Friday, June 10, 2011

More Iced Green Teas: Bancha, Bi Luo Chun, Huangshan Mao Feng

The past two days brought record-setting heat, with a high of 99 in Philadelphia yesterday. I have been drinking a lot of iced tea.

Besides herbal teas, I made three separate batches of iced green tea over the past few days. One was straight bancha, one was straight bi luo chun, and one was a blend of bancha with Huangshan mao feng. The blend is pictured here:

I did not photograph the other two blends and now I wish I did. The pure bancha produced an intensely cloudy iced tea, which is interesting, as when I brew it fresh it is relatively clear. The photo above shows only a slight cloudiness. The bi luo chun produced a very pale light green, surprisingly pale relative to its intense flavor and aroma.

The current batch of bi luo chun in my cupboard, which I have yet to review on RateTea, is extraordinarily inexpensive for this usually high-priced tea, and yet of impressive quality. I will write more about it later. What I have noticed about this tea, however, is that its astringency changes radically based on brewing temperature. At 170 degrees Fahrenheit, it is sweet, mellow, and mild, whereas at 180 degrees or higher, it becomes highly astringent, but in a way I find pleasing. Some green teas that I've tried, including Chinese, Japanese, and Indian green teas, acquire unpleasant "cooked vegetable" tones if the steeping temperature is too hot, but thankfully, this tea does not. I find a certain amount of astringency refreshing in iced tea, so I used 190 degree water to brew the one batch and it came out delightful.

I tried brewing the bancha in the same way, and the result was much too astringent. That batch was a little too strong, but I watered it down and it was fine.

The blend, pictured above, however, also worked surprisingly well. I used lower temperature water to brew it. I paused for a second about blending a "high end" tea such as Huangshan mao feng, with a "common" tea such as bancha, but I found that the blend worked very well. It was about half-and-half by dry leaf, with perhaps slightly more mao feng.

In all of these cases, I brewed a batch of four cups of iced tea using tea. I have also developed a very simple energy-saving method for quickly chilling the tea, which I will share in a future post.

Also, to experiment, I drank a single cup of iced Hubei Keemun, Upton's ZK22: Hubei Province Keemun Ji Hong, again, which I have yet to write a detailed review of (hot). Pleasing fruity tones came out in the tea, but I found, too mellow overall...failing to achieve the refreshing effect. There is a certain sharpness or edginess that I crave in iced tea, especially on very hot days.

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