A classic and often lesser-known Chinese Green tea from Anhui province which is produced in a totally unique way.
Lu An Gua Pian or Melon Seed Green is a tea which rose to fame as an Imperial tea in the Qing Dynasty and has been produced using specific techniques for over 300 years.
The picking on this Green tea is very different to other Greens. Instead of using fine pickings of buds and very young leaves, the producers will leave the plant to grow medium leaves. They will pick these larger leaves (closer to an oolong picking) and leave the bud to continue growing. After a few days the bud will produce a last round of leaves which will be used for the same or higher quality Melon Seed tea. Therefore, Melon Seed Green tea can not be picked very early spring and some say that the second pickings are better than the first picks. A tea which breaks all the rules!
The leaves are withered before pan baking over wood-fired woks at various different temperatures. The first wok will be the hottest to deactivate enzymes in the leaf and cause more water evaporation. Then the leaves are moved to cooler woks for further evaporation and shaping.
After the leaves have been fired they are baked dry over charcoal and then they are flash-roasted. This is a very unique process called 'pulling the fire'. It involves two people loading a big bamboo heating basket with leaves and walking it over a scorching hot fire for less than a second (you do not want to burn or smoke the leaves). The leaves are mixed and the flash roasting is repeated up to sixty times until there is an even flash roasting across all of the leaves.
The resulting taste of this unusual picking and flash roasting? A sweeter and warmer tasting tea with notes of baked biscuits, sweet strawberries and dark baked potato skins.