For eight weeks, we’re highlighting teas from Seven Cups Tea, a local Tucson tea shop. Offering everything from traditional tea ceremonies to over 70 loose leaf Chinese tea varieties, Seven Cups is an Arizona resource for exploring both Chinese tea and the traditions that surround it. For our first tea back from the holiday break, we brewed up a pot of Seven Cup’s Yin Gou Mei.
Yin Gou Mei translates to Silver Fish Hook Eyebrow, so named for the shape the extra-long leaves take when dried. What distinguishes this tea from other eyebrow teas is its sweet, robust flavor – think green tea ice cream sans the sugar. The leaves are hand-picked in early spring, and left extra long instead of undergoing a mechanized picking and cutting process that can lead to bitter tea. Once dry, the long leaves curl up in a manner reminiscent of fish hooks.
Seven Cups’ particular variety of Yin Gou Mei comes from a sixth generation tea maker, Mr. Wang Fang Sheng. He has a factory built alongside his tea gardens in the mountainous region of Huangshan. There were no roads up to his tea garden when Mr. Wang built his factory, so he painstakingly carried every piece of equipment up the mountain by foot. Some of the heavier machines required three days of pushing and pulling to get to the factory – no small feat! In his younger years, Mr. Wang would even spend the entire tea production season living up at his mountainside factory.
That kind of love and care comes through in the experience of drinking the tea – at first I brewed it too weak, yet even the subdued flavor lingered pleasantly in my mouth. At full strength (3/4 of a tablespoon steeped for at least a minute in 16 oz of water, in up to five infusions), the tea is a delightful sweet yet strong green tea, with none of the bite one might expect.
The Yin Gou Mei can be purchased in-store or online, starting at $8.09 for 50 grams. We’ll be back with yet another tea next week week; until then, we hope you take advantage of the winter weather and cozy up with a nice hot mug.