I had a little accident when I was taking this photo on the right, and my porcelain container is now broken, and I lost all the precious white tea in it. I managed to stay calm. Dangers of outdoor photo shooting, I believe. For the porcelain, I collected the pieces and I’ll look into kintsugi.
The very first post of this challenge was also for a 2019 harvest Bai Mudan from Fuding. This one is different as it is an early spring (pre-rain) version and it has the title ‘organic’ and comes from wild trees. I do not have a chance to compare them side by side, which would have been interesting.
This was a great tea, with mineral and floral notes along with subtle sweetness. I could also taste vegetal (not grassy) notes, which I found interesting. The level of the minerality of this tea was low at the beginning but kept increasing in subsequent steepings.
I found some useful notes about Fuding white tea production on “The Story of Tea: A Cultural History and Drinking Guide” by Mary Lou Heiss, Robert J. Heiss. Accordingly, for Fujian white tea plucking, the climate has to be very specific. Any rain, dew or frost might spoil the whole process. Also, the leaves and buds to be plucked need to be fully fleshed and covered with white fuzz. Traditionally, the plucked buds and leaves need to be dried in a shaded area with good air circulation like a pavilion. In this way, the leaves stop developing chlorophyll which is enhanced when exposed to the sun. The authors also summarise the distinction between green and white teas neatly:
“in white tea manufacture there is no de-enzyming, but there is slight oxidation; to manufacture green tea there is de-enzyming, but no oxidation.”
White peony was only invented in 1922 in Jian'ou County, Fujian probably to make address white tea demands of the market and make it available for a better price. In some countries (such as Turkey) white tea is still known as ‘buds only tea’ aka silver needle. Of course, white peony is categorically a lower grade of the silver needle (Bai Hao Yin Zhen). However, I do find that it may offer additional notes possibly because its final drying is done over a fire at a higher temperature than used to finish off the silver needle as discussed by Bret Hinsch (in The Ultimate Guide to Chinese Tea).
I am pro paying decent amounts for good tea, but not everyone can afford it. Given that you might be drinking white tea due to its health benefits or you find silver needle prices too steep, it is great to have white peony as an alternative. Thank you, Chinese tea masters, for inventing it!
Origin: Fuding county, Fujian province
Harvest time: Spring 2019 (pre-rain)
Leave colour: Light green leaves with silvery-white pekoe (fuzz)
Liquor colour: Golden yellow
Tea aroma: Floral
Tea taste: Mineral, delicate and with subtle vegetal sweetness
Steeping/brewing: You can use around 90°C water temperature (yes don’t be afraid) and brew for up to one minute in gongfu style or up to three minutes in Western-style. 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.