Works best with: Any green tea, especially Jingshan, Songyang White
Start with a tempered glass tumbler. Fill with fresh boiled water, 6-8oz is ideal. Allow the water to steam and cool for about 45 seconds to one minute. add two generous pinches of tea, or 2 tsp. If the tea is Jingshan green, or rolled Laoshan green, it will quickly start to fall towards the bottom of the cup. Other green teas may float for a minute or so. Swirl the leaves around, and hold them up to the light to appreciate the color. Smell the stem until it becomes fragrant, usually 30-40 second, and start sipping. You can sip down the small cup over a few minutes, as Jingshan tea doesn’t get bitter. This allows you to experience various stages of brewing in one go. When the cup gets low, fill back to the top with 175 degree water and keep drinking.
The Story: The first time I tried this was a dark rainy night in Hangzhou. I had wrapped up a day of interviews with tea vendors, mostly selling Dragonwell, and found myself out in torrential rain walking along the shoreline of the city’s famous lake. My goal was to find either a taxi or a teahouse to get out of the rain. I walked and walked with no luck at either. After about an hour of wandering and thorough pounding from the rain, I saw an old wooden structure down a side street. The whole sign was not visible, but I saw the character for tea, and made a dash for it. As I rounded the corner, I saw that the sign read “Jingshan Teahouse.” I had never heard of Jingshan before, but didn’t particularly care. I entered the old wooden building and asked for a table.
The teahouse was completely empty, and the woman behind the counter scurried upstairs to find a table and some hot water. She handed me a big, wooden-bound menu proudly and I opened it to find just three teas. Jingshan Tea, Jingshan Budset Tea, and Jingshan Early Spring Tea. I almost laughed at the oddity of three menu items, but ordered the Early Spring Tea, and waited. Instead of the usual Gaiwan, the woman brought a short glass, poured hot water and sprinkled the tea leaves on top, telling me to wait for the tea to start dancing around.
This was clearly no ordinary tea waitress. I struck up a conversation while waiting for the leaves to open and found out that her family was a farmer family in Yunnan, and they saved money to open a shop in Hangzhou to spread the tea of their village that they were so proud of. I sipped the tea and experienced a crisp, sparkling and determined sweetness that impressed me. The woman was very happy I liked it and immediately began pulling out books and picture albums of the mountain Jingshan. I convinced her to sell me a little bag of tea to drink at home, and left much happier, and with much more taxi-finding skill.