Luan Gua Pian (Spring 2019)
Origin: Luan, Anhui, China
Translates as "Melon Seed"
Better late than never, I decided to enshrine Luan Gua Pian with the title of Tea of the Month for February. Having done very little in the way of promotion since the beginning of the year I'm hoping to shift back into a higher gear as the spring teas of 202 move closer to readiness. With the first hints of spring starting to show here in Scotland I've been feeling the urge to drink more green tea again and luckily I have an abundance of Luan Gua Pian which we've been enjoying around the house a lot lately. It's been really hitting the spot and deserves a little showcase.
I always find it hard to choose favourites in any situation. Green teas especially. I always find a new hook to bite and I'll declare it my favourite until my tastes change sometime else down the line. I tend to be a bit picky with them and I also trend away from very light and subtle green teas for the most part, although as time has passed I've gained more appreciation for the lighter, nuanced taste experiences that take a little more attention to detail and maybe even some considered self-deception sometimes. Luan Gua Pian is not one of those types of green tea.
This tea is comprised of full leaves only, mostly around 4cm long. These more mature leaves result in an increase in body and mouthfeel compared to bud tea, and the lack of buds means there are no fine hairs (trichromes) muddying up the liquor. So we have a very clean, clear liquor in the cup and a full, rounded and smooth taste. The sensation it gives is very nourishing to the body and very satisfying to see in the cup. These relatively large leaves can also withstand a slightly higher temperature if required, allowing you to increase the water temperature as you continue to steep, eking out all the flavour while still finding bitterness almost imperceptible. I tend to start with 80C and move upwards to 90C if I feel it necessary. This tea handles western and gone style brewing with ease and is really accessible to any level of tea drinker. I brewed 4 grams in 500ml of 80C water for 3 minutes and found a very pleasant result with the capacity for another steep aftweards.
From the dry leaves in the warmed gaiwan I get a robust waft of creamy, toasty, nutty aromas, mixed up with a stewed cherry tartness, sweet pie crust and toasted cereal.There's a definite green-ness to the fragrance too, and a hint of charred green veg. As the leaves are rinsed the very quickly re-hydrate and the greyish green of the dried leaves makes way for an incredibly lush and bright green leaf. They unfurl from their tubular shapes into leaves that look as if they were freshly picked from the plant. After a short 10 second steep in the gaiwan they are almost fully unfolded and the true softness of their processed nature exposes itself. After the rinse, the aroma changes into a heavier toasted character with the hint of hazelnut or pecan skins. All of this comes from the baked part of the processing in conjunction with the cultivars inherent aroma complex.
The subsequent steeps should provide you with an abundance of the full, hearty, baked and nourishing character of this tea. It handles plenty of steeps under gongfu brewing and never strays into bitter territory. That bitterness in some green teas, often lower quality ones, is what can put many people off green tea for life. Never should green tea drinking be felt to be suffered for health benefits. Really good green tea should be an absolute pleasure to experience, from the nose to the throat, as should all tea. In some settings I've found this tea can also bring out a salty, citrus character, but without any unpleasant acidity. All being said, I can't fault this tea and it has become a firm favourite here at home, one which I will continue to feature on the website as often as possible. Please do try it out if you're looking for a reliable and thoroughly pleasant green tea for your stash. The 2019 stock is still up for grabs and the flavours are still locked in tightly for you to enjoy for many months to come. You'll find a discount available now as a small incentive https://www.ardeateas.co.uk/product-page/luan-gua-pian