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  • Kate Malone Hesser

Two Teas from Laoshan

During the last two years of experiencing new teas through subscription boxes and curated sets, I developed a deep appreciation for teas from Laoshan. I have spent a lot of time with the black type and have had the green once or twice, but I have never had them in my stash at the same time - until now! Over the weekend I tasted each of the teas individually and side-by-side so that I could explore the similarities and differences between the two types and thus, gain a better understanding of the growing practices and terroir of Laoshan. The teas that were part of my tasting are:

Laoshan, at the base of Mt. Lao, for which it is named, is a coastal village on the southern edge of the Shandong Peninsula in China. It is surrounded on two sides by the Yellow Sea. According to Verdant Tea’s blog, Laoshan enjoys a uniquely green micro-climate for the Shandong region, which is typically cold, due to the shelter of the Laoshan Mountain range and has long been famous for its “sweet” spring water. Verdant goes on to say that as most of the tea is grown at sea-level in Laoshan’s rocky mountain soil that is fed by their sweet springs, the tea produced is much closer to a Japanese tea than a tea grown in southern China. While Laoshan has a centuries-old farming tradition, tea farming is relatively new. Without the weight of ancient traditional methods, there is appetite for agricultural experimentation and other types of tea, for example, oolongs, are produced in the region as well.

So what did I find?

Dry leaf appearance: Both types have beautiful leaves: curly, wiry, well twisted. It is very hard not to touch them! Both have visible tips and while the black tea is mostly monochrome, the green leaves show colors of olive, pine and sage.

Dry leaf aroma: Both of the leaves have a “baked aroma” which is what draws me to Laoshan teas. The green smelled of nutty and toasted bread, while the black smelled of baked potato skins and stout.

Wet leaf appearance: Both varieties stayed mostly twisted during the first infusion. While the green were dulled in color, the black leaves became a more vibrant brown.

Wet leaf aroma: This is the “had me at hello” moment for Laoshans and me - the black wet leaves smelled of roasted potatoes and gravy while the green smelled of roasted broccoli and brussel sprouts. Double-fisting these beauties made me feel like Violet Beaureguard ready for a full meal in just two sips.

Liquor color: The green tea yielded a white-gold liquor that was leaning a touch toward the green end of the spectrum. It got progressively greener and brighter after each infusion. The black tea was a dark rose-gold.

Mouthfeel: This is where I think the teas are the most similar. They both had a thick, oily consistency with a medium-body flavor.

Flavor: In the green tea I tasted fresher, more delicate vegetables like bean sprouts, green beans and alfalfa with just a touch of smoky honey. In the black I found more potato, dark chocolate, toasted walnuts and malt.

Finish: Each of the teas had a medium-length finish with the black tea’s being longer and sweeter. The green’s finish was sweet and clean-feeling.

Body sensation: The green tea left me with that perfect “focused-calm” that I seek from teas, when the caffeine and l-theanine are working in harmony. The black tea made me feel just a little bit heavier. I still felt focused, but maybe the scale tipped a bit more toward calm.

I hope you will be able to try one or both of these teas - or others from Laoshan. The tea industry in this area gives us an opportunity to experience its microclimate and its very specific localized terroir. If I have the opportunity to visit China, I will definitely plan to spend some time in this beautiful place.

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