OK, maybe it’s ‘cos I’m Chinese (by descent). But I can’t get through the day without a few cups of tea.
Not just any tea, mind you. Chinese tea. From China. I’m less likely to have other varieties as they tend to be taken too thick, and are thus too acidic for me.
My mother (I love her so) keeps my cupboard here in New York stocked with at least five different varieties of Chinese tea. Each time I return to Singapore, she would hand me a pack of something she would’ve secured from my brother or a friend of hers in Shanghai.
Here are some of my favorite varieties…
龙井－Longjing, or Dragon Well
This is my favorite tea – the Queen of Chinese teas. Being the Queen, you’d expect it to be pungent and strong, but you’d be wrong. The Chinese like their tea light and subtle, evoking the transience of a perfect Summer’s day. As a consequence, longjing is a feather-light green tea, with a lightly toasted scent and flavor that subtly lingers.
铁观音－Tieguanyin, or Iron Goddess of Mercy
This is another of my favorite teas, stronger, with a slightly metallic flavor. Again it is best drunk light, the brew a pale green. Although my mother drinks it so thick the brew is deep yellow. The best tieguanyin comes from the Fujian province, my ancestral homeland.
碧螺春－Biluochun, or Crimson Whelk Spring
This is the tea I’m currently into, which, alongside longjing, is one of the most exquisite of Chinese teas. Biluochun originates from Suzhou, the city of Chinese literatis, and a canal city well regarded as the Venice of the East. It is also a lightly toasted green tea, immensely more delicate than longjing, and with a delicious bouquet reminiscent of burnt seaweed. It is so delicate that you cannot brew it with boiling water. It needs water that is just past lukewarm, in order to not kill the flavour.
人参乌龙－Renshen wulong, or Ginseng Oolong
This is a rather overlooked variety, the best of which comes of Taiwan. It is one of the first teas I ever drank. The ginseng gives it a rather heady oaky bouquet, as well as a sweet and spicy aftertaste that lingers on the tongue well after the tea has slipped down your throat. It is a very easy introduction to Chinese teas.
Well… that’s all I can get through in one blogpost, but I will probably return to the subject of tea in the near future, particularly the pleasures of sampling and buying tea at teashops in China. This will probably bore everyone that’s reading it. But oh well.