On En Shi Yu Lu (En Shi Jade Dew): The comeback of a long-lost tradition
Many people love green tea because it is tasty and healthy, yet few seem to know one green tea can be made quite differently from the other. Among all the requests that I have received on Quora lately, one question piqued my interest in particular, “What is the difference between Chinese and Japanese green tea?”
The answer is in essence very simple. Most Chinese green teas are roasted whereas most Japanese teas are steamed. En Shi Yu Lu, as one of the few exceptions, is an interesting tea on its own merits.
What is En Shi Yu Lu?
It is one of the few steamed green teas still existing in China.
The steaming process was used to destroy the enzymes in fresh leaves and stop oxidization. It first appeared in the Tang Dynasty (7th-10th century) and reached its culmination in the Song Dynasty (10th-13th century). In 1191, Japanese monk Eisai finished his Buddhist study in China and returned to Japan with tea seeds and know-how of making green tea. While steamed green tea has since flourished in Japan and evolved into Sencha nowadays, it underwent a gradual decline in China and the production halted after the demise of the Qing Dynasty. The traditional steaming process was not resumed until tea merchant Yang took over the farms in Wu Feng Mountain around mid 1930s.
Thanks to the joint efforts made by craftsmen, merchants and the local government, the old tradition is restored. And the process for making En Shi Yu Lu is recognized as an intangible cultural heritage by the state right now.
A very unique terroir affords En Shi Yu Lu sophisticated tastes and rich nutritional content.
En Shi has spectacular geological formations and 70% forest cover. The karst wonderland consists of a variety of underground rivers, sinkholes, caves, limestone towers, mountains, and canyons.
En Shi Yu Lu carries a very refined and sophisticated flavor as they are planted in the mountains with an elevation of more than 3200 feet (1000 meters). Tea leaves mature more slowly and absorb more nutrients and aroma from their surroundings. The weather in En Shi is deemed perfect for growing tea, and the forest provides natural shades for tea leaves and keeps them away from too much sunlight.
Also, En Shi Yu Lu is renowned for its high selenium content as the soil is rich in minerals. Selenium is a trace mineral which helps prevent cardiovascular disease, thyroid ailments, cognitive decline, and other health problems.
En Shi Yu Lu is named after its iconic jade color and refreshing and mellow taste.
At first, En Shi Yu Lu was called “Jade Green” because the color of the leaves and liquor resemble that of the gemstone. It was later changed to “Jade Dew (Yu Lu)” for the distinctive flavors and aroma: refreshing, mellow, slightly earthy and mineral, with a sweet aftertaste. Similar to Gyokuro, En Shi Yu Lu should be steeped with 140°F/60°C water for about two minutes.
I have tasted both “Jade Dew” teas and I like them equally. While En Shi Yu Lu distills the essence of a mystical mountain forest, Gyukuro is a reminiscence of the fresh sea breeze. Like siblings with similar genes but different personalities, each possesses its own charm and beauty.