’d held back from ordering the Bai Mu Dan since we began pandemic related social distancing. The fear was that the fluffy nature of this tea would mean that it would be unable to fit into the standard sized mailbox friendly packaging, leading in turn to a pickup from our local supermarket, not the best option just now if we want to do our bit in helping to control the spread of Covid-19.

Eventually, however, my desire to have some more Bai Mu Dan in my stash overcame any apprehension I had about how it would complete the final leg of its journey to a caddy in my tea cupboard. After measuring old delivery boxes and doing a few rough calculations I worked out that everything should, fingers crossed, fit into our mailbox – just – ruling out an extra, unwarranted shopping trip. Reassured that all was OK, I clicked and pressed all the right buttons, and completed the order.

Anyway, the experiment/gamble worked/paid off, and the day after ordering it the package was sat waiting for me in our mailbox. Two 70 gram bags of the Congou and one 70 gram bag of the Bai Mu Dan were a perfect fit in the parcel. It was also clear that two 70 gram bags of the white tea would fit snugly into the same box, so hopefully I won’t be going short on that front again.

Right then, back to the subject of this post. Si Ji Chun is what House of Tea describe in their notes as a lightly oxidized Oolong from Nantou in Taiwan, with this particular example having been harvested in the Winter of 2019. As the name suggests, the raw material was of the Si Ji Chun cultivar, which they describe as a popular varietal that is hardy with good taste characteristics. They also note that this particular cultivar is more often than not grown at lower elevations and gives good harvests, which makes for a more price-friendly tea.

The dry leaf was giving hints about flowers and biscuits.

As I tend to do these days with small samples such as this I opted to follow the included steeping suggestions, which in this case meant a Western style approach…

Steeping method
Water Used: Filtered tap water
Weight of dry leaf: 3 grams
Infusion style: Western
Steeping vessel: 200 ml ceramic teapot
Water temperature: 95°C
No. & duration: 3 infusions of 3 minutes, 3 minutes, and 4 minutes duration

After a few moments in the warmed up pot the leaves were pumping out a rather unusual floral aroma, one that I can’t recall encountering before.

Usually, in my experience at least, I’m able to group flowery tea aromas into one of two distinct and separate groups – the “sweet“, such as roses, or sweetpeas, and the “heady“, ones that reminds me of a rain forest or hothouse, such as orchids, etc.

si ji chun - a cup of

This tea, however, was doling out something that was very much a mixture of the two, with the hothouse flowers supplying the bass, and the roses layering on the treble, if that makes sense.

And this, mind, was coming from only the warmed up dry leaves. Once they’d infused for a few minutes they really started motoring. That delightful flowery sensation just poured out of the cup in wave after wave. The liquor was smooth and slick, deliciously oily, but it was hard not to be distracted by those flowers. This dominance was even the same in the empty cup. You could catch a fleeting glimpse of burnt sugar caramel sweetness, before the flowers rolled in and over it.

During the second round those big, beautiful leaves had fully opened, and as a result the liquor showed only the tiniest drop in intensity and overall quality.

si ji chun - used leaves

The third round marked the natural end of the session, but I was left with the feeling that 6 or 7 grams of these leaves in a gaiwan would result in a superb gong-fu session, and no mistake. When you also factor in that this tea is more than capable of delivering a very solid Western style session from only a few grams of leaf, then that makes its place on the “buy a full cargo later” list a shoo-in.

Watch this space, etc…

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