An Introduction to Judging Huang Shan Mao Feng by Appearance
Huang Shan Mao Feng often falls under the radar for most tea drinkers. Its soft flavor doesn't attract alot of attention. With not so much information on this tea available, it can be hard for tea drinkers interested in this tea to know where to start. While this is only one tea, a quick search through the internet will yield Mao Fengs in all sorts of shapes. This can be hard for people getting into Mao Feng as they dont know which shape they should be looking for. So today I will go over the three most common shapes of Mao Feng and they're expected flavors. Many Huang Shan Mao Fengs can fall in between these three main categories, but memorizing these three shapes will give you a good place to start.
I want to start on a positive note. This is the sort of shape you should be looking for.
There is a clear short and fat bud with a small leaf next to it. The leaves have a very natural look, as though they havent been shaped in any way....because they haven't. Huang Shan Mao Fengs go under no official shape making step. The shape they are is the natural shape the took on during what ever processing they were exposed to. The expected flavor for this tea is light but complex with a umami savory body. (If we are getting technical I'd say this particular picture actually looks too small and maybe too early of a picking, but you get the idea)
The next one is the wirey style.
This one pops up everynow and then in China. While I've drank it a dozen times I haven't met a farmer who actually makes it yet. I believe the shape is partially created from being rolled but I'm not 100% sure on how this type of Mao Feng is made. Teas of this style are also generally from a later pick, hence the bigger leaves. Expect a stronger vegetal flavor and less umami.
The final one is the worst style of Mao Feng.
This style of Mao Feng was made by machine. The leaves are put into long channels which are shaken back and forth over coals. Note: This is not an example of charcoal baking. Unlike normal Mao Fengs which are stir fried and then baked dry to finish, this tea skips the stirfry step completely.
The leaves are very easy to distinguish as they are unnaturally long, straight, and stiff. Mao Feng will take on a slight curl in the making, like a cresent moon, these Mao Fengs though have little to no curve. These Mao Fengs are generally tasteless and have no real qualities that seperate them from any other mass produced light green tea. If you are exploring Mao Feng, don't buy this.
I hope this article has helped you. As I mentioned before there will sometimes be teas that fall somewhere between these categories, but this should give you a place to start when looking at Mao Fengs. Another tip to buying Mao Fengs is to look at the description. Does the seller describe his Mao Feng in a unique way, or is the description basic and applicable to any half decent green tea. Huang Shan Mao Feng is a fantastic tea and worth getting to know. Because of it's lighter flavor and lack of popularity in the west it can one of the harder famous green teas to understand.
If you would like a jump start into the world of Huang Shan Mao Feng check out the Mao Feng Sample pack.
If you agree or disagree with any of these teas, or if you have any expirence leave a comment.