I puzzled a lot over a phrase from The Harney & Sons Guide to Tea when I read it some time ago, in a comparison of Japanese vs Chinese green teas: "the honeyed quality of many Chinese green teas". I have tasted a lot of sweetness in various chinese green, oolong, and even puerh teas, but rarely anything approaching 'honeyed'. Today, I tasted a free sample included in my latest order from Greg at Norbutea, and I found the answer. Gu Zhu Zi Sun Zhejiang green tea from Norbu has the honeyed sweetness I thought didn't exist:
3 grams in 3 ounce preheated iron-rich clay shiboridashi
170°F/77°C, 30 seconds--weet, vegetal, grassy, a delicate floral note too. VERY NICE!
170°F/77°C, 30 seconds--sweet, and the floral is stronger this infusion, fantastic
170°F/77°C, 45 seconds--wow, how does this one go on like this? I am drinking a meadow of spring flowers--THIS is the "honeyed sweetness of Chinese green teas" that I read about in one of my tea books, and haven't ever properly tasted in tea before. I've had some fine green teas that have had hints of this, but usually tempered with nuttiness or astringency or bitterness when the tea is pushed a bit, or just lower-key with the floral elements, and here there is nothing roasted, just sweet, floral, wow.
190°F/88°C, 30 seconds--still that astonishing sweetness, and my tastebuds are dancing.
185°F/85°C, 1 minute--oh my….I am in love.
190°F/88°C, 2 minutes--still delicious, the floral richness a little less intense now.
(remaining infusions between 190°F/88°C and 200°F/93°C)
3 minutes--enough sweet floral flavor remains to encourage a 4th infusion.
4 minutes--mmmm, a little lighter now, still pleasant.
5 minutes--closing in on sweet water, done now.
What a marvelous tea! Just don't order all of it before I can secure a little more for myself.