So, here it finally is, the long awaited post about the oft-mentioned, semi-legendary, Moonlight White.
This tea came into my life just shy of two years ago, a present to mark a landmark birthday.
Mrs. Teaist and First Born went to one of our local tea boutiques and said something along the lines of “Big birthday. He likes Pu-erh. Watcha got??!!”
They left with a Sama Doyo E-01 teapot, as well as this beeng.
It’s a standard sized 357 gram cake, named “Moonlight Beauty White Cake Tea“, and was made in 2010 by the Qian Ye Hao factory, with material from the Lincang area of Yunnan province.
Despite the name, this is indeed a sheng/raw pu-erh – the characters on the outer wrapper declare it as such. Presumably the “Moonlight White” moniker has been applied because the leaf has been processed in line with other teas of that type, ie. a slow, prolonged overnight withering (hence “Moonlight“), resulting in the slightly darker appearance of the leaf. In essence, then, this is pu-erh material processed in the style of a Moonlight White, and then pressed into a beeng as a sheng pu-erh would be.
It has to be noted that there is a lot of discussion about teas labelled as Moonlight White, in particular which class of teas they fall into. In this video Don from Mei Leaf covers the important points when discussing a Moonlight White he himself sells.
As far as this tea goes, I’m more than happy to go along with the manufacturer’s declaration that it is a sheng Pu-erh. I’ve had my best results with the tea when treating it as I would any other sheng.
Usually I drop 6 grams into a 150 ml pot or gaiwan, and after a quick rinse start off with a 5 second infusion, adding 5 seconds to each subsequent steeping.
The wet leaf has the aroma of freshly cut hay, and the early steeps give off a faint fragrance of roses.
The somewhat ambiguous nature of this tea comes out when you actually get around to tasting it. It has for all intents and purposes the flavour profile of a Bai Mu Dan with its sweet, honey, delicate floweriness, but there’s also a kind of crisp, Hong Cha thing in there, too. Every now and then a sheng-like woody earthiness pops up unexpectedly, and then disappears just as rapidly, like someone running into a library and setting off an airhorn before running out again.
This tea might lean towards a Bai Mu Dan in terms of taste, but it packs a punch very much in the style of a sheng. The Qi hit is more or less instantaneous, arriving on the back end of the first infusion. My upper chest and under-arm area are soon on fire, and muscle control in the arms becomes a bit erratic, as evidenced by the state of my handwriting in my tasting notebook.
The tea has the endurance of a Bai Mu Dan, however, and tends to fade fast after 10 steepings.
Tea is a journey, and for me this tea represents how far I have travelled down my own personal tea road.
It was the first beeng I ever owned, and I was kind of in awe of it, even a little scared of it, anxious not to treat it badly, steep it incorrectly. At that time it was also the best and most expensive tea I had tasted, positions it has long since relinquished to other teas. Where I once marvelled at its flavour, I can now, with a bit more experience, evaluate it more objectively. Don’t misunderstand me, I still like it, but nowadays I see the whole picture.
It’s aged, too, in the two years I’ve had it, and will continue to do so. I love the idea that I’ll be able to come back to this tea again and again down the years, like revisiting a favourite city to see what’s new, as well as hang out in old haunts. All being well every time I re-taste this tea in the future I’ll know a bit more, and will be able to understand it just that little bit better.
One thing’s for sure though, I’ll never forget how excited I was when I first unwrapped it, and I hope something of that carries forward to every session I have with this cake in the years ahead…