Lake Tai Maofeng green tea, one of Tea Trekker’s most recent additions to our green tea selection, is a particularly delicious green tea. Grown and manufactured in the area around Lake Tai, near to Suzhou, Wuxi, and Yixing, just northwest of Shanghai, it is representative of a flavorful style of green tea that grows along the valleys from the coastal delta west along the Yangtze to the mid-section of eastern China around Wuhan and even down into Jiangxi Province.
This incredible tea reminds us of one of our all-time favorite Chinese country green teas: Ming Mei. For those of you who might remember that tea, we ‘discovered’ it on our first tea-sourcing trip to interior China in 2000; and we were able to source it for many years. It ‘disappeared’ a decade ago. However, after many sessions over several years tasting possible alternative offerings in its specific flavor profile we have finally found a tea that is very close to it in flavor and style.
And, of course, now that we have, in 2019 we will have Ming Mei again… It seems that this flavor profile is back in popularity on the domestic market in China. So there are more tea gardens planting more acreage of this style of tea plant, which has resulted in a greater supply of similar harvests such as it and our Lake Tai Maofeng.
This all makes perfect geographical sense because the Ming Mei gardens are on the southern rim of the Yangtze River valley in northern Jiangxi Province, near Lu Shan, deep in the heart of the ‘golden triangle‘ of eastern China tea production. After all, in combination with the varietal used and its preferred specific manufacture, one of the biggest variables in green tea flavor is the terroir.
Green teas with an elongated, slender, needle shape, such as Lake Tai Maofeng (and Ming Mei, and Rainflower) are difficult to process. This is also an unusual shape for Chinese green teas, while not so for Japanese teas. Looking at our photos of this tea, one can imagine how long the fresh leaf must have been in order for the leaf to have shrunk to this extra-long size and shape during the complicated firing that prepared the leaf.
We have observed and participated in green tea being fired in the manner of this style – it is usually done in a very hot tea-firing pan by only the most experienced of tea-firers. It is very difficult to extract the moisture that is inherent in fresh tea leaf of this size and shape and still maintain the length and slender shape of the leaf. After the initial high-heat firing, the leaf must then be fired at low heat over several ‘sessions’ to reduce the interior moisture content while the leaf is shaped into its gentle curl and then dried.
Lake Tai Maofeng green tea tea prefers attentiveness when being steeped. Measurement is critical: use too much leaf and it will be bitter, use too little and it will not seem particularly interesting. The water must be well off the boil, similar to the temperature for a Japanese green tea, but not too cool or the flavor will hide inside the leaf until the 3rd steeping.
Steep time is short – or bitter elements will sneak into your cup. However, follow the simple steps required for this elegant tea, pay attention while it releases its complex flavors, and you will be in love with this tea forever.
This 2019 spring lot of Lake Tai Maofeng green tea rivals any eastern China needle-style green tea that we have had in the last 20+ years. But beware, this Lake Tai Maofeng green tea will spoil you for other eastern China green teas that you may encounter.
This particular lot from 2019 we think is just coming into its own. While we are all under the assumption that green tea fades with time, it is not a universal truth, and some even improve (for a while) with a bit of age. This tea will be incredible throughout 2020 and into 2021, but we only intend that you drink it through the summer of 2020, and then we will all reassess.
First Steeping: 60-90 seconds
Second Steeping: 90 seconds to 2 minutes
Third Steeping: 2 minutes
If you like the little bit of ‘bite’ that is normal in the first infusion then that is great; if not, rinse the dry leaf quickly with cool water and then use water for steeping that is at the cooler end of our temperature recommendation: 170F.
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