Thursday, August 7, 2014

What-Cha, Yunnan Graceful Purple 'Zi Juan' Purple Varietal Green Tea

10 g Sample Package
Yunnan Graceful Purple 'Zi Juan' Purple Varietal Green Tea

What-Cha Description:
A brilliant rare tea produced from purple varietal tea leaves, with a smoky aroma and taste combined with a wonderful smooth texture.

Sample provided by What-Cha

My Review:
This is my first review for What-Cha (Tea Redefined) a new UK based company. As such, I want to note a few things I learned from their website.

First, is the free international shipping for orders of $35 or more. Lesser size orders have a flat rate of $6. That appears to include Canada for my friends to the North that usually get socked with much higher rates than here in the US.

Second, I'm going to quote from their home page, "All our tea from Nepal, Assam, Kenya and the Azores has been sourced directly from the very farmers who produced it! This means the tea is as fresh as possible, it doesn't sit around waiting to be resold in warehouses. For example, our Nepal teas only takes 48 hours to reach us after being prepared and are added to our website ready for sale within 24 hours of arrival, tea does not get any fresher. Additionally, it is best for the environment as it means the tea only makes one journey to us before being sent on its way to the consumer. Most important of all it means we can cut out any middlemen and offer the cheapest possible price."

Yunnan Graceful Purple Dry Leaf
On to the review. The sample came in a sealed silver aluminum zip lock pouch. I love it when the samples reseal. Information is clearly printed on the label. The source information is not listed for this tea but a quick review of the website says it is Hunan Xiangfeng, China.

The tiny tear at the top of the sample was me trying to get in to the bag before I took the picture. From the aroma, once I did open it, I had good reason to be in a hurry. You know that kind of sweet, slightly sour scent of fresh cut grass that many Chinese green teas have? Yeah this. Along with a gentle, not really malty, not exactly yeasty, kind of bread note and a stronger but behaved really wonderful smokiness.

I have to admit here, the moment the scent hit me, I grabbed my press and scrubbed it to make sure there wasn't any lingering scents from previous use.

Cupped, now cool down so I can drink! 
The leaf is dark and long strands. At first it almost looked too dark to be a green tea. I believe this is due to it being a purple varietal. The leaves are actually purplish on the bush before picking. Once processed as a green tea they turn this very dark green color.

I used the parameters listed on the label and steeped for 2 1/2 minutes. The result is honey golden liquor with a lovely fresh green aroma.

Side note here: I did almost no color correcting on the pictures. This tea just seems very photogenic.

The wet leaf was interesting. It swelled a lot after the first cup but did not completely relax. The aroma was earthy and vegetal. Just by the wet leaf, I would not have known this was a green tea. If I walked in at this point I would have thought it was sheng. The leaf has none of the smokiness present in the dry leaf.

Wet Leaf
The sip is mild and a little vegetal. It is still not obvious that this is a Chinese green. It is slightly earthy, and I detect a touch of saltiness - which may just be me. The smoke hits late in the back of the sip. It is not a powerful note. It just fits the occasion.  I detect just a hint of bite (just a hint) but no bitterness.

At this point I fired off a question to Alistair at What-Cha. I am still wondering if this is a sheng. If it is, this is the most mellow sheng lacking all that bright bitterness that often accompanies it. If it is indeed a green tea, it is completely different than any I have had before. Its uniqueness is very captivating.

My question was answered very quickly considering the different time zones involved. This is indeed a green tea. The reason I am detecting sheng like qualities is the large leaf purple varietal of this tea bush is grown in Yunnan and used in the making of pu'erh.

Mug two continues much the same as the first. There is a stone fruit presence that reminds me slightly of apricot. Another example of how this reminds me of sheng is in its antihistamine like quality. My lungs feel cool and fresh like I can breath to my toes. Also present is a peaceful sense of well being. Love it. Final comparison is the quiet stomach rumble leading me to believe this tea is soothing to my system.

Mug three and 30 ounces later, while this is steeping it has a wonderful spicy/floral aroma. The taste remains strong but light. It is gently spiced, floral, and smooth. It is kind of drying with mild cheek tingle. The earthy, stone fruit, and a touch of smoke at the back are still present.

I feel certain I could keep steeping this leaf (and indeed I may) but I want to post this before it gets any longer. I think it is probably obvious already that I truly enjoyed this one. I've sampled hundreds of teas and sometimes think I have about seen it all and then something completely different comes along...  

You can find Yunnan Graceful Purple here.


  1. Thanks for the brilliant review Kevin, I can't wait to read your thoughts on the other teas

    1. Your welcome, and thank you for the opportunity to enjoy such a unique tea.