Monday, March 9, 2015

Nannuoshan, Xue Ya

6 g Sample Packet
Nannuoshan Description:
Xue Ya tea leaves are picked before April 19-21; one leaf and a bud at each pick. The dry leaves are straight, light green in colour and covered by soft downy hair. It is hard to find broken leaves.
The taste is fresh, slightly sweet and grassy, with a pleasant umami tinge.

Sample provided by Nannuoshan

My Review:
Welcome to the first of my white tea extravaganza. At this time I have 10 different white teas to review in the coming weeks. I love white tea. For those of you who aren't so crazy about them, well, I will be mixing in reviews of other types as well. So don't run off.

Xue Ya in English means snow buds. This one originates in Yixing, Jiangsu, China. I tried to study up on Xue Ya and quickly became very confused. Is it a white tea? Yellow? Green? Is it an old tea type as Nannuoshan says on their website, or was it invented in the 80's? It seems to depend on who is processing the leaf and where they are located.

Dry Leaf
Opening the sample, the dry leaf scent is slightly sweet, and equal parts grassy and oats.

Examining the leaf, This appears to be one leaf and a bud. The leaf is a basically straight and faded green, while the buds are silvery. Looking very closely, the young buds are covered in downy hair. First glance had me wondering, but the closer look convinces me this is indeed a white tea.

When acquiring the samples, it was recommended to use a gaiwan in the reviews. I prefer my western hybrid mug method and may switch later but for now I will begin with a 90 ml gaiwan.

First Steep
The directions found on Nannoushan's Xue Ya page are for a 150 ml cup. Since mine is only 90 ml (about 3 ounces), I will adjust the leaf amount down from 3 grams to 2 grams. The water temperature was 90 C or 195 F.

The first steep was 30 seconds. You can see from the picture that the liquor has very little color. I wondered if would taste like water.

The simple answer is no. I sniffed the underside of the lid as I removed it. There was a scent like stewed meat. Mmmmm. Along with it is a vegetal, or actually, a more vine like aroma.

You can see in the picture below how green the wet leaf turned after steeping.

The first sip caused my eyes to open a little wide as I said, whoa! Don't let the lack of color fool you. This packs a big taste.

Wet Leaf
The taste is mildly sweet. It is sort of grassy, but the taste is bigger than that simple word. The word I need to use and always hesitate on, is bitter. Generally that has a negative connotation. Here it is a good thing. The bitter is the crisp refreshing type that is pleasing to the palate.

Nannuoshan uses the word umami in their description. I can agree. It has the sensation of having been seasoned with salt but without the salty taste. Yeah, I know, that is a hard concept to grasp.

The second cup at 45 seconds has an entirely different aroma. It is more earthy, and white tea like, but at the same time reminds me (and I know this is the strangest description I've ever used), of an old electric fan smell. Told you it was strange. The taste is very different as well. The good bitter of the first cup is moved to the aftertaste along with some grassiness. The sip itself has a strong umami presence with an almost metallic bite. My cup was empty before I realized, so obviously in my puzzlement, I must have enjoyed it.

The third cup at 60 seconds morphs once more. The aroma is quite vegetal, seeming more like a Chinese green tea. The color of the liquor is still a very pail manila in the cup. The taste is a combination of flavors. I get earthy/mushroom, mineral, umami, and grass. The aftertaste is cooling while tasting lightly sweet, and a good bitter grass.

Yes, I do like this one. To my tastes it seems more like a green tea than a white. I can see why the debate rages on.

You can find Nannuoshan, Xue Ya here.

1 comment:

  1. Kevin, I am glad to read that your reaction to this tea was like mine when I first drink it. I turn towards the producer and told him: "Are you sure it is not a green tea?"
    He replied arguing that no shaqing (first step of green tea production) was done on these leaves.

    By drinking it more and more I realized what, to my palate, distinguish this tea from the green teas: the absence of that kind of "chestnut taste" that many people associate with all green teas.

    Xue Ya remains an uncommonly grassy white tea and I am surprised how much our customers like it.
    Personally, I prefer the full and deep taste of Bai Mu Dan, especially when aged. I like it even better than the most expensive and sought after Yin Zhen.