I thought that I was deterred from ever considering molihua [jasmine flower] tea after being subjected to horrifically unpleasant versions of it from (Anglicised) Chinese restaurants and ethic-free supermarket chains. Invariably, these teas were scented as cheaply as possible, using heavy jasmine oil, which also had the happy side-effect of allowing the producers to use even more terrifying leaves to make the tea than they usually would.
It is safe to say, Western "jasmine tea" is pretty much the bottom rung of the ladder in my estimation, right next to Tetleys/Typhoo/PG Tips/Lipton teabags.
You can well imagine my reaction when Lei produced a small container of molilongzhu [jasmine dragon-pearls] from her recent trip to China. Always happy to be proven wrong, and trusting Lei's constantly fine judgement in such matters, we sat down to a jasmine-scented session.
These were 18RMB/50g [~£1.30, $2.50] from her hometown.
N.b. I have been asked to point out that, in the photograph, the flower was a wind-fall, and not plucked for the occassion - something about which there is a certain amount of sentiment [if you know your Hongloumeng, I am reminded of Lin Daiyu burying dead flowers]...
Brita-filtered water @ 70c in 9cl gaiwan; ~5g; 1 rinse
Tight "pearls": perfect spheres with streaks of silver interwoven, from the tips. The aroma of actual molihua (rather than the tell-tale artificial scents derived from oils) radiates from the leaves, and the small cylinder in which the tea is stored has taken on the strong aroma.
"Don't be misled by the low price", sayeth she, and I nod sagely.
This is an 8 a.m. tea. It is raining hard outside, as it has for many days (resulting in much flood damage and untraversable road) across Oxfordshire. The leaves of the bushes and the petals of the pink flowers outside the lounge window are heavy with raindrops. We huddle around the tea-table and set about greeting the morning with our tea.
10s, 15s, 20s, 25s, 40s, 60s+:
Judging from the infusion times, this tea seemed to have a certain endurance you might surmise, and right you would be for it lasts a particularly long time - this is a novelty for molihua lucha, in my (previously-recounted) horrific past experiences.
The hulu [gourd-filter] is entirely redundant as there are no stray particles from this tea at all. The smell of rain-washed flowers from outside mingles seamlessly with the similarly floral aroma from the gongdaobei.
The brew is solid yellow, and there is an interesting "low" flavour under the expected floral character, something like rich nectar.
The overall impression is solid lucha mixed with, dare I say it, "Hubba Bubba" - the chewing gum from the 1980s that I used to enjoy as a child. It is the precise, exact flavour of Hubba Bubba.
Thunder rolls, and rain falls loudly from the gutters, front and back.
It may be of interest to note that I tend to brew lucha without the gaiwan lid, following advice obtained independently from sources in both Lei's hometown and on Maliandao. I have not yet run a qualitative comparison, but it does seem to assist in avoiding "stewing" - simply because of the lowered temperatures, I assume.
Bud, tips, and a few leaves, all joined by the stem and rolled up tightly. Very attractive indeed - and a good grade, hence the high price (relative to the cost of other goods in Henan Province).
"I can see why hardened tea-drinkers might think molihua as being simple, but it is lovely." Indeed it is, accustomed as I am to the palate-numbing excesses of English supermarket jasmine. This is good tea, and again I quietly note to myself that Lei really does know how to buy a fine leaf.
My prejudices to molihua lucha are shaken.