A little south and west of the capital city of Taipei, three tea growing counties – Taipei, Hsinchu and Maioli – produce Taiwan’s most famous oolong tea: Bai Hao. This tea is also known as Oriental Beauty or, generally, in the broadest category for Taiwan oolongs it is one of the many ‘White Tip’ oolongs. It should not be confused with Bai Hao Yin Zhen, commonly known as Yin Zhen, the gorgeous white tea from Fujian Province, China.
Taiwan’s Bai Hao oolong is the original, most-prized grade of the ‘White Tip’ family of Taiwan oolongs (it is similar to the blackbird/crow differentiation, in that Bai Hao is a White Tip oolong but not all White Tip oolongs are Bai Hao). For many decades various White Tip oolongs were sold generically as ‘Formosa Oolong’ in the West, whereas Bai Hao was reserved strictly for the domestic market (and limited sales in other parts of East Asia). It has always been and continues to be seemingly expensive; however, because it re-steeps very successfully, one can infuse an incredibly large amount of liquid tea from the leaf, so it is actually quite reasonable on a per-cup basis.
However, this particular Bai Hao is made by the esteemed teamaker who also makes our stunning Baozhong oolong and several other of our delicious Taiwan oolongs and black teas. Making all of these teas well requires very practiced tea making skills and complete control of one’s processes, as Baozhong is the least oxidized of all oolongs and Bai Hao is the most oxidized. One tea could not be more different from the other. Luckily their seasons are staggered, so that their processes are well-separated during their respective harvests and manufacturing seasons.
Our Bai Hao is manufactured with leaf that comes from very well-managed tea gardens, and the finished leaf is as beautiful to look at as the tea is delicious to drink. These tea gardens have a very favorable location – they receive plenty of rain and frequent cool ‘foggy’ conditions (what is known as ‘Clouds & Mist’ weather on the Mainland) that are beneficial to the health and vigor of the tea plantings.
Bai Hao (and Baozhong, too) is a very unique oolong tea. While some oolongs from Mainland China and Taiwan are semiball-rolled (and feature varying shades of green color and a greenish taste) and other oolongs are single, strip-style leaves (that feature varying degrees of roasting and have a dark taste), Bai Hao ( and Baozhong, too) however, are unique among oolongs because of their unique degrees of oxidation and their leafy, un-roasted style showing a combination of leaf and buds.
This lovely, slightly-curled, leafy oolong is comprised of a ‘top two leaves and a bud pluck. Our Bai Hao is hand-plucked – its slender appearance is comprised of nicely-shaped, twisted leaves, with a little open leaf mixed in. The leaf is a visually pleasing mixture of textures and colors: dark and chestnut browns, some russets and golds, and plenty of characteristic white tip or buds.
Bai Hao is a mild tea – it has no grassy, green, floral, or roasted flavors. And it has absolutely no astringency. The Bai Hao this season is again a ‘vintage’ harvest, due to the incredible weather that provided nearly-perfect maturation on the plant prior to manufacture. This tea is a beautiful example of itself, and is sublime!! This tea is sweet and soft, suggestive of rich tastes such as chestnuts, apricots, peaches and honey. The aroma has a slight aroma of tree bark, mushroom and biscuit. The tea liquor is a deep amber color in the cup.
NOTE: This 2020 ‘vintage’ harvest is quite spectacular, and we purchased our ‘normal’ amount of it. We are drinking it now, in its ‘youth’, and also are speculating that it could benefit from having some ‘resting’ time to mature. This 2020 harvest tea is excellent, drinking very well, and should be delicious well past the introduction of the 2021 Spring harvest. We have had an easy annual changeover this year from one harvest to the next. rjh October 2, 2020