mardi 4 septembre 2012

Ding Gu Da Fang, First Grade

Anhui Province

Ding Gu Da Fang is a flat leaf tea (like Long Jing), produced in misty, rainy, but also sunny conditions, in steep bamboo forests environment. It is grown in She county (Anhui), in Lao Zhu Ling mountain, and Fu Quanshan mountain (both around 1000 meters of altitude). Its process is very similar to the Long Jing one, and specialists are not able to determine if Ding Gu Da Fang process was the ancestor of Long jing's process. Debate still remains. Nevertheless, DGDF is also considered as one of the most famous chinese green teas.

This tea takes its name from its creator, Da Fang, a buddhist monk who lived in a temple on top of Lao Zhu Ling mountain (late Song dynasty). It's believed that Da Fang personally grew, harvested and processed the tea leaves with his own unique method. When visitors came, he used to brew this specific tea he made by himself. The tea's flavor was so special and delicious, that many people started to come specially to taste it. Finally, he shared his processing method to other tea producers, because he really needed calm to be back in the temple. By the time of Qing dynasty, Da Fang tea had been listed as imperial tribute.

This kind of story illustrates once again, the powerful link between tea and buddhism, and how both developed hand in hand, firstly in China, but also in Korea and Japan. It would really be important that westerns fully realize tea is not only a beverage... When europeans first discovered tea, it was considered as drink, completely cut of its historical, cultural and spiritual dimensions. And I can often see this old belief is still alive, even if tea knowledge is getting deeper in the western world.

Ding Gu Da Fang is plucked before Gu Yu (Grain Rain). This spring harvest is considered to give the best quality. In some gardens, there are also summer and autumn harvests. One bud and one or two delicate leaves are hand plucked. The tea I'm tasting today is from early spring (2012). The leaves, covered with golden down, are regular and light yellowish green in color.

This tea is very often compared to Long Jing tea, because indeed, the leaves are processed in a very similar way, and consequently, they look alike. It's true that when you like Long Jing, you will pretty much be able to appreciate Da Fang tea. You will only need to remember it's absolutely different, in terms of smell and taste. One of the reasons to this is, of course, the very different "terroir" and local climate, that makes this tea unique.

Like other chinese green teas, Ding Gu Da Fang can be brewed in different ways (glass, gaiwan, small teapot), producing different results. It's very interesting to try several parameters for the same tea,  taking the time to know it better, by testing different brewing methods.

When you first moisturize the leaves, you get a strong flowery smell, with a hint of chinese water chestnut. The aromas also remind of flowers, and develop a sharp green note. But most of all, you can not miss its very sweet taste, as sweet as cane sugar. The after taste is very long lasting, and the texture is smooth and delicate.

As other good green teas, DGDF brings a clear mind and a great boost to the body. I'm actually having a Da Fang tea period, and I find it can suit every situation, at any time. As the weather is changing, getting cool and rainy, this tea still remains a judicious choice at the dawn of autumn.

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