I love Chinese tea stories. They always contain mystical elements. Recently, I discovered a Chinese green tea called “Clouds and Mist” or “Yunwu.” It tastes completely different from any green tea I have ever tasted. Yes, it has vegetal notes, but a sweet melon finish. This tea grows on mountains surrounded by clouds and mist. The damp air keep the tea leaves moist. The clouds block any direct sunlight, allowing the leaves to develop slowly. More chlorophyll builds up in the leaves, giving the brew with sweet notes. I am sure several poems have been written about this tea. In fact, I found an interesting story about this tea in James Norwood Pratt’s New Tea Lover’s Treasury, which I have summarized below. It starts off like a joke.
A Taoist recluse and a Buddhist monk walked into a tea firm in China, proclaiming they had the best quality Clouds and Mist green tea leaves. The tea firm manager invited the two holy men to brew their teas for comparison. The monk boiled water, pouring it into a large bowl with green leaves with white fir. Covering the bowl with a lid, he waited as long as it took incense to completely burn. When he lifted the lid a white mist rose three feet above the bowl, leaving a pleasant subtle aroma. The monk served the tea to the manager and others present, receiving high praise.
Then the Taoist prepared his special tea leaves in a bowl. When he lifted the lid, a cloud of white mist rose from the bowl, turning into the form of a lovely girl. At first, her figure expanded and then contracted before dissipating. The monk realized he had lost the contest. He petulantly said: “This strange phenomenon by no means signifies that his tea is of higher quality than mine. It is just a trick accomplished by Taoist magic.” The Taoist laughed; brushing his sleeves to show contempt, he walked away. The monk took his tea and left. The poor manager was left dazed, confused, and tealess.
When I brew Clouds and Mist, I do see a lovely white steam. However, I must keep looking for the pretty girl.
This article by Tiffany Williams was originally posted in March 2013.