This Spring in 2021, we are going to present a unique green tea that you might have never heard of -- 狗牯脑, pronounced “Gou Gu Nao”, or Bull Dog Green Tea.
Gou Gu Nao is from Sui Chuan 遂川 in Jiang Xi Province 江西 in Southern China, and it has about 200-300 years of history. It’s commonly known as Gou Gu Nao. “Gou” means dog and "Gu" happens to mean bull. This is because the mountain where this tea comes from is called “Gou Gu Nao” mountain thanks to its dog head like shape, hence the green tea is named after this mountain. Similar to Dan Cong Duck Shit Aroma, because the tea scholars believe the tea needs to have a more elegant name, officially they name it “Jade Mountain Tea”.
Gou Gu Nao mountain is a range of mountains with the highest peak of 900 meters and the main peak is the one that has the shape of a dog head. It’s located in a relatively warm area that it neither gets too cold in winter nor too hot in summer, and it’s constantly surrounded by mist and fog. The entire bio environment in this area is covered by forest or small green bushes.
You are probably wondering why you have never really heard of this tea. That’s because ever since it attended the 1918 Panama-International Exposition in San Francisco and won the gold medal for the green tea category, it hasn’t been given much support or promoted by the local government to bring up its nationwide fame. Hence, it’s very limited to local consumption and relatively unknown to the rest of China. However, its taste and its quality make an excellent daily green tea.
Gou Gu Nao Green Tea has a few characteristics. First of all, it’s usually harvested or plucked with one bud and one leaf. It then goes through the kill green, rolling, roasting and drying process. Its liquor has a bright golden green color and its tasting notes include umani, sweet, fresh mung bean, chestnut and mildly floral.
Green tea is all about drinking it while it’s fresh. This “freshness” has a “deadline” in China, which is referred to as “Qing Ming”. You probably have heard about “Ming Qian” green tea or “Before Qing Ming” green tea. Qing Ming is both an agricultural season (we have 24 of them!) on the traditional calendar and a festival for commemorating the dead. It usually takes place on April 4th, hence green teas from southern China that’s produced before Qing Ming is considered the best quality since it’s the very first harvest of spring, thus the freshest. It’s usually called “Ming Qian” green tea, or “Before Qing Ming” green tea.
Three ways of making this green tea or green teas in general:
1. Teapot - if you are using a teapot to brew Chinese green tea, I will advise you to measure about 5g of tea for 240ml water and keep the water temperature around 75 to 80C, and brew the tea for about 2 minutes.
2. Gaiwan - if you are using a Gaiwan to brew Chinese green tea, Gong Fu Cha it is! Measure about 5g of tea for 120ml water, keep water temperature around 80 to 85C and brew the tea for 1-3 seconds. You do NOT need to rinse any type of green tea.
3. Cold brew - cold brew is probably a better practice in summer rather than in a colder season. Cold brew's tea leaf to water ratio is usually 1:50, so for every 1g of tea, use 50ml water. However personally, I prefer adding extra 50ml water for every type of cold brew. Leave in the fridge for 2-3 hours then check to see if it needs to be brewed longer or is done.
My coming up tea trip:
I am going to Gou Gu Nao’s production region in two weeks to visit tea farms and source the before Qing Ming green tea. I will return with another blog post in two weeks! In the meantime, please feel free to leave a comment below if you have any question or comment!