This phrase came from a Korean tea master while discussing tea from Hunan Province China, of which he was quite found of.
The three teas he is referring to are Chan Yang Cha, Bok Jeun Cha, and Kum Cheom Cha (these are Korean pronunciations not Chinese, if anyone knows the Chinese transliterations please share). These teas are some of the oldest types of tea produced in the Northern slopes of Hunan, an area where tea production has been taking place for over 2000 years.
Chan Yang Cha is perhaps the most interesting of the group mainly because of its production and resulting storage. It stands like an enormous tree, a pillar- from top to bottom- it was almost as tall as the teamaster and the diameter was almost as thick as his waist! This is NOT the shape of the tea tree but the actual formed shape of the tea leaves! To see it in the forest you would be convinced that it is a tree trunk. It is like a trunk of tea leaves-Really strange.
It looks this way because of its production. One is not quite sure of the exact production methods but it seems like sheets of tea leaves are either rolled over and over into a giant cylinder shape or they are stuffed into a hollowed out tree. Then the giant solid tree trunk of tea is wrapped in rice paper for storage.
Bok Jeun Cha is some kind of brick tea and Kum Cheom Cha is a chunk tea similar to a cake. The shapes of these three teas seem to suggest that they are border tea used or traded to the minority people of China.
All three of these teas are made seemingly with the same quality of tea- large paper thin leaves with lots of thick tea branches. The teamaster would always drink this tea in the extreme heat of the summer, he said that these teas have a medicinal value for the treatment and prevention of heat stroke. All three definitely have a thirst quenching, light, replenishing feel to them.
Today as the first cherry blossoms of the year bloom abnormally early, one pulls out the last of a sample of Kum Cheom Cha while water boils.
This unique sample is carefully separated into the pot, rinsed with hot water, and the first sample is prepared with just off boiling water.
The first infusion is sweet dirt, the mouthfeel is very thin, a characteristic of all three of these Hunan teas. Very subtle plum notes hide amongst the dirt. The aftertaste is just a touch dry on the tongue but in the back of the throat there remains a soft, sweet dirt taste.
The golden brown liquor of the thrid infusion is much the same. The plum notes are noticed between the initial primarily earthy dirt tastes and the straw finish.
Really this simple, sweet, light, plumy tea doesn't move that much from infusion to infusion. Although simple, it feels complete not lacking or deficient in some aspect or another. Its watery, fresh, profile seems about right. Its chaqi is just as subtle and relaxing as the mouthfeel, flavour, and smell of this tea- all three of these types of tea share these qualities.
Gradually this tea turns more woody in taste later into the session but retains its light, fresh, earthy-hay sweetness. After many pots, one feels rejuvenated on this cloudy spring day.