I originally wrote this post for Cha Xi Collective. I’ve just copied it here for record keeping.
I’ve tasted several examples of Bai Hao (or 東方美人茶, Dong Fang Mei Ren Cha) this year and been disappointed in each, so this was a real treat. I understand that much of the harvest in Hsichu county were poor, which accounts, I suppose, for all the broken leaves I’ve seen. This one, however, is very tasty.
I’ve tried this a few times and a few different ways. This time I rinsed the leaves and infused the tea gong-fu style in my roasted yixing pot. The rinsed leaves had the aroma of toasted oats and brown sugar. A good sign for a Bai Hao. Last year’s harvest had a deep roasted sweetness unmatched by any other oolong.
Immediately noticeable in the pot, the leaves glow with a red-gold color, and I can definitely see full leaf sets with the stem intact. Another Bai Hao I recently tasted had many broken leaves, but I’ve had Bai Hao before almost entirely composed of two-leaves-and-a-bud leaflets.
For my first infusion I tried a longer time, forgetting for the moment how many leaves I had put in the pot. This was a mistake, I think. While the result was not bitter, it was sharp on the tongue. Still, I could feel a good cha qi arising with the taste.
The liquor is amber-gold with the definite aroma of toasted grains. The taste of the second infusion, done for only 30 seconds, has a pleasant woody sweet character, although there remains an acidity on the sides of the tongue that lingers. Further infusions enhanced the woodiness into a bit of walnut and the sweetness of a young plum. At the same time, the sharpness faded, leaving entirely by the third infusion. The acidity became simply a dryness, although that remained in the mouth long after tasting. The mouth-feel was full and warm, very comforting and energizing.
When I removed the spent leaves, I saw that I was right about the full leaf sets; there were almost no broken leaves. There were only a few sets of two-leaves-and-a-bud, though. Mostly they were much more gnarled sets of three or four leaves in various stages of growth and a fair amount of stem.
Altogether a pleasant tea experience, even if it is difficult to live up to some Bai Hao harvests of prior years. Tea is a living and changing thing, though, so this is as it should be.