Last season, we had the best Bailin Gongfu. It was an instant eye-opener. It was one of the teas that I just had to buy. It had depth, layers, sweetness, kick, strength, warmth, everything. It was a tea that I would share with everyone, confident that everyone would be enamoured (and they were). So when I came into Teance today, knowing that the new Bailin has arrived, Bailin was the first thing I asked for.
However, let’s just say this season wasn’t enough to strike me dead. When Genevieve asked what I thought, the best I could do was paused and said “I’m thinking about it…” The tea bar was full, and I didn’t want to give the other customers the impression that this season’s Bailin wasn’t good, because it’s not that it wasn’t good. It is still a good tea, it still has an endearing warmth and a complex profile. It’s just… like Darius said, last season was the best (of all these years of Bailin that he’s had), and once you’ve had the best, it’s hard to find satisfaction in the good.
That said, tea appreciation, considering tea’s fleeting nature, should not be tied to a season. While last season gave us an exceptionally robust Bailin, this season offers something else that is just as appreciable: a tea that starts off gently and develops. Like most oolong and hongcha, the longer you savour it, the more it unfolds. It tells the sweetness of potato and the barky warmth of cinnamon, mostly felt in the back of your throat. It is soothing, like a pat on the shoulder from a good friend.