So during one of the few trips I’ve made to London recently, one was the annual visit with my mother and sister. As usual we popped into Fortnum & Mason to have brunch and also buy whatever new wonders they had in the store. Looking for something completely different, I decided on 2 white teas to try & review. I love the Gilded Teapot Silver Needle so wanted to expand my collection.
First one I chose was a 2008 Wild Aged Bai Mu Dan purely for the look of the leaves. The literal translation for Bai Mu Dan is ‘White Peony’ and is made from picking the buds and immediate 2 leaves below. This gives it a slightly fuller flavour compared to other whites that only use buds. The blend comes from Fujian Province where there are different cultivars used to make different blends. I have done some digging and found that apparently Bai Mu Dan Wang (which I’m hoping is something of the same variant and blend) has 39mg concentration of caffeine and its on the higher level of caffeine. So this blend is a great if you need a pick me up mid morning without an overpowering flavour like coffee which some people don’t like so much.
The leaves are picked and left out to sun dry to naturally wither to reduce some of their moisture content. They can be left to dry for anything put to 1 day before sorted into their leaf grades. Usually white teas are are not fired but some, of the Mu Dan Variety, which can result in darker patches on the leaves. During processing and picking, the leaves have to be careful handled so as not to damage their cell wall and speed up any the oxidation process.
The dried leaves are long leaves, twisted like greeny silver ribbons. They have white hairs on them like a new born babies hair and
some of them are whole buds and two leaves so you can see that the leaves have been barely touch since picking. Some of the leaves are dark brown where there has been some light oxidation. The smell is soft, with an almost floral, mild scent.
I brewed the leaves at 90 degrees for 2-3 minutes (I’ve done the infusion several times as the leaves allow for multiple infusions). I’ve read recommendations for temperatures with some saying more towards 75-80 degrees is ideal brewing temperature so I’ll have to do a comparative tasting.
The wet leaves have brighten to a sea green colour with hints of light brown. They have opened to small but whole leaves. The smell is again mild, slightly sweet like the muscatel in darjeeling. Its not grassy like green teas, but its delicate like flowers and leaves.
The colour is pale greeny yellow like liquid sunshine. The smell is of a mild flower, I don’t what though, not overly scented like rose or jasmine but something like hyacinths or orchids. The taste is delicate with the taste of layers of velvet muscatel notes. Some of my books say there is nuttiness and I can get that but its more of an after taste as the layers of the flavour build up with each new sip of the tea you take. For tasting on a third infusion, the flavour has a smoother even milder taste but its still complex, still tasty.
Its teas like these that make me sad that people are missing out by just drinking teabags dust. There is such character in this tea, its got flavour, depth but it’s delicate. People say tea is just one type but it so is not! There is so much more when exploring tea, I love this blend for the experience you get when brewing it. Even just taking the tea out of the packet, is a joy. To look at the incredible leaves and to know the care that has been taken with the processing to then taste the delightful flavour.
I would really encourage anyone who has the chance to try a decent white tea, please do! Well worth it!