White tea in Turkey is scarce and very expensive. It can fetch prices that are 100 per cent more expensive than regular factory-made black tea we Turks consume obsessively. The buds of the camellia sinensis that grow in the Blacksea region are very tiny compared to their Fuding ancestors. The reasons for this could be two-fold: climate and the way Turks pluck their tea plants. For the latter, I should say ‘murder’. Really, because to ease the process of plucking a scissor bag is widely used which influence the growth of the bush, including the buds. I do not have the exact figure, but judging on the market, I believe much less than 1% of the entire tea grown in Turkey is plucked by hand.
This tea was plucked by Tanya, who is a tea lover based in Artvin, originally from Ukraine. Tanya has been making white tea for two years. This is in the expense that she goes into arguments with her in-law family who grow and harvest tea in Turkish way which serves to yield high quantity. They do not like when Tanya plucks the buds because they think the buds will worth more in weight when they turn into bigger leaves. In Turkey, tea growers sell their teas in kg. For each kg, they receive about 0.5 USD, a price established by the state-owned tea monopoly. Private sector sometimes dumps the prices further, but they pay cash. I was saddened to see how a precious plant is handled like a cheap commodity. However, there are young people out there like Tanya. They are discovering that they can do much better with this beautiful plant.
I tried Tanya’s white teas from this year too which was fresher and richer in terms of floral notes. This one was sweeter, and I had the impression that this tea could age well. I would love to try it again next year to test whether it got mellower. Thank you, Tanya, for handcrafting this tea.
Origin: Arhavi, Artvin, Turkey
Harvest time: April 2020
Leave colour: Dark green/grey leaves with silvery-white pekoe (fuzz)
Liquor colour: Light yellow
Tea aroma: Mineral
Tea taste: Sweet with mineral notes
Steeping/brewing: The tea master recommends 70°C water to brew this delicate tea. I do like to brew white tea in gongfu stlye at higher temparatures (around 100°C) and brew for up to one minute. You can brew the leaves many times (until the taste is lost). To each infusion add additional time. Experiment for a result that suits your taste.
Shelf life: Up to 10 years or more if aged appropriately