Recently we shared one of our favorite black teas with you, our Ruby 18, and the response from our tea friends (and coffee friends, frankly) has been really terrific. So we’re continuing with profiles of several remarkable teas on our current menu, including this feature on Bai Hao Yin Zhen, a lovely white tea that’s steeped in China’s tea history.
But first, a little primer on white tea. What is it, exactly? Think of white tea like that leaf collection you made in your seventh grade science class. When you placed your leaf inside a large book, the moisture slowly left the leaf until the leaf became relatively chemically stable. Once you achieved this withered state, you were able to preserve and examine the leaf collection. That’s a dangerously simplistic way to describe white tea, but I think it helps frame the process.
In tea making, once a tea leaf is plucked it begins to wither, and the chemical components inside the leaf break down and come into contact with oxygen – a process we call oxidation. Over the past few hundred years, tea producers have become quite adept at controlling this withering and oxidation process. In white tea production, leaves are allowed to wither for several days before drying, a long process that develops the tea’s flavor and builds an intense fragrance with leaves that are just slightly oxidized.
Our Bai Hao Yin Zhen is produced by tea masters in China’s Fuding county in the Fujian Province, which is the origin of white tea making. Bai Hao Yin Zhen, also known as White Hair Silver Needle, is a prized white tea that is easily identified by its coat of tiny white “hairs,” which are technically trichomes. The strict plucking standard for this tea is only one bud. As opposed to mature leaves, the buds are jam-packed with glucose, giving Bai Hao Yin Zhen a notably sweet quality.
In this March 2016 harvest of Bai Hao Yin Zhen, look for notes of honeydew, freshly sliced cucumber and a silky body with mellow, honey-like sweetness. This tea comes to us from our friends at Jojo Tea.
The following photos were taken by Michael Tucker. More of his work can be found at mchltckr.com.