These days I'm mostly preoccupied with perfecting my tea blends, which I'm going to re-launch this fall, in new packaging, labels and formulae. Tea tasting is such a sensual experience, where sight, sound, touch, taste and smell. From the murmur of the tea leaves as they're measured into the cup and listening to the water boil and bubble; to the appearance of the leaves in their dry form, followed by their straining and their changed texture once they are wet and have given away some of their aromatic flavourful properties to the water... And last but not least comes the whiff of the hot steam from the tea leaves, teapot and cup, that merge with the taste and perceived texture into a unique flavour...
All of the senses work in harmony in the tranquil experience of tea tasting. The simple rituals of tea reconnect us to nature and the elements. And tasting a tea that I've blended myself is even more special, as I learn to refine my palate and explore new ways of putting my nosy nose to use...
Generally speaking, there is a hint of bitterness in tea, but it concludes with a sweet after taste. Which I find strange, because sweet taste is perceived by taste buds that are located on top of the front of the tongue, while bitterness is perceived in the very back of the tongue (as a precaution for poisons, many of which are poisonous, so as to make us gag or reject them if necessary).
White tea is the most delicate of all tea leaves. It is produced from the tea buds and the youngest leaves, and undergoes very little oxidation or fermentation, after the leaves are allowed to wither in natural sunlight. It is called white tea because of the fine white or silvery hairs that cover them like a peach fuzz; and the pale, nearly completely clear liquor they produce. But do not let the paleness fool you! There is a lot of flavour and aroma in white tea, albeit a subtle one. It evokes a pristine feeling, and is one of the most precious teas that not easy to prepare or store as it can lose its flavour very fast.
Silver needle tea (Bai Hao Yinzhen) is the finest white tea, made from the buds alone. It is brewed for longer time than most teas (up to 5 minutes) and some of the white hairs will float in the water and add a shimmery appearance to their surface as they reflect the light, contributing to the sense of purity and tranquility of the visual experience. I can't help but think of peach and apricot when sipping this tea, even though it does not quite taste like either - it's more about the texture of the liquor in the mouth, I guess.
White peony (Bai Mudan) is another type of white tea, which has a bud and two young leaves attached to it. It is more peppery in taste, and supposedly floral and reminiscent of peony flower.
If you stop by at the studio these days, you are sure to be put to use as a test bunny and be offered a sip of my recent tea concoctions. White tea is so delicate and special, I'm really looking forward to this winter release, when I can share it with you in a big tea party!
Mark your calendar, as the date is already set for 20.11.2011 (November 20th, 2011). It's going to be a white tea party and it's going to be so special... That I'm almost looking forward to the withdrawal of sun and decreased temperatures.