I had tea with L today at his office. It was a dizzying array of teas, among which a comparison tasting of two Jingmai teas stood out, because they are made by the same person, one in Spring, and one in Fall 2006.
The leaves look similar when dry, and exhibit a simialr fragrance. When brewed though, the spring leaves are obviously more tender and younger. The fall ones are a little bigger, older, and less tender. The colour of the brew was significantly different — the spring one being darker in colour, due to age, no doubt, but I think also concentration of leaves. The spring one also just simply tasted more concentrated — a higher level of aroma, fragrance, a smoother mouthfeel. In fact, the spring was better in every respect.
How much of this is due to age? I suppose some of it must be due to age, as it’s got basically double the time of the fall to age. Yet, the spring cake still tastes really raw, and I think the fact that it is consisted of younger, more tender leaves also makes a huge impact. Younger leaves, especially buds, tend to produce a smoother tea. It is also more concentrated in flavour, reflected in this tasting.
If at the same price, I think it’s a no-brainer that one should buy the spring. There is, of course, the variable that the spring leaves might be of a lower quality (say, from lower quality plants). That, unfortuantely, is the variable that is the hardest to gauge.
Tomorrow I might be going with L to a friend’s place to try some more tea, and to meet up with a reader of my blog who also lives in Shanghai. I hope it’ll be fun 🙂