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We kick off the Canton Tea Club with an Indian green tea chosen by Jane Pettigrew.

Jane Pettigrew introduces Indian Green Twirl tea

by on October 4th, 2012

Canton Tea Club Week 1: Green Twirl 

We are delighted to launch the Canton Tea Club with an Indian green tea chosen by Jane Pettigrew, tea expert, historian and writer. Jane has written 13 books on the production, history and culture of tea and is renowned worldwide for her wealth of knowledge on this subject.

Jane: I first tasted this unusual green tea from Southern India with friends in the Czech Republic and then I came across it again while preparing for a presentation in London this summer with the Tea Board of India. Along with its sisters, White Tea and Virgin Green, it had been submitted as a potential tea to taste with an audience of approximately 60 tea traders, producers, retailers and journalists who gathered to share their love of Indian teas. Since the Nilgiri tea estates are so famous for their black orthodox teas, it was a wonderful surprise to taste ‘Green Twirl’ and discover a delicate and refined sweetness in both the aroma and the taste. Carefully gathered from plants that are grown on Rainforest Alliance certified land at the Billimalai Tea Estate in Nilgiri, the hand-picked leaves are beautifully neat and even and are flecked with silver. The liquor has no astringency, no bitterness – just an enticing and very satisfying, deliciously fruity sweetness!

We all tend to think of China and Japan as the main origins of green teas but producers all around the world are now trying their hands at making them. Indian tea producers are extremely skilled at manufacturing wonderful black teas from Darjeeling, Assam and Nilgiri. But harvesting the leaf that is usually turned into those familiar blacks and working with it to produce good green teas is a real challenge and demands patience and tenacity. It takes research, experimentation, trial and error to decide how the various processing steps must be adjusted to achieve the best results. It’s easy to actually manufacture green tea but, if badly or carelessly made, it will taste bitter, harsh, even metallic – especially if made from the assamica varietal – and it will be unpleasant to drink. In Nilgiri, most of the original tea plants were bred from assamicas and it is much harder to turn the leaf into green teas that offer wonderful mild, clean, sweet green notes without the bitterness. And so, as we sip – with such pleasure – a great green like Green Twirl, we must recognize all the dedicated work that has gone into manufacturing such an excellent tea and say a silent ‘thank you’ to the producers!

How does Green Twirl compare to Chinese green tea?

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  1. AliceEvans says:

    I was really surprised at the taste and quality of this tea; such a fine green tea from India is so unexpected (of coarse apart from the amazing Arya emerald green Darjeeling that Canton sells)! Thanks from opening my eyes to the amazing possibilities of Indian green tea! Is this something that we will be seeing more of in the future? I’d also love to try an Indian Oolong, has anyone come across one?!
    P.S. has anyone else noticed that this tea is unusually high in caffeine?

  2. cantonteaco says:

    Hi Alice, thanks for your comments. 
    When we tried this tea in the office it was quite strong – let’s just say we got a lot of work done that morning!
    PS. We sell an organic Indian Oolong Darjeeling from the Arya Estate (same place as the Emerald)

  3. Kayleigh Tosh says:

    The tea itself is in small twisted pieces that smell very mature and sort of swampy or pondy if you will. They are also bright green and look very fresh and fun.

    Brewed this takes on a wonderful yellow colour which still gives off a strong and potent swamp/pond fragrance.
    The flavour is also the same as the smell, I know I have said swampy a lot so far but it truly is. It’s green, grassy, strong, extremely floral in taste and also has a thick natural sweetness.

    I know that what I have described of this may not sound like a nice cup of tea but it is actually rather pleasant. It has character and uniqueness. The more I drink the more I can imagine being in a large meadow and having the ability to taste everything that I could smell there.
    I might even be so bold as to announce this sort of tea the green equivalent to black tea’s Lapsang Souchong purely for their uniqueness and interesting aroma’s. It’s also going to be something that you either love or hate.

    Great for special occasions and to feel uplifted by something completely different. I must admit that the taste has to grow on you but once it does it makes you smile. 🙂

  4. ch3rryprinc3ss says:

    @AliceEvans  I noticed the tea buzz around half way down the cup. I love strong tea in flavour, smell and boost so this one was a winner for me.

  5. pihesfsk says:

    This is pretty insignificant but the brewing information on the actual bag of tea differs slightly from that on the leaflet included in the box. The tea itself is delicious!

  6. EdgarThoemmes1 says:

    @pihesfsk Well spotted. Which method did you follow?

  7. AndreaChierici says:

    @cantonteaco Yeah, me too. I made the mistake to have it in the evening, because i was so excited to taste it as soon as i could, but it’s really powerful!

  8. AndreaChierici says:

    what about the steep time for the 2nd and 3rd infusion?do you raise the minutes?how much?

  9. cantonteaco says:

    @AndreaChierici I’d say add 30 seconds to a minute for each subsequent infusion. It does depend on how strong you like your tea, though. Have a play around and see what works for you

  10. Green Twirl has a similar bean taste to the Dragons Well fromChina, but it is a little courser with a touch more astringency. The flavour is quite good on the second infusion and is fading on the third; forget a forth.
    This tea has a rough edge and a little soapiness. Coonoor was set up by the British to produce commercial tea for the lower-middle and working classes in large quantities and it shows here,if just a little. That said, whilst the absence of 1000 years of tea culture, like in China, shows , this is as good a green tea from S. India as I’ve tasted.
    7 out of 10.

  11. sparrisupdate says:

    I don’t remember having had a green from India before so this is a first for me. Lovely ‘broken tomato leaf’ smells from the bag and later from the brewed tea. Brisk but not bitter, really refreshing!

  12. tandaylor says:

    @AndreaChierici I brewed a pot in the morning for some friends who were keen to see what the Tea Club was all about.  We had a pretty lively chat – so I’d agree that this is pretty high in caffeine!  I increased my brewing time by about 20 seconds for the second infusion.  I left the drained leaves in the pot for the rest of the morning and went out for the day.  I re-brewed the pot at about 3 o’clock for myself.  Still a lovely flavour on the third infusion, but less of a caffeine jolt.

  13. AndreaChierici says:

    @sparrisupdate The first thing i did was putting my nose into the bag!

  14. sfugarino says:

    We had a spilt decision in my home. We only had some Long Jing to compare it to. I personally like the Long Jing better, but my daughter said she really likes this tea.
     I will say the aroma that comes from just opening the bag is impressive. The smell is very fresh and vegital. The leaves are lovely. The tea is “fluffy” like an oriental beauty, so without a scale so it was hard to tell if I used the right amount. The brew was a light green, so i think I used the right amount. By the time I got to the bottom of the cup, I wanted more.

  15. cantonteaco says:

    @sfugarino Its good to hear that the tea is sparking debate. In the office we thought it was somewhere between a Mao Jian and a Dragon Well – it has the soft notes of the Mao Jian but it does also have a brighter, more Dragon well-like side too. And you are right – it is quite moreish.

  16. lazy_literatus says:

    The first tea write out of the tea club starting gate was a Nilgiri green! Simply awesome.  Nothin’ excites me more than notching off a new type of tea from a region I didn’t did this certain type.
    Taste-wise, it was really peculiar – somewhere between a Korean daejak, a Darjeeling green, and a Mao Feng…but more delicate. It easily lasted two infusions, and did quite a wake-up.

  17. AC Cargill says:

    My box got delayed and just arrived today. I will try it tonight and report back here tomorrow. I am avoiding reading other people’s comments on the tea so that I can approach the tea fresh.

  18. katepopham says:

    We’ve just added Livefyre SocialSync to our blog which means you can continue the Canton Tea Club conversation on Facebook or Twitter. Just tick FB/Twitter checkbox when posting your comments and any replies will be added to the conversation. Very cool indeed.

  19. cantonteaco says:

    @lazy_literatus Yes, we noticed the similarity to Korean green too

  20. AC Cargill says:

    Dry leaves – aroma like green asparagus. Taste – starts out vegetal (asparagus) and citrusy with melony/rindy aftertaste. 4 mins is too long or may need to use fewer leaves. Removed about half of leaves for 2nd steep. Lighter, more fruity (melony), still mildly vegetal (asparagus) and hayish hint. When compared with other greens: of course totally different from Japanese (in a class by themselves) but very similar to some Chinese. Overall, not found of Nilgiri teas. They seem nondescript, unlike distinct characters of Darjeelings and Assams from India.

  21. AC Cargill says:

    Dry leaves – aroma like green asparagus. Taste – starts out vegetal (asparagus) and citrusy with melony/rindy aftertaste. 4 mins is too long or may need to use fewer leaves. Removed about half of leaves for 2nd steep. Lighter, more fruity (melony), still mildly vegetal (asparagus) and hayish hint. When compared with other greens: of course totally different from Japanese (in a class by themselves) but very similar to some Chinese. Overall, not fond of Nilgiri teas. They seem nondescript, unlike distinct characters of Darjeelings and Assams from India.

  22. AC Cargill says:

     I just tried to use the feature and get it just sitting there with a spinning circle in the bottom right corner of the comment text box. My comment appears in this list of comments but also up in that original entry box. Also, where on Facebook is this supposed to appear? My page or the Canton Tea page or another? Thanks.

  23. cantonteaco says:

    @AC Cargill  @katepopham Yes we are having a bit of trouble getting the comments to appear on facebook. I think its meant to appear on your page. We’re looking into it.

  24. cantonteaco says:

    @AC Cargill Interesting comments. Its been a crowd-divider this one.

  25. f h murphy says:

    The leaves appeared crude and unfinished.  After brewing this tea several different ways I found it to be unremarkable with no distinguishing characteristics to set it apart from any other green tea.
    The caffeine content I found no different than any other green.
     My question to her would be why she recommend we rinse the leaves at all before we brew them?   Such a practice compromises our experience of the tea because when you throw out that rinse water, you are also tossing out a portion of the tea’s nutrients, it’s healthful benefits and curative properties, its caffeine, it’s flavor, color, taste, but most importantly it’s vital life force or “cha chi or qi”. My question is this: Why start your relationship with new tea at a deficit?
    Sincerely, Frank Hadley Murphy

  26. sfugarino says:

    @f h murphy
    When brewing tea Gongfu style, the leaves are always rinsed. But I think she siggested rinsing as a way to let the leaves open up. This is often done with oolong teas.

  27. f h murphy says:

    @sfugarino Thank you for your response and yes, I’m familiar with the practice of rinsing but what is the origin and history of rinsing?  No one seems to know or be able to offer an answer that makes any sense.  If it were done to wash the leaves of herbicides or pesticides, if such a thing is possible, I could understand but no one mentions that.  The whole thing of “letting the leaves open up” doesn’t make any sense.  Open them up for what?  There’s still a significant amount of waste here, depletion.

  28. AC Cargill says:

    @f h murphy  @sfugarino
     Yes, you can wash off pesticides and herbicides. They are formulated that way. As for the rinse and “opening” the leaves, hubby and I are rather undecided on if it is needed or not in general. To “open” the leaves is a rather poetic way of describing a chemical process. Unfortunately, writings about tea are full of such imagery rather than definitive terminology. My guess is that it makes reading about tea less boring. Anyway, as I see it, to open tea leaves means to do an initial soak where the leaves regain moisture removed during processing. We have found that doing this with some teas where the leaves are in very tight, rolled forms helps them unroll and then steep more fully. This gives us more even steepings when doing multiple infusions. The reason we are undecided here is that we agree it wastes some of the liquid but find that we get more steeps that are equally flavorful. Hope this helps.

  29. AC Cargill says:

    @cantonteaco  @katepopham
     The reply I just made to a comment above appeared on my Facebook page (though not on my Newsfeed). Great!

  30. AC Cargill says:

    @f h murphy
     I have to agree that this tea is unremarkable, and I would not choose it over other green teas.

  31. AC Cargill says:

    @f h murphy  @sfugarino
     I just thought of a better explanation of what “open the leaves up” can mean: Plant cells have walls of cellulose and interiors that are mostly water with some other stuff. During processing almost all the water is removed. Rinsing exposes the dry cells to water, causing them to re-absorb some. Repeated exposure to hot water breaks down the cellulose and releases the other stuff in the cells. Thus each infusion will taste a bit different. Rinsing is always optional. We just tasted a Li Shan Oolong and did not rinse. The first steeping was short and the flavor was light. Subsequent steeps were longer and stronger in flavor and aroma as more stuff in the leaf cells was released by the hot water. Hope this helps. As for the history of rinsing, maybe someone will know. I’m not sure. Funny how these things get passed around with nothing to back them up factually.

  32. sfugarino says:

    @AC Cargill  @f h murphy

  33. davidburcombe says:

    I found the chat about leaf washing very interesting and will be researching this morey.
    I agree about Nilgiri teas generally, I have travelled extensively round Ooty and Coonoor ( and have only found decent bulk teas,) and, indeed one of my friends owns a brilliant biodynamic coffee plantation there, but one or two export quality and small production teas are starting to be made, so these are exciting times in S India.

  34. JasonWalker says:

    I admit, it was difficult to pull much of anything I’d call delightful from this one. No astringency? With the prep method Pettigrew described? Must have been a different lot or harvest season that her notes are based on. Go easier on the temp, and lighter on the leaf for optimal steeping.

  35. […] and what is interesting. To appreciate teas, you have to experience the sublime and the swill. Canton’s Week 1 tea is a great example. It is a green tea from Nilgiri, India. Now Nilgiri is not know for making green […]

  36. CharlotteThoemmes says:

    Mmm, had another cup of this tea this morning. It was even better than a few weeks ago. A good pick me up with breakfast and a nice reminder of summer on this cold winter morning. Wish i’d brough some to work with me for another hit.

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