Mr Yu (farmer), Mingjian Township, Nantou County, Taiwan
I'm often baffled by how people come to do what they do, but in some cases at least, I'm grateful that they do it.
Take the whole GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) enhancement of tea for example. GABA itself is naturally found in humans as well as in tea. In humans, GABA is a neurotransmitter that calms certain body reactions, potentially steadying moods and blood pressure. Though we are yet to see conclusive studies on the health benefits of consuming GABA, many in Japan and Taiwan believe the benefits can transfer exogenously. During the 80s when Japanese scientists were looking for ways to improve food preservation and incidentally discovered that GABA levels were significantly increased in tea by exposing leaves to nitrogen rather than oxygen (anaerobic fermentation), a new way of processing tea was born and the health-conscious Japanese and Taiwanese bought in and never looked back.
Does putting these leaves in vacuum drums, pumped full of nitrogen end up giving it flavour too? Or is it the Jin Xuan cultivar itself picked during the revered pre-qing ming (first harvest) season the real catalyst for tantalising our tastebuds? Because what you get on the nose as well as the palate is nothing short of miraculous. Warm porridge, granola, maple and jackfruit - words I have never penned together before but am forced to do so now. Yep, it tastes exactly that, just don't ask me how.
Dry leaves: long wiry stems, full green leaves, lightly twisted
Taste: warm porridge, granola, maple and jackfruit
Process: withering, anaerobic fermentation, wok firing to "kill green", shaped, dried
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