Bai Mu Dan

Bai Mu Dan, also known as White Peony, is a white tea that is grown from the same cultivar as the Yin Zhen. Unlike other white teas which use only tea leaf buds, this style, grown in China’s Fujian Province, uses a combination of both mature leaves and buds.  Another factor that makes Bai Mu Dan unique is the leaves are laid out to wither for a spell before they are baked dry, which means it is actually slightly oxidized.

Brew It

When I was seeking this tea out, I had a wee bit trouble finding a vendor that I would sell me a sample. If they carried this blend at all, it was sold in larger quantities. I was able to find this tea available through Adagio.

From what I have researched, the dry leaves shoulbd be silver-green tips and forest green leaves; the better the quality, the more tips will be included. Lesser selections will have more brown leaves (from the mature leaves) that will result in a dull, more harsh brew. As you can see, the selection I have includes many more brown leaves than what is optimal (or even described online).

Despite being slightly oxidized and containing older leaves, you’ll want to brew your leaves up at about 175 degrees Fahrenheit for 2-3 minutes to avoid scorching the buds.

A good quality Bai Mu Dan’s liquor should be a yellow green, but as you can see from the inferior blend I received, it’s more golden yellow.  The aroma of the steeped leaves is vegetal earthy, like sauteed spinach.

Having a medium body, it is a bit heavier than I would have anticipated for a white tea. The inclusion of the mature leaves makes it rather astringent (almost like a dry wine). The dry bite lingers in your mouth until you’ve swallowed the liquor and the vegetal flavor fades from your tongue.  For as dry as this tea is, you may expect it to have more flavor, but the flavor of the tea doesn’t really come out until the finish. You may wish to steep this blend for 1-2 minutes instead, which could result in a sweeter, less astringent liquor.

Contemplative Thoughts

This tea has been a learning experience for me, more than others. It begins to open up the possibility of unique preparation styles and usage of the  Camellia Sinensis plant. But it has also taught me the importance of finding a supplier that can provide me with the quality of tea that I’m really looking for. Not all specialty tea retailers are the same, and as with all types of marketing, what you see is not necessarily what you get. Will I buy from Adagio again? Absolutely. They have some great tasting blends in their massive fandom collection (The Maverick and Dragon’s Dream, being my top two). And I fully support their sourcing techniques and push to know your tea farmers. But as I read and learn more about pure teas and what constitutes a high quality tea versus a lesser grade, I know I must be more discerning when purchasing online.

Zen Me

Ceylon Silver Tips

Ceylon Silver Tips is rare white tea that is grown in Sri Lanka. The island off of India’s coast was known during the British colonial rule as Ceylon and the name has remained common terminology (mostly for marketing purposes) in the tea industry ever since. Most teas produced on the island are black teas for cheaper, mass-market blends. However, there are a few estates that will produce some amazing specialty teas, Ceylon Silver Tips, being one of them.

This tea comes from about half way up the island’s mountain range.

Brew It

The tea I am tasting and writing about today was procured from Harney & Sons. A good quality blend will have slender buds that are just over an inch long. They should not be covered with as much down (the tiny fuzz) as other white teas.

As with any white tea you’ll want to steep the buds in 175 degree filtered water for 2-3 minutes.

The resulting brew will have a pale yellow liquor. After steeping, the wet buds smell vegetal with a hit of sweet, like a sugary, wet hay. My tasting partner, Lori, describes the scent as “day old cut hay that has been rained on”. On the other hand, others have described the scent as a gentle citrus-spice with a subtle sweetness. Each time I’ve brewed this tea I have not picked up on this citrus-spice, but maybe you will.

The body of the tea is thin, yet surprisingly thicker than one might anticipate for a white tea. The first sip is of grassy notes, but the longer you hold the liquor in your mouth root vegetable flavors will emerge (Lori and I both agreed on turnips and rutabagas). For us, the sweetness that we smelled in the aroma does not come through the flavor.

Contemplative Thoughts

Though not my favorite white tea, this tea is a rare treat for where it is grown. For an area that has focused so heavily on producing bold, and often high quantity / low quality brews, the gentle vegetal flavor of this light bodied tea is a gem. The people who pluck these buds by hand and produce this rare first flush tea are doing an amazing thing by breaking the cultural mold.As you try this tea, you may wish to consider what things – big or small – you can do to positively impact your community. Don’t be afraid to try something new or different. It is often counter-cultural acts of kindness that make long lasting ripples in the liquid of society.


Chinese Silver Needle

Chinese Silver Needle, also known as Yin Zhen, is an exquisite white tea grown in China’s Fujian province. Considered to be the most prized white tea on the market (and priced accordingly), this tea is produced from the Camellia Sinensis Da Bai (“big white”) cultivar, which is known for it’s large buds. The first flush leaf buds are picked by hand in the morning after the dew has evaporated off the leaves and laid out to dry before being baked at a low temperature.

Brew It

A good quality selection, such as the Harney & Sons I am tasting and writing about today, will consist of slender silver colored leaf buds, about an inch long, that are covered with tiny fuzzy hairs.

Being a white tea, you’ll want to steep the leaves for about 3 minutes at 170 – 175 degrees Fahrenheit.

The resulting liquor is a pale yellow / green with a rose colored hint. The aroma of the damp buds is a light floral with a sweet, earthy tone. Some have described the sweetness as a floral jasmine and the earth tones as a sweet hay. Light in body, the Yin Zhen’s taste has floral hint with a sugary flavor builds on the finish. If you hold the brew in your mouth for a few moments with a little swish a subtle vegetal flavor will build.

Contemplative Thoughts

I do enjoy a good white tea for the natural sweetness it brings to my tongue. The Yin Zhen is by far is my favorite among pure white teas for the subtle nuances that it holds. You’ll want to try it in a quiet place with a clean palate to focus on the hints that linger on your tongue. Otherwise you may only taste “warm water”, as a friend of mine once said as she tried a white tea after drinking a stout black.

The balance of the sugar with the earthy undertone – a lightness, yet grounded – brings to mind the imagery of cairns; to being firmly rooted and stable, yet remaining delicate and sensitive in the same moment; peace and stability in amongst a chaotic world. To me it is a reminder to just breathe.