Lu’an Gua Pian (Sunflower Seed)

Green Tea 2021

Unique fully opened single leaf pluckings that produce a full bodied yet clean flavor. Brews unusually strong, thick, and smooth with plenty of depth and a spring forest aroma. A bold and unusual high end handmade green tea to delight the connoisseur and intrigue the casual drinker.

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Tea Origin
Xi Tou Mountain, Jin Zai Town, Lu An City, Anhui Province, China

Tea Bush
Anhui #3 Xiaoyezhong (Anhui #3 Small Leaf Tea Bush)

Tea Master
Zhang Yonghong

Harvest Time
Late April

Picking Standard
One leaf

This fully handmade version of Lu’an Gua Pian green tea shows off the unique and robust flavors that result from its highly innovative traditional craftsmanship. Its bold roasting intensifies its hearty and earthy character and imparts an aroma like toasted sesame seeds. The infusion brings on a mix toasted, green, sweet and earthy qualities, likened to sweet grass, starchy root vegetables, and even lightly roasted coffee.

Lu’an Gua Pian: A handmade green tea unlike any other

A large woven bamboo drum with Lu'an Gua Pian tea on top being lifted over an open charcoal brazier by two people.
It takes two people to lift a batch of Lu’an Gua Pian over a charcoal brazier for a few seconds.

The unheard-of aggressive roasting of a green tea over an open charcoal flame instead of an ash-smothered fire or oven is perhaps the most noteworthy of Lu’an Gua Pian’s atypical processing. Two people need to work in tandem to lift a large bamboo drum filled with tea over the charcoal and then immediately remove it after a few seconds to stir the leaves evenly. It takes 60-80 passes over the flames and an immense amount of patience and labor to fully roast the tea. This traditional step in Lu’an Gua Pian’s processing is known as la lao huo.

Modern oven-roasting techniques save a lot of work and produce a remarkable green tea in its own right. Oven-roasted Lu’an Gua Pian’s intense, clean flavor comes through bright and clear with velvety green depth. But only the traditional flame roasting process creates the unique roasty yet succulent and savory flavor that originally made Lu’an Gua Pian one of Anhui Province’s famous green teas. Tea masters like craftsman Zhang Yonghong who have made the study of traditional tea-making their life’s work are keeping these vanishing crafts alive.

An unusual tea making process from start to finish

A pile of fresh single tea leaf pluckings for Lu An Gua Pian green tea on a woven bamboo tray.
The unique single leaf pluckings that make up Lu’an Gua Pian green tea.

Before harvest, the tea leaves are left on the bush for longer than most high-end green teas, to saturate the leaves with more nutrition and create a more complex flavor. Tea pickers will then pluck only one leaf, no bud, directly from the stem. This plucking standard is unlike that of any other high end green tea.

Originally this green tea was called Gua Zi Pian or “sunflower seed” because its hollow rolled shape resembles the empty shells of the popular tea house snack. Over the years, the name has been shortened to Gua Pian, causing some to mistakenly call it “melon seed tea.” This distinctive shape is formed during wok frying. While many traditional teas are hand-fried in an iron wok, the technique used to fry Lu An Gua Pian green tea involves vertically tossing the leaves with a broom made from local grass fibers in a wok set at a 45° angle. The upward brushing motion creates the signature rolled leaf shape.

A 45° angled wok with a small batch of green tea leaves in it, being tossed and turned with a broom made of thin reeds.
Tossing Lu’an Gua Pian while frying in the wok to create its rolled leaf shape.

Lu’an Gua Pian’s long green tea leaves are thin and soft, creating a rich flavor without bitterness. It has a bright green infusion that brews very clean, since there are no buds to leave any fuzz when you brew it. Its complex and full yet smooth flavor comes through bright and clear with velvety green depth and a long finish.

More pictures and speculations on the rationale behind this tea’s unusual processing techniques can be found in our tea blog post Lu’an Gua Pian: Punk Rock Green Tea.

No chemical fertilizer, pesticide, or herbicide was used in the production of this tea. Click here to read more about our promise to fair trade and the environment.

 

Lu’an Gua Pian (Sunflower Seed) brewing guidelines

5 grams (1.5 Tb) tea

12 oz 85°C (185ºF) water

3 min. first infusion

At least 4 infusions: 3, 3, 5, 8 minutes