Regular readers of this blog will already know that I love coffee. My lifestyle is, by and large, pretty healthy, but coffee is the one vice I haven’t completely given up. I’ve certainly cut down a lot – when I worked in an office I was pretty much a caffeine addict – but I still do enjoy one cup of good quality coffee every morning; and I do this without guilt because coffee does have alleged health benefits.
However, I also love tea too. I start each day with a cup of lemon and ginger tea to give the old digestion a bit of TLC, and in the afternoon I’ll often have apple and cinnamon or, if I need a bit of a lift, a cup of good old Yorkshire tea. If I’m feeling a bit under the weather or feel a cold coming on I always have some echinacea tea. But apart from these I haven’t been very adventurous in my tea drinking so far. So when the lovely people at LuLin Teas in York sent me two of their special Chinese varieties to try I was really looking forward to broadening my horizons a bit.
The teas are beautifully presented, and the packaging was coincidentally designed by a friend of mine, Owen Turner of United by Design. The brand has a really modern look rather than the traditional ‘dragons and Chinese characters’ look of most oriental teas. I must admit I rarely brew tea in a pot, and the one I usually use is made of metal, which is apparently a bad thing. So down from the shelf came the only ceramic tea pot I have – one shaped like a cottage that used to belong to my Nana. Now there was a woman who liked strong tea – preferably with a drop of Irish whiskey in it! The brewing instructions on the LuLin website said to use 3-4 grams of tea per pot, but as my kitchen scales only weigh in units of 20g I had to guess how much to use. It seemed to turn out OK though.
First up was Long Jing (or Dragon Well) Green Tea. Now I don’t normally like green tea, so this was interesting. I normally find it really bitter and can’t drink it without adding a bit of. Long Jing is from Hangzhou, the tea capital of China, and is apparently considered by many to be the best green tea there is. Like all green teas it has a high level of healthy antioxidants, but also contains Vitamin C and amino acids, and has the highest concentration of catechin antioxidants of any tea.
As you can see, the loose tea looks very much like pine needles. With both of the teas I was really struck by how much they swelled up on brewing too look like actual leaves off a bush. Sounds obvious, but you don’t get that with most teas! You could see that there was nothing else added to the tea leaves in the packet.
The brewed tea was a lovely pale green colour; it smelled sweet and fragrant but not flowery. The taste was very delicate and refreshing, and not at all bitter like other green teas I’ve tasted. I would certainly drink it again without having to add honey to it!
The second tea I tried was Fujian Oolong. The origin of this tea is delightful. It’s grown in a garden in the Wuyi Mountains that is surrounded by jasmine flowers, which naturally scent the tea, making it completely unique. Like the green tea, Fujian Oolong contains many antioxidants; it is also very good for the digestion and metabolism, and helps to repair the body. Apparently people use it as an aid to weight loss as it has an alleged effect on fat burning too!
To brew this tea you cover it with water for 30 seconds, then discard this initial infusion and brew it again with fresh water before drinking. The leaves are dark green and tightly curled, but open up massively on brewing. The infused tea is more golden in colour than the green tea, and the scent of the jasmine is immediately apparent – it smells amazing! The taste is also very flowery – a bit too much so for my personal taste – but I know a couple of people who really like jasmine tea and I’m sure they’d absolutely love this. I can see why it won two gold stars in last year’s Great Taste Awards.
Personally I preferred the green tea, which was quite a revelation to me. It just goes to show that buying tea and coffee is rather like buying wine; there are so many different types out there to discover, and it pays to buy good quality stuff. I think the green teas I’ve tried in the past were probably just too cheap to be nice!
If you love tea, or would like to find out more about it, I’d really recommend a visit to the LuLin website, which has a wealth of information about the many different types of Chinese tea they sell, including their origins, health benefits and how to brew them correctly. I’ve really enjoyed trying these two samples and look forward to exploring some of the other teas in the future.