The Classic of Tea (aka The Book of Tea) by Lu Yu is not only the oldest but the most famous of all books about tea. He lived during the Tang Dynasty (circa 733-804) and was idolised by the later generations in China as the ‘God of Tea’ rightly so. His book is the first one that praised purple-leaf tea from “tree-shaded plants on south-facing slopes” and rated it as superior to green leaves.
Thousands year passes when I got an opportunity to taste the first flush purple-leaf tea from Rize, Turkey cultivated organically and processed into green tea. I am very impressed. The dry leaves had a very fruity fragrance, I could even smell rich and fresh sultanas. The infused leaves gave away a surprising vegetal aroma and the taste was smooth sweetness with fruity notes. For being such a young tea, I found its flavours and aromas very complex and intriguing.
I wrote about different teas that came from the same garden already. However, this tea (so far) is my favourite. The tea master Mr Yogurtcu cultivates tea organically and only grow tea plants from seeds. This enables stronger growth for the roots of tea plants and is more suitable for organic agriculture. He has a limited amount of tea bushes that produce purple-leaves (can produce up to 2 kg per year only) but he has an intention to grow their numbers in the future.
Again, I feel so lucky having experienced this luxury tea. I will finish with Xu Zhenqing’s (1479– 1511) poem which refers to purple-leaf:
Quiet courtyard, cool and fresh, with candles and flowers
The wind sighs in the bamboo; while the moonlight effloresces.
I idly come without companions, tending to the cloudy juice.
Among the copper leaves, the purple shoots of tea.
Sources: Chinese Tea by Tong Liu; Bokenkamp, Stephen R. 1986. “Th e Peach Flower Font and the Grotto Passage.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 106, no. 1:65– 78.
Origin: Rize, Turkey
Harvest time: April 2020
Leave colour: Reddish brown and dark green with some fuzz
Tea aroma: Fruity (dry leaves) and vegetal (infuse leaves)
Tea taste: Full-bodied, sweet and fruity
Steeping/brewing: You can use around 80°C water temperature and brew for up to one minute in gongfu style or up to three minutes in Western-style. You can brew the leaves many times (until the taste is lost). To each infusion add additional time. Experiment for a result that suits your taste.
Shelf life: Up to 24 months (fresher the better)