Friday, May 21, 2010

2010 Meng Ding something or let’s act like Japanese Shincha

As I’ve already mentioned in my previous post, I got this mysterious sample for free along with other things I bought in one local tea shop. The owners of this shop visited China last month and, therefore, brought some really interesting teas from their trip – including this one.

This tea was produced in Meng Ding this April, completely made by Japanese method of processing Shincha.

I was really looking forward to try this.

Dry leaves are almost indistinguishable from high quality Japanese Sencha (or Shincha, if I want to compare these two.) Long, dark-green shiny needles with marvelous deep, fresh smell. There is also a little bit of this characteristic Shincha plasticity and stickiness in these leaves, too.

I had a funny dilemma about how to prepare this tea – I mean, whether to use Chinese gaiwan, or Japanese kyusu teapot. I decided for the first one, as this, after all, still is Chinese green tea, even though it doesn’t look nor smell like one at all.

The shop owner told me that this tea should be prepared just the way you usually prepare Japanese Shincha, therefore with slightly higher temperature of water (80˚C / 176F) than I usually use with Sencha teas and shorter brewing times. I know that some Japanese are preparing Shincha even with boiling water, because it’s believed to be the best way deliver up all the desired tones – but I think it’s way too brutal, so I prefer preparing Shincha this way.

First infusion was a little bit too mild, although I let it brew for quite a long time – longer than I formerly wanted. I think these leaves needed some time to awake.

After the first infusion, leaves were already emitting that wonderful milky, creamy fresh smell of good Japanese teas, accompanied with subtle, almost imperceptible fruity tones, typical for Chinese spring green teas.

Second infusion is already bold and vivid, with deep creamy taste and outstanding freshness. There is also a little bit of delightful astringency, caused by higher content of water in dry leaf -another characteristic so typical for traditional Japanese Shincha.

Third infusion is very similar to the second, with astringent tones growing a bit stronger.

I also made fourth infusion, but the taste was already fading away, being weaker and less outstanding. Fifth infusion would already be futile.

This tea left me confused. It was wonderful, but… If Chinese are already this good in imitating Japanese teas, will we be able to distinguish real teas from Chinese “fakes” in the future? I mean… it still isn’t the same, it still misses something that can be found only in Japanese tea, but they are somehow getting closer every year.

However, it still was a nice experience and pleasure especially for me, being so impatient for fresh Japanese teas these days.

My real Shincha is supposed to arrive around May 26, so at least I hadn’t died of abstain until then. :D


  1. The chinese are pretty tricky! =]
    If they do end up making great imitation sencha, there will be a whole new market for teas.
    In some respect this could be a good thing for the tea industry! Imagine if japan started producing oolong and white teas!
    Entirely new flavor profiles to learn and examine!

  2. William,
    they are! Yes, it would be a good thing, because I believe these teas would be much cheaper and accessible, but on the other hand... well, maybe it's just that I'm a little bit conservative, but I would miss the feeling of authenticity in these teas.
    And by the way, Japanese actually do produce oolong teas to some extent. :) From what I know, some small family farms in Kagoshima prefecture produce them along with some koucha (Japanese black tea) as well.
    Just for example -

    It's worth a try!

  3. You know who else is making oolong?
    New Zealand!

    That would be an interesting try!

  4. William,
    Yes, I remember reading about Zealong on one Czech tea-related website some time ago.
    There was also a link to this video:

    It seems like mostly Chinese people are working in that company, using Taiwanese oolong processing technology.

    Teas from these non-traditional regions might be interesting, as I think the climate there is completely different from traditional tea producing countries and as you know, it influences tea very much. Another interesting plantation, and the only one here in Europe, is on Azores islands... in Portugal. Unfortunately, I haven't found much about tea produced there yet.