2018 Early Spring White Peony
Drinking freshly harvested tea is a completely different experience than drinking tea even 6 months later. Fresh tea is sweeter, less astringent, and has a subtle complexity. Our commitment to offering a rare glimpse into the flavor of fresh tea is best exemplified by our Early Spring Collection. Each year I select small lots of tea from the very first harvest of the year. I choose a variety of small production China and Japan green teas, an occasional high elevation black tea, but the style of tea that benefits most from an early harvest is white tea.
White peony, or bai mudan, was developed in the 1920’s in Fujian, China. It is closely related to silver needles, or yin zhen, that was developed roughly 100 years prior. The difference is that white peony is a combination of leaf and budding leaf, while silver needles consist entirely of the unopened budding leaves. Depending on the harvest the ratio of leaves to buds can vary. The earliest harvests tend to have the highest quantity of buds, which gives the tea a smoother, rounded mouth-feel and a sweeter fruit-forward flavor profile.
Our Early Spring White Peony is shining example of how the combination of early harvest, cultivar, and freshness can create rare flavor. Harvesting the very first new leaves of the year, before they’ve reached full maturity, is the key to a rich, polished mouth-feel. The Fuding da bai or Fuding big white cultivar is responsible for sweetness as well as flavors of honeysuckle and chamomile. When consumed fresh the volatile essential oils lend depth and complexity to an already nuanced base of flavors.
While unconventional, I prefer a using a thicker walled tea pot such as a kyusu for steeping white tea. Unlike China green, white tea benefits from consistent heat throughout the steeping process.
Fill a 250 ml kyusu with 180F water to thoroughly warm it up. Measure out 6 grams of tea. Discard the water and steep the tea in 180F water for 3 minutes. Steep a second infusion for another 3 minutes. This is also a great candidate for cold-brewing.