I’m always surprised by how dark of a color white teas tend to have. While the greens, oolongs, reds and puer for the most part have colors that match their names, white teas look yellow. The color of the steeped liquid ranges anywhere from light lemonade to bronze (when the tea cools, it darkens), so “white” perhaps refers to more of the taste than the look and definitely has to do with the white fuzz on the buds before any steeping takes place.
In many ways, white teas are perfect for new year mornings. They are light on caffeine – the days are supposed to be enjoyed and relaxing, the need to load up on caffeine and keep your eyes bloodshot through the night is yet to come. Their clean, gentle, unadulterated flavor is easily achieved, unlike the sensitive greens or oolongs that keep you on edge thinking about how many seconds remain. They don’t make you feel cold like green tea, or drunk like black tea. Meaning-wise, what’s more apt for the renewal of life than the innocent fuzzy buds and young leaves?
Today we had White Peony and White Down. I wasn’t in thinking mode for White Peony, I just wanted something relaxing with little caffeine, and Teance happened to run out of goji berry. There’s nothing I can remember about White Peony beside its tasting stronger than White Down. White Down, however, was a lot more memorable. Annie recommended it to us as her favorite white tea with a taste that she “still can’t describe”. We also struggled to find words, which means we paid a lot more attention to it while sipping. Bryan said that it has a melon taste, like honeydew, but that doesn’t fully describe it. As pretentious as it sounds, this was my only and best attempt after several minutes: “it feels like sitting in open air, looking into a garden or a small slope covered in shrubbery and fog, and the fog gently seeps into my skin”. I basically was trying to say that White Down is smooth, but not just any type of smooth, it’s foggy smooth.
Teance describes White Down (Spring 2015) as having a “hint of rose”, which Annie and Bryan say they have yet to find. In a brief moment when nobody noticed, the tea had cooled to slightly above room temperature, I took a sip and the hint of rose poked my throat like a cat’s tail flicking into the air. That was it. I don’t know when I’ll be able to find that hint in a White Down cup again. Until next time…
Image (courtesy of bnibroc): foreground: Lunar new year mochi by Yuri Vaughn – inside: chesnut, azuki bean, and lima bean; topping: agar, pomegranate juice, and gold flakes; background: White Peony Shou Mei (Longevity Brow) from Fuding, Fujian, Spring 2015, 3rd steep, 180F, 50 seconds per steep.