Saturday, February 19, 2011

A White and Yellow Line Up

Power lines, ugly but necessary. Look at the blue sky, maybe we'll
have some soon.

If weather were a person, I would say it was a tease. After 2 days of temperatures in the 50s!!!!!, it is now winter again, with high winds, snow and a temperature of 20. Fora while there, we were without jackets, turning our faces to the sun, reveling in the warmth. But in another month, this teaser may be realized - winter is half over, hurrah!

Yesterday I had some friends over for a tea tasting. A little better than the blind leading the blind, but not too much, as we were sampling whites and one yellow. As you know, this is a whole new area for me, as my palate has barely expanded enough to be able to discern at least some of their nuances. Until very recently, white and yellow teas were only made in China and were rare and expensive.

We started with Bai HaoYin Zhen, Silver needles from The puriTea. The buds were beautifully silvery from the little white hairs on them, long and fat. Silver needles is only made from the buds. This is a early Spring tea, mostly air dried on bamboo trays and only warmed over charcoal fires at the end to make sure it is dry enough. It comes from the districts of Fuding and Zhenda in Fujian Province, China. This is a delicate, silvery green brew, very pale. It smelled sweet, with a slightly earthy overtone of chestnut. That carried through to the taste, which had a sweet floral note, again with some chestnut and maybe some honey.

The second was more familiar to me - White Peony or Bai Mu Dan, also from The puriTea and hailing originally from Yunnan Province. One source I read said this was a very expensive tea, more difficult to make and rarer. In this country I have only seen it as a cheap, everyday tea. It is air dried, then fired at 21 degrees, cooled and then fired again at about 160 degrees. It is made from 2 leaves and the end bud. This particular tea seemed to have a lot of stem in it. It was much darker than the previous and had a more pronounced flavor. It was floral and woodsy, but there was much more fruit taste and smell to it. I thought it had an almost peachy or apricot taste.

The third was from Life in Teacup and was Jing Mai Moonlight white, which I reviewed a few days ago, another offering from Yunnan Province and one plucked in the Fall.

The last offering was Chinese Yellow Buds Huo Shan, from Upton Teas. To date, yellow teas are only made in China and generally come from Hunnan or Anhui Province. They had their origin in people desiring to do away with the grassiness of some green teas. Yellow teas are somewhat fermented after they have dried a bit, just until they begin to acquire a yellow color. Then they are dried slowly, wrapped in paper, unwrapped, pan-fired, rewrapped and the process repeated until they are dry enough. It can take several weeks for the tea to be fully processed.

Personally, I do not think this was one of the best yellows. The leaves were not very yellow and I have seen many pictures where they are almost straw colored. They smelled very grassy dry and this scent intensified as the tea brewed. The first infusion was quite gentle, with a slightly grassy taste. The second was definitely in the grassy, seaweed area of taste and none of us were really taken with it. It was a fairly expensive sample and I won't be getting more.

We had a lot of fun doing this and we all learned a lot. My little glass pot got quite a work out. In a few weeks we are going to do another tasting. I really enjoyed sharing with my friends what I've learned and enabling all of us to widen our horizons. We ended the afternoon with smelling some of the more potent black teas - a chocolate chili black with pu-erh and some Lapsang Souchong, just for contrast's sake.

1 comment:

Bernideen said...

Marlena: I just put 2 and 2 together and realized you are the same Marlena who comments to ATAA. I do have a link to you to this blog.
Glad the tasting went well. I am more of a tea party girl. Love the baking part....and the Teapots of course!