Little Melon Seed (Lu An Guipian)
Little Melon Seed or (Lu An Gua Pian) is one of China’s most famous teas. It has been recognized by emperors of the past for its exceptional quality. The tea is grown in the Huang Shan Mountains (Yellow Mountains) of Anhui Province and is harvested in early- mid April. The surrounding area is steeply sloped and replete with fresh water springs and bamboo forests.
Little Melon Seed is considered a yellow tea. The tea gets its name from the appearance of the leaf. The leaves have an oval shape resembling melon seeds, with fine serrations along the sides of the leaf. This varietal comes from the Dushan Small-Leaf Cultivar. The style of tea is unusual, especially the desirable varieties. This particular tea uses the second leaf on the branch and does not include any tips, buds, or higher leaves. The central vein of the leaf is removed, and the production process is then similar to that of green tea, but with one additional step called men huan, or “sealing yellow”.
After the pan-firing process, the leaves are wrapped in a special cloth, and the steps are then repeated several times over a period of three days. This process allows the leaves to gently oxidize before the final slow charcoal drying. The smothering process due to the cloth, pulls aromas back to the leaf creating a more aromatic and mature tea. This process alleviates the grass flavor and astringent taste found in most greens. This is also why yellow teas have always reminded me of a fresh raw pu-erh.
The liquor of the tea is bright and clear, with a very light yellowish green color, hence the name. The tea is full-bodied, strong and very smooth. The floral taste and aftertaste is very reminiscent of the green Ti Kuan Yin varietal.
I had sought this tea out since we first opened Tin Roof, and it was well worth the wait.