One look at this tea – and one sip! – was all we needed to become convinced that we needed to have this tea. While we are usually firm believers in the goodness of Fujian Province white teas over all other white teas, this variation has made believers of us that there can be a bit of white tea produced in other regions of China (and even the world) that is worthy of drinking. And we should not have been surprised – we love the unique nature of Yunnan black teas and Pu-erh, too, for all of their earthy deliciousness.
One of the more intriguing aspects of Yunnan tea is the diversity of tea bush varieties and cultivars that grow there, as well as the number of ancient tea trees, historic gardens, etc. that thrive in these forested mountains. Yunnan teas really define the notion of ‘terroir’, as there are many particulars that contribute to the flavor and style characteristics of these very special teas.
This tea is made from an unusual tea bush variety that is local to this region of Yunnan – Camellia taliensis – that produces large, plump and juicy tea buds. You can see in the photograph that this is a bud plucked tea, and that each bud is large and crescent shaped. These buds are covered with fine, thin hairs, which provides them with a dreamy, velvety appearance and a soft, silky feeling to the touch.
Fresh materials from these tea bushes are used in this region to make both white tea and black tea – this is a good example of what we mean when we talk about teas that are made from leaf materials that are usually reserved for making another type of tea. For example, several of our China green teas in the last two years have been made from tea bush cultivars usually reserved for making white tea.
And, in this case, in addition to being manufactured into both black and white teas, the Camellia taliensis leaf is also used in some mao cha blends for Pu-erh, too. So the fresh leaf material from this unusual tea bush cultivar is versatile and highly regarded for its sweet, soft nature. In this manufacture, the fresh buds have been used to make our Da Bai Silver Needles white tea. These large buds are greyish-white in color and underscored with a touch of green. This tea has been withered for a short time (slight oxidation) and then dried quickly with warm air. Da Bai White must have supplemental air movement because the buds are too large to air-dry naturally without molding in the sub-tropical climate of Yunnan Province. This gentle treatment allows the buds to retain a nice large size and a fresh, clean flavor.
The liquid tea is mild, yet mouth-filling and rich. The aroma is fresh and enticing, and the taste is a heady mix of sweet ripe melon and the woodsy essence of a forest after a spring rain. For lovers of bud-plucked white tea, this unusual tea is an elegant and special treat.