In Chinese, "Gong Ting" translates to "imperial," while "Jin Hao" means "golden hair."
"Gong Ting Jin Hao" is highly esteemed as the highest grade of ripe pu-erh tea, primarily due to its abundance of tea buds. Its rarity stems from the meticulous tea-making process, where each twig of tea leaf collected contains merely 3 to 4 tea leaves accompanied by just 1 tea bud. This prevalence of tea buds imparts a captivating golden hue to the brew. Moreover, the tea liquor exudes a velvety smoothness, offering a delightful drinking experience with absolutely no astringency or bitterness.It has matured beautifully, acquiring a dried fruity note reminiscent of dates or figs, accompanied by a subtle drinking sensation akin to raw chocolate. It is a delightful tea that can be enjoyed at any time of the day or paired excellently with a savory meal.
Two Different Types of Ripe Pu-erhBefore we go into details about the Gong Ting Jin Hao ripe pu-erh tea, I would like to explain about two different types of ripe pu-erh in terms of the shape of tealeaf.
- The mao-cha (the crude tea) is compressed as it is
- The mao-cha is graded and different segments are selectively introduced
For example, let's consider the mini tou cha, which possesses small and consistent leaf size. This characteristic is a result of the grading process. After fermentation, ripe pu-erh tea undergoes sifting and grading, with the finer tea leaves typically earmarked for the production of mini tuo cha. Regrettably, there is a common misconception among some people who view these small leaves as an indicator of inferior quality, assuming they are broken or cut leaves. However, this is a misunderstanding or myth.
Following the fermentation process, the same batch of pu-erh tea leaves is graded, and the finer segments are gathered specifically for the creation of mini tuo cha. As a consequence, the quality of mini tuo cha is on par with the raw material used for the production of the same batch of ripe pu-erh tea. In essence, it does not represent inferior quality when compared to the larger leaves graded from the same batch.
Classification of tea according to the size of tea leaves
During the grading process, tea leaves are categorized into various groups, such as tips, fine leaves, big leaves, and stems. Typically, there are 5 to 6 grades, sometimes even up to 10 grades, with the highest grade having the highest proportion of buds, earning it the name "Gong Ting" pu-erh tea. Following this are the special grade, 1st grade, 3rd grade, and so on. The Gong Ting grade boasts a stunning appearance due to the abundance of golden tips. Its rarity, coupled with a soaring demand, places it at the highest price point in the market.
However, it's essential to recognize that the grade of ripe pu-erh tea doesn't necessarily determine its overall quality; rather, it influences the cup characteristics. The true quality of a ripe pu-erh tea is defined by the raw material used in its production, emphasizing the significance of the ingredients and craftsmanship involved.
The cup characteristics of the Gong Ting Pu-erh
The specific components present in tea buds create a remarkably unique and delightful drinking experience. It feels akin to snow gently dissolving in the mouth, leaving behind a sensation of pure elegance. Moreover, the taste is exceptionally gentle, delicate, and soft, evoking memories of indulging in raw chocolate.
Due to the abundant presence of buds, teas generally exhibit a lighter body and aftertaste in comparison to those composed primarily of full-grown leaves. This trend remains consistent across various types of tea and holds no exceptions. In my perspective, grading is undertaken to classify teas based on the characteristics they exude. Teas with a higher proportion of full-grown and matured leaves tend to offer a bolder drinking sensation, providing a fuller body and aftertaste. On the other hand, teas abundant in buds present a softer and more tender drinking experience.
A properly-made ripe pu-erh tea of high quality showcases a tea liquor with a thick and clear color. It is neither cloudy nor bitter in taste. With proper storage conditions, tea develops a dried fruity note resembling dates, while avoiding any musky or moldy flavors.
The grades of ripe Pu-erh tea reflects its character and the quality is defined by its raw material
As I mentioned earlier, ripe pu-erh tea is categorized into various grades, each with its own distinct price range. However, it's crucial to understand that this grading system applies solely within the same type of tea leaves. It should not be confused with the fundamental quality of the tea itself. For instance, if there were 100 different types of pu-erh teas, and each of these teas underwent grading, there would be 100 types of Gong Ting pu-erh tea.
The quality of each Gong Ting pu-erh tea can vary significantly, primarily depending on the quality of the raw material used. Therefore, it is crucial to prioritize seeking out high-quality tea before delving into the grading aspect. Only by doing so can we genuinely evaluate and discuss the subtle intricacies of the grading process.
Tea is grown in a sustainable ecological environment.
This Gong Ting Jin Hao is made from old tea trees grown with natural farming method. It was grown as part of surrounding ecology and no fertilizers or pesticide was applied.
As far as I am aware, most ripe Pu-erh tea originates from garden tea. Typically, modern agricultural practices ensure that garden tea receives exceptional care. Conversely, it is exceptionally rare to find ripe Pu-erh teas originating from old tea trees grown in their natural ecological environment. Consequently, these tea leaves can command a higher price if processed into raw pu-erh tea. Therefore, these valuable materials are seldom used to produce ripe pu-erh tea.
In contrast, garden tea tends to offer a light aftertaste with flavors that fade relatively quickly. Conversely, tea grown using natural farming methods yields a very robust aftertaste. This is attributed to its remarkably slow growth due to the absence of fertilizers and pesticides. Additionally, the tea accumulates a wealth of tea constituents such as polyphenols and minerals from the soil. As a result, the tea's taste becomes notably thicker and more flavorful, providing a richer and more satisfying drinking experience.