A Deep Dive Into Our Jade Sword Green Tea
Jade Sword: Spring 2019, produced by Zhou Wei in Baotian Garden, Hunan, China
(We’re currently sourcing our 2020 spring green teas, so some of the information for our new season of Jade Sword may be updated soon).
In this deep dive we’ll get to know the garden and producer behind this organic, single garden green tea; what makes it so special and why we think it’s the perfect, accessible tea that anyone can make and enjoy with ease.
This tea comes from a less celebrated region than some of our other more famous green teas, yet it doesn’t compromise on the sweet, fresh flavour and rich texture that we prize from our spring teas.
By the end of this deep dive, you’ll see exactly how and why these leaves will give you the best tasting results without any fuss. So, if you’re someone who's looking to try a refreshing green tea with full flavour and zero bitterness, then read on.
Origin: Baotian Garden, Hunan, China
Cultivar: Camellia sinensis var. sinensis “Qunti Zhong”
Name: The name that refers to the leaves’ bright green appearance and long, twisted shape.
Style: ‘Yu mao feng’ – known as ‘jade hairy peak’ green tea, which describes the bright, picking style of the hairy buds and fine, young green leaves that are used to craft this style of tea.
Terroir: This area of Hunan province lies high above sea-level in a mountainous area of dense forest, tea gardens and rice paddy terraces.
Elevation: 800m above sea level.
Picking Season: Spring
Leaf: Bright green balls, revealing three mature leaf plus stem picking when unfurled upon infusion.
Infusion: A glowing, golden yellow colour.
What kind of teas does Baotian Garden produce?
Many tea gardens in this area of Hunan province, China, are known for producing sweet, thick and refreshing green teas, using traditional pan-frying methods to lock in the tea's bright green colour and add a satisfying sweetness and richness. We chose this example from Baotian garden in particular, as it is both organic certified and produces green tea with a balanced and definitive spring-fresh flavour and a mellow fragrance.
The garden has the advantage of sitting high in the mountains of Hunan province, surrounded by a cool mist and a more temperate climate. The mist helps to protect the tea plants, providing a constant supply of moisture and guarding them from the harsh sunlight which can cause bitter properties in the tea. The land is rich in nutrients, which, along with the rice paddies, is perfect for tea cultivation. The entire region is also fed with plenty of clear, fresh water from the many tributaries of the Yangtze river in the north.
Tea master Zhou Wei’s annual production is very much focused around the freshest tea pickings in early March through to April. During the cold winter season the tea plants fall into a kind of hibernation, and as the temperatures rise in early March they come alive again and sprout fresh buds which turn into small, young leaves. These initial flourishes are packed with nutrients and flavour that have been stored up during the winter dormancy, capturing the essence of spring-freshness.
The ‘Qunti Zhong’ variety of tea plant that is used to make this tea is known for sprouting later than other types of tea bushes. This helps to deliver the essential sweet fragrance and flavour, and a thick, creamy texture.
How did we find this batch of tea and who made it?
The producer of this tea is Zhou Wei. His bio-diverse, organic garden had been abandoned in the 1980s when it became uneconomical to make tea. The garden continued to grow wild for years, until a local politician saw the opportunity to reopen it and bring the economic benefits back to this local community.
After re-establishing the garden, Zhou set out to officially certify it as organic and bring recognition to the long standing practices of the region. By continuing in this way, he is able to maintain the health of the tea plants without using any chemicals or pesticides. This means that wildlife and biodiversity in the garden is much more apparent, which helps to create a natural, high quality tea with flavour that shines through.
Spring tea sourcing is a busy time for, Tom, our Head of Tea, as he will usually visit tea producers and their gardens at origin. When sampling Zhou's tea back in 2019, he found that it met all the requirements that we look for in delicious green tea – bright, balanced and sweet with spring-fresh character.
What is this batch like to drink? Aroma, taste and texture
The flavours of this organic tea are accessible, sweet and uncomplicated, which makes it refreshing and comforting to drink. It’s one that’s really easy to enjoy.
The infusion has a fresh, mellow aroma with some notes of floral and grassy sweetness, which reminds us of Zhou's garden in Hunan – with a light, spring breeze flowing through, wild grass and bright flowers.
Will, our tea guru says: “Sometimes I make this tea with water that would usually be too hot for green teas and I still find no bitterness.”
The taste is fully sweet and fresh, with a light umami or savoury sensation at the back of the tongue – a strength and balance that can be hard to find in some green teas, without any of the often remarked bitterness you may have experienced before.
Slowly sipping the tea you’ll notice that the texture is nicely thick, which is really pleasant in the mouth and helps to give a better definition of the flavours, while leading to a sweet, sappy finish that lasts on your palate.
Where and when is this tea for?
The sweet and accessible flavours make this an easy-going, everyday green tea. It’s available in tea bags too, so it’s a great ‘go-to’ if you want to choose something to drink that’s not fussy, but still really fresh and balanced. It works perfectly as a quick, refreshing first cup of the day or, as a nice relaxing tea in the afternoon when you have more time to appreciate its reviving effects.
Whether you’re using our tea bags in your favourite mug, or infusing the loose leaves in our tea-iere, this tea is really easy to make well. You should find it produces a sweet flavour and thick, sappy texture using any method, without any unwanted bitter or astringent notes. Even if you infuse it for too long, or use water that might be too hot, we find that this tea is really forgiving and the flavour should still be spot on.
What is it like to make and how easy is it to get a good taste?
Achieving a balanced infusion with plenty of sweetness, a touch of umami and plenty of body is so easy with this loose tea, it’s one that you can rely on to deliver maximum flavour.
Simply take 2 teaspoons (a couple of big pinches) and infuse with slightly cooler water, adding a splash of cold water to the leaves before pouring over the freshly boiled water. This should get you water around 80˚C. Water that’s too hot might begin to extract some bitter base notes from the leaves, but this tea is very forgiving. Make sure you pour the whole infusion out at 3 minutes to get the complete, balanced infusion in your cup.
For the second infusion, we found that the same method mellowed out the brighter notes slightly and became more buttery and smooth, but still very refreshing. The texture retained its sappy thickness and the finish was equally long and delicious.
From our taste testing, we felt that our glass teaware was the way to go for making loose leaf green teas. Glass has a balanced heat retention – it gets hot, but cools at a gentle, even rate. This reduces the risk of the water staying too hot and drawing out the bitter flavours in the tea.
This gave good results - Method: 4g/ 250ml; 80 degrees; 3 minutes per infusion (we recommend at least three infusions)
Our Jade Sword tea bags deliver the same full, refreshing flavour without compromising on taste – it’s exactly the same loose tea, just in biodegradable, pyramid shaped bags. As this tea is well suited to everyday drinking, it makes sense if you’re on-the-go or in the office and need a quick tea break.
For all of these infusion methods, we always recommend using soft, filtered water.
Who is this tea for?
This tea has a really inclusive, comforting feeling, especially if you’re new to green tea and are looking to try it for the first time. People who have come into our shop thinking that green tea is bitter and unpleasant, have always been so surprised by how sweet, fresh and satisfying it is. It’s simple and easy to make well. So if you’ve been searching for a high quality green tea, either loose or in a tea bag, that’s refreshingly smooth with floral and grassy sweetness, our Jade Sword is one to try.