Behind The Leaf: Silver Needles White Tea

white

Dearies we’ve talked about white tea before. This is such a delicate, delicious, beautiful tea. I know we’ve mentioned that there are two main types of white tea, White Peony (Bai Mu Dan) and Silver Needles (Bai Hao Yin Zhen). Silver Needles is the more delicate tea with more fuzzy white buds. I thought it would be fun to focus a little bit more on this tea, since it’s so special.

Silver Needles is grown in the Fujian province of China. It is more costly than other white teas because only the young fuzzy buds are picked. The tea plant used is called Da  Bai, which means ‘large white’. Makes sense, right?

I like to drink Silver Needles in the wintertime, mostly because it’s quite soothing. Everything from the sweet and hay-like aroma to the fuzzy tactile experience of the dry leaves is pure comfort. This tea is comprised only of young, tender fuzzy tea buds. The buds are picked early in the spring, and still have that downy fuzz attached. This is what gives the tea the silvery appearance.

This tea is plucked, then withered and dried. There is a slight oxidation process happening since it’s not steamed immediately like green tea. This is why the leaves are silvery and not a more grassy appearance.

The taste of silver needles is going to be subtle, soothing, smooth and sweet. Notes of honey and slight vegetal notes can also be present. The hay-like aroma of the dry leaves can also be found in the brew.

This is quite a delightful tea that could be enjoyed in the morning or early afternoon. Kat prefers it in the late morning, as she likes a tea that’s a bit bolder first thing. But don’t be fooled by that mellow taste Dearies- there is still a good amount of caffeine in white tea.

To prepare this tea, make sure the water is below boiling. You don’t want to scald the delicate leaves, so using water around 167°F is appropriate. Steeped for about 5 minutes, your cup will be a light golden color, with a beautiful sheen to it if it’s fresh. You can steep this up in a small teapot or a gaiwan.

Dearies, I hope you’ve enjoyed learning more about Bai Hao Yin Zhen! Please feel free to ask me if you have any questions.

Advertisements

Trying New Teas for the New Year

Photo Nov 27, 3 33 19 PM.jpg

Dearies, do you believe in New Year’s resolutions? Kat’s always making a few, and to be honest, she only ends up following through on a few of them. But this year I’ve decided to help her with one of her resolutions: Keeping an open mind to new teas! I think I could be quite helpful with this, especially since I’m the official tea steeper! Are there teas you haven’t tried, or perhaps teas you’ve been hesitant to try? Here are a few that may be new to you, or at least teas that are on your radar, but you haven’t actually tasted:

Gyokuro- Ok dearies, as far as Japanese teas go, I’m sure most of you have tried Sencha, matcha, and possibly genmaicha. But have you tried gyokuro? This tea is a little more expensive than the others, but it has a wonderful flavor that many call ‘umami’. A good gyokuro almost tastes like broth and has a pleasing sweetness. The tea is different from other Japanese greens because it is shaded before harvest. The shading causes the tea plants to reduce their rate of photosynthesis and the result is that special umami taste. Dearies, I’d love to know who discovered this method of cultivating tea, wouldn’t you? If you are interested, you can learn a little more about Japanese green teas in my post here.

White Tea- White teas are very versatile. Young tea buds and leaves are plucked in spring, then withered and dried. They are just barely oxidized as well. White teas have a range in quality, so it’s important to try a few different varities. The various types of white tea have different flavor profiles but they all have a nice freshness since the leaves are so young and fresh. Look for Silver Needles and White Peony white teas. They definitely are unlike any other kids of tea. Learn more about white teas and their flavors in my previous post here.

Puerh- If you’ve had a puerh, you’ll definitely remember it. This is a fermented type of tea from Yunnan that comes in two main categories: ‘sheng’ which is the raw puerh that ages slowly over time, and ‘shou’ which is aged through a more rapid human-controlled process. Since Puerh is an aged tea, you can keep it for years and if stored correctly it should get even better with age. In fact, Kat has a shou puerh that dear Char brought back from Yunnan many years ago. High quality sheng puerh can be very expensive, especially when it’s an older vintage. This is because the aging process is controlled, and requires a skilled artisan to get it just right. A good sheng can be sweet and grassy,if young, and woodsy and slightly leathery if older, and also a bit bitter. Shou puerh is created with just the right conditions of moisture and heat to rapidly ferment the tea. Because it is produced more quickly, it is more affordable. It has a much more pungent flavor with a dark, thick brew. Puerh can be a bit of an acquired taste, but Dearies there are many people that go crazy for it! They collect it, trade it, and drink it daily. Why not give it a try?

Finally, there are so many herbal blends out there that are far different from things like mint and chamomile. Try turmeric, lemon verbena, basil, and tulsi! Herbal teas are all very different, and can even be fun to blend. You can even try them iced, they are quite refreshing any time of year.

Dearies, this is a New Year’s resolution you can stick to! Just pick a few teas and get tasting. How simple is that? Happy steeping!

Tippy’s Tea of the Month: Longjing

 longjing1

Dearies I know we’ve talked about Green Teas quite a bit, but there is one in particular that is a Chinese staple with an interesting story, Longjing. This tea’s name translates to ‘dragon well’, and is grown only in China’s Zhejiang province. Why is this well-loved tea called Dragon Well? It all goes back to the legend! There are actually a few different versions of the legend, but in my favorite version, a Taoist monk discovered a dragon hiding in an old well. The season had been in drought, and once the villagers learned of the Monk’s discovery they prayed to this dragon to bring the rain and fill the well to capacity. After the prayers, it started to rain! This water flowed from the well and nourished the surrounding tea is grown.

 The tea itself has a flat needle-like shape with a lovely jade green color. This tea is pan-fired which gives it a nutty taste (it often reminds me of chestnuts) with a fresh vegetal aroma. It also has a cooked veggie flavor which we often associate with green beans. The tea is nutty, vegetal and sweet.

longjing2

 The quality of longjing depends on when it was harvested. The earlier in the spring, the more expensive the tea will be. For the highest quality, one leaf and one bud is picked. These young leaves and buds create a very gentle, fresh and tender flavor for the tea.

The highest grade leaves are pan fried in small batches in a wok. They  needed to be heated as soon as possible to prevent oxidation. The pan-firing technique creates the lovely nutty flavor you taste in the tea. The leaves are pressed to the sides of the wok to make sure they are properly dried. This also creates the flat needle-like shape of the finished leaves. If your tea leaves have an even color to them, you know they were dried very well, to make sure the heat was even for the whole batch. Lower grades of longjing are also pan heated but usually in large revolving drums. The teas that are machine roasted are still quite delicious and more affordable.

longjing3

As with many coveted teas, longjing can be ‘faked’. You may not be getting spring harvested tea, or tea grown in Zhejiang. The best way to tell is use your eyes and mouth. Does it look like a vibrant green tea? Does it smell and taste like early spring? Veggies and chestnut? It is smooth and gentle or is it bitter? If you taste enough good quality longjing you will know what to look for. As always dearies, it’s about tasting, tasting, tasting!

To brew your longjing you can use a gaiwan, or a small teapot. My favorite way is to just add the leaves right in the water using either a bowl style cup or tall glass. Just keep filling up your vessel with hot water as you finish it, re-steeping those beautiful leaves. This is the way it’s commonly consumed in China.  Dearies no matter how you steep it, it’s a beautiful tea. If you try it you’ll understand why it’s so revered in China. Happy Steeping!

Teas To Welcome Spring

SpringTeas

Dearies, I’m just so tired of this cold weather, aren’t you? Just when I thought I couldn’t take any more of it, I noticed a few green shoots sprouting in the garden! Spring is ready to burst forth, and I can barely wait another minute! I’ve decided to round up a few lovely floral teas to properly welcome springtime. What could be better than looking at the budding flowers while sipping on a lovely floral tea? Bring a bouquet into your cup and the winter weather will feel lightyears away.

Jasmine tea is a perfect choice to melt away the frost. The sweet, delicate jasmine combined with grassy green tea will bring you right to a sunny meadow with the dainty white flowers. Close your eyes, breathe in the intoxicating floral aroma. You’ll feel as good as new!

Rose teas are also a wonderful choice. I adore Kat’s rose garden and the scent always uplifts. Sometimes she’ll set a little table in front of her trellis of roses and we’ll enjoy tea in the sunshine. A sip of rose tea will make you feel like you’re right in the garden.  I enjoy green teas scented with rose, and you can often find teas with the rose petals mixed right in. It’s beautiful to look at and to drink. It would also work well as a potpourri. I’ve also seen rose as a tisane, all on its own.

SpringTeaDorset

Chamomile is a springtime favorite for Kat. She has many different chamomile choices in her cupboard, and her newest favorite is called Cool Chamomile from British company Dorset Tea. Kat’s friend Jocelyn moved to England a few years ago and always sends her teas she can’t find in the states. This chamomile from Dorset is one of Jocelyn’s favorites and now Kat is obsessed with it as well. The soothing sweet chamomile is accented with tangy raspberry and lemongrass for a unique and delicious tea. The lemongrass makes me think of those bright green early spring shoots that are sprouting up all over the garden. This combination is bright, yet relaxing. Kat often has this tea in the evening since it’s herbal and won’t keep her awake. She also has been making it iced, as a refreshing sunny sip to keep those winter blues away. It’s the perfect tea to welcome spring!

 Springtime is also when the new harvests of teas start to arrive at your favorite tea shop. Be sure to ask for the spring green, oolong, white, and first flush Darjeeling teas. They will be fresh and vibrant, and perfect for your cup.

Behind The Leaf: White Tea

white

My lovely tea friends, I know you’ve had lots of black and green teas, but how much do you know about white tea? I find white teas to be quite surprising. The brewed tea ranges in color and the flavors are not always as light as you’d expect. The flavors can be quite nuanced. These teas are subtle and smooth, but so much more!

All tea comes from the camellia sinensis plant. The main differences are in terroir, plant varietal, and of course processing. White teas are produced mainly in China’s Fujian province, and they are the least processed of all teas.

You are probably thinking, ‘Tippy, tea leaves are green, aren’t they? Why is this called white tea?’ Well, white tea gets its name from the silvery-white fuzzy buds that are often used. The buds are very young, and they haven’t had a chance to go from fuzzy and silvery to the green you’re used to seeing. They don’t have that bright green chlorophyll-laden color of more mature leaves. This also means the leaves are more tender than older ones. I do love those fuzzy buds, but they tend to tickle when Kat brews tea straight in my cup!

To create white tea the young leaves are plucked in early spring, withered and then dried but barely oxidized. After drying they are sorted and heated again. The withering process is long, and can take up to 2 days. Because the leaves are minimally processed they have a lovely crisp freshness. They are even lighter than green teas. White teas have notes of grass, honey, fruit, vanilla, chocolate, even citrus flavors.

There are two common types of white teas:

Silver Needles (Hao Yin Zhen)- These leaves are the highest quality. They are comprised of all silvery, fuzzy buds and no other leaves. The brew is pale yellow and the flavor is subtle, smooth, and sweet. I find the flavor of this tea mellow and relaxing, but please note, because the leaves are young and the tea is minimally processed, it has a good amount of caffeine. The taste is subtle, but it’ll definitely give you a bit of energy.

White Peony (Bai Mu Dan)- This tea is delicious but considered lower quality because it has both silver buds and young leaves. The brew is a little bit darker and has more robust notes of fruit and honey. Kat sometimes has this white tea in the morning, because it has bit more flavor and wakes her right up.

Because these teas are tender and minimally processed, you don’t want to use boiling water to steep them. Refer to the directions for exact temperatures, but you’ll usually want to use temps around 180. I love to watch those downy needles dance while they brew, so we usually use a small glass teapot to brew the leaves. A gaiwan would also work well to extract as much of the delicate flavor as possible.

pomwhite

Kat has a few different white teas in her cupboard, and right now she’s been enjoying a pomegranate white tea from Private Selection. The earthy, grassy white tea pairs nicely with sweet pomegranate and tangy lemongrass. This tea steeps up to a beautiful red color that is perfect for this festive time of year. She enjoys this tea all on its own as an afternoon escape. It has so much flavor that she doesn’t need to add sweetener. The strong pomegranate and lemongrass flavors do not mask the white tea. It is mellow yet refreshing. Kat recently had this tea at a family holiday gathering. Her aunt served it in beautiful little glass cups, so everyone could enjoy the pinkish red color. A few days later she saw the tea in her grocery store, and she happily brought a box home with her.

So what do you think, my tea lovelies? If you haven’t tried a white tea before, are you curious? I do hope you seek out a few white teas to try, they are quite a unique experience.

Taking Tea in Paris

paris

I just adore Paris. The cafes, the perfectly charming streets, the art, and the food! Dearies, did you know that Paris also has wonderful tea shops? When Kat and I were traveling through Paris, we were amazed at the tea rooms, and tea shops we’d see as we strolled through those magical streets. We were happily surprised to see signs for ‘salon de the’ (tea salon) in many shops.  Our host family even offered us herbal teas (referred to as tisanes or infusions) every night after dinner. Our host mentioned that many French folks enjoy tisanes for their digestive properties and calming effects. The fruit and herb combinations vary based on region.

Imagine nibbling on a fresh, crusty baguette and sipping on some of the worlds’ finest teas. Tea time in Paris is something everyone should experience at least once. Some of my favorite French tea shops are:

Dammann Frères: This is a quaint shop that delights the senses. The retail shop was established in the 1920s and the gorgeous wood details in the shop look as is they have many tea stories to tell, as does the Beautifully designed with walls of tea tins. Their teas are harder to find in the US, but a quick online search will result in a few different options.

Mariage Frères: This beautiful shop is perfect for afternoon tea in their sunny salon. They have an extensive tea and food selection to choose from.  They serve tea in beautiful pots with picture-perfect teaware. The store was established in the 1850s and every last detail is steeped in history. Oh, I so want to go back!! I’m dreaming about inhaling the gorgeous scents from their tea blends. Their teas can be found in a few various stores in the US, and online.

Palais des Thés: This shop is a bit more modern than Dammann and Mariage Frères. They also have retail shops in the NY, and I’m sure more are soon to come. They have an extensive US website as well. I adore their herbal and fruit blends. They have an extensive line of signature blends.

Kusmi: I love the fancy blends at this shop! They now have retail shops in the US, and it is easy to find online. The decor is simple here, they let the teas speak for themselves. They have a blend for just about every moon and occasion. They were originally a Russian company and have some very interesting Russian blends.

 

Tea Apps

apps

Back when I had tea adventures with Char her steeps were timed with a clock or wristwatch, and she’d write her tasting notes in a little blue notebook. She’d never be without that notebook! It was worn and loved, filled with her tea tasting memories. Kat has a similar notebook for her own tea notes, but she’ll often forget to bring it with her when she goes out. I am a very helpful teacup, but I can’t always remind her to take it! I have so many things to focus on, like tea inventory, and keeping the soup pot away from the frying pan. Those two really like to bicker.

The other day Kat came home in a rush, all excited to tell me about a tea app for her smartphone she had just learned about. There was a tea-tasting at the local grocery store and the woman preparing the tea used an app on her phone to time the steep. Kat was excited and they chatted about various apps that can be used to steep, track the teas you drink, and record tea notes! This is a wonderful idea, especially for someone like Kat that is always with her phone, but rarely remembers that notebook.

Here are a few apps we’ve discovered. Some are free and others are paid:

Tea ($1.99) – This is an app that encompasses many different useful features. The app has a tea timer based on type of tea you are steeping and also a place to write notes and rate the tea. It also suggests the appropriate water temperature for the steep. If you don’t agree with the suggested time and temperature settings, you can add your own. It also has a ‘tea encyclopedia’ where you can look up information on various teas, where they are grown and processed, and get steeping tips. The app offers an interesting feature that tells you how much tea you have left in your package after each session, if you enter in how much you started with before your first steep.

Camellia Tea Timer (free)- This is a basic app that is simple yet effective. There are 7 preset types of teas with steeping times and temperatures (you can manually add more teas if you’d like to). You can edit the info on each tea if you don’t agree with the time/temp presets. You can’t make any notes, but it’s a handy app to have when you’re out and want a timer for your tea.

Aromatic– ($1.99) This app has many different teas to choose from and describes the growing regions with pictures and maps. You get a timer, and a helpful tea glossary but no room for tasting notes.

Tea Forte Tea Timer (free)- This one can be used with any tea, but is geared towards the brand’s own blends. Still it has a useful timer, and some fun cocktail recipes.

While Kat was searching for apps, she also found a few tea-themed games for her phone! If you’re looking for a little entertainment there is a game where you can plant, grow, process, and sell your own tea! It’s called Tea Firm: RePlanted (free). There is also My Tea Party (free), a game where you can plan your own tea party. I think I’ll have to give that one a try sometime. Although it would be strange to have someone serve tea to me! I like to do all of my own steeping.

Are there any helpful tea apps that aren’t listed here? I’d love to learn more about them! Do let us know in the comments.

 

The Wondrous and Varied World of Iced Tea

There’s nothing like a glass of iced tea on a Summer’s Day. Or in Char and Kat’s case, a Lovely Cup of iced tea! I find it interesting that in general, the standard iced tea is made from black tea or a black tea blend. But dearies! There is such a wider spectrum of iced teas to be enjoyed!

World of Iced Tea

Iced Green Tea

The brightness of green teas can make a delightful iced beverage. In particular green tea blends can be a very refreshing alternative to black tea. Try Fresh and Easy Mint Green Tea. Brew as directed for a pot of tea, cool, then pour the light, yellow-green tea into a pitcher and chill in the refrigerator. Once cold, pour over ice and top with a sprig of mint. What Kat loves about this green tea blend as an iced tea is that the flavor is smooth and summery with the mint feeling like an ocean breeze to her taste buds. It looks and tastes divine!

Iced White Tea

White tea is often described as “delicate,” but a good white tea blend with fruit notes can be a luxurious iced tea that makes you feel like you’re relaxing at the spa! Kat likes Fresh and Easy Pomegranate White Tea with a twist of lime. Don’t let the light color of the steeped tea fool you. This iced tea literally dances on your tongue! The tang of the lime contrasts beautifully with the light tartness of the pomegranate. The refreshing delicacy of the white tea is highlighted with the And if you are looking for a little extra sweetness, stir in a little sugar to take it to a whole new level! If you enjoy fruit influenced beverages, this is one you won’t want to miss.

Herbal on Ice

Herbal teas make a lovely caffeine-free iced option. Kat prefers some of the bolder herbal flavors such as peppermint or hibiscus. Her current go-to is Fresh and Easy Hibiscus Herbal Tea. The deep, ruby color of this brew is as festive as it is delicious! The tartness of the hibiscus is balanced with a sweetness of cinnamon and orange. This is no run-of-the-mill iced tea. This is an iced jewel!  Once it is chilled, Kat adds a slice of orange to enhance its sunny, citrus flair.

Don’t fall into an Iced Tea rut. Open your taste buds to a brave new world of iced tea options. Experiment, add herbs or fruit or even a cinnamon stick. I just know you’ll love what you discover!

The Basics of White Tea

It seems that “White Tea” is more common these days. There was a time when Char and I were travelling in China, and we would enjoy white tea regularly but couldn’t find it anywhere when we finally journeyed home! Today, though, there seems to be a surge in its popularity, and now it is easily accessible around the world.

There are many who believe white tea is the world’s earliest tea. Because the process mostly involves natural drying, it makes sense this could be the case. By drying the buds and small leaves, they could be stored for future use. There are even written documents about white tea from as early as the 1100’s, during the great Song Dynasty!

As with all true tea, white tea is from the Camellia Sinensis bush. So, what makes it white tea, as opposed to green, black or oolong?

White Tea

It begins with the plucking. Only the buds or the buds and the youngest tea leaves are used for white tea. In fact, one of the reasons it is called “white” tea is due to the silvery hairs that are found on the buds that turn white during the drying process. These tender buds and leaves are slowly dried using low temperature hot air ventilation. The result found in your tea cup is a pale yellow, very delicate, mildly sweet, refreshing brew.

While Char loved to indulge in a single estate white tea with nothing added, Kat really enjoys a variety of white tea blends. Whether a white tea blend with apricot or a blend with jasmine or rose, it seems Kat sips on a white tea when she’s feeling inspired and has a new idea ‘brewing.’

What white tea would you like to try?