E is for En Shi Yu Lu

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Other names:
En Shi Gyokuro, En Shi Jade Dew, En Shi Green Dew

En Shi Yu Lu Tea is one of China’s Ten Top Teas.  It originates from En Shi City (Ba Jiao Village area) in the Hubei province. It is unique among China’s green teas in the way it is made. The tea is processed by a Chinese Ethnic Minority and is the only famous Chinese green tea that is processed using the steam method entirely. It therefore resembles Japanese green tea.

Hubei1

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hubei

Hubei Province…

Is a province located in central China. The name of the province means ”north of the lake.” The province has a subtropical monsoonal climate with a humid and hot summer, a dry winter and strong sunlight in the autumn. The annual rainfall averages about 800-1600 millimeters, with average temperatures ranging from 15C-17C. The weather is humid and moderate all year round. En Shi is seldom bothered by extreme heat in midsummer and chilliness in midwinter. It is usually foggy and rainy. All in all, great tea weather!

The harvest period

In the tea world, the season when teas are harvested is a BIG deal.  En Shi Yu Lu is a spring tea. Spring Teas – Ming Qian Cha teas have long been viewed as the jewels of tea. They are sought after and can be very expensive.  Teas in this category are teas supreme. They are rare because of their extremely short harvest window – which can range from a few weeks to around ten days – between bud readiness and the arrival of the fifth of April. Hallmarks of teas harvested during this time are tender buds which yield a range of complex and delicate flavors. In spring, the land wakes up recovering from the cold winter. The sun is clear but not as intense as it can be in the summer. Occasional spring showers nourish the young sprouts. The slowly growing tea leaves and buds are delicate and bright, bringing forth unique flavors and aromas that embody the essence of spring. Ming Qian teas, such as En Shi Yu Lu account for a small but important percentage of China’s annual harvest.  The first teas plucked each new spring season and are considered the best quality. This tea is also the only Chinese tea that is high in selenium due to the rich soil of its terroir. (Terroir is sense of place – how a region’s climate, soil, terrain, etc. affect taste.)

It’s history…

This tea has a long history. En Shi City was known to produce tea since the Tang Dynasty (618-907). Historical records suggest that En Shi Yu Lu was first created during Emperor Kang Xi’s reign. Steaming was the widely used method for making green tea during the Tang dynasty and was later adapted by the Japanese. After the Tang dynasty however, China gradually abandoned the steaming method in favor of the pan-firing method and steaming has not been a part of Chinese green tea production since. Chinese teas are typically pan-fried, and this tea being processed by the steam method makes it distinctive. Despite the steaming, it is quite Chinese in character and appearance.

How it’s processed…

 The first step in processing, is to steam the freshly plucked leaves. This destroys the natural enzymes necessary for fermentation. The steaming not only helps to preserve the leaves’ natural oils and important natural antioxidants, it also helps to soften the leaves, making them more pliable. After steaming, the leaves are rolled or twisted, which forces the cellular structure to break down so that they will release their aromatic juices when brewing occurs. A second gentle heating, reduces the water content further, to 3 percent moisture. Repeatedly heating the leaves causes them to dry slowly.

The tea is produced by the dark green on bud one leaf or one bud two leaves which are heated by the steam.  The plucking requirements are very strict – buds and leaves need to be slender, tight, smooth, bright, uniform and straight, like pine needles.  Only by this manner of plucking, can the tea produce its fine and distinct flavors.

Next… En Shi Yu Lu in my cup!

 

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