Physics, more specifically Newton’s third law, tells us that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, and that’s just as true for tea as it is anything else.
I was putting together a tea order, and I was wondering what to buy, when it struck me that I’d been purchasing and drinking mostly dark teas lately.
I had a gut feeling to kick back against this trend. Perhaps it’s some sort of subconscious urge to cling on to memories of warmer days. Winter’s waiting, cackling in the wings, ready for his big entrance. He’ll stride onstage soon enough, that’s a given, and once he’s entrenched in the limelight and has launched into his four month long monologue, we’ll applaud and cheer, and shower him with ruby red and mahogany coloured tea, just as we do every year.
But not just yet. Not today.
I wasn’t in the mood for anything green or yellow, but thoughts of white teas had me nodding and mmmm-ing to myself. White tea seems to enjoying a bit of a renaissance of late, I reasoned, so why not jump back aboard that train and see where it takes me.
I pinged on over to House of Tea, to see what they could tempt me with.
I found two white teas that jumped up and down excitedly, shouting “oooh, oooh, pick me…!“, and so I did the decent thing, and dropped them into my shopping cart.
This is the first of that pair.
This one appealed to me for several reasons. Apart from the fact that white tea is currently thé du jour, the same can also be said for Georgian tea, so a white tea from Georgia was too good a chance to miss. I’d already sampled a black tea from Georgia earlier, so I was interested in doing a spot of comparing and contrasting, too.
According to House of Tea’s notes the leaves are from Ozurgeti, which is the regional capital of Guria in western Georgia. The raw material is from wild arbor trees that originally were part of a plantation of Chinese varietal tea bushes that was abandoned, but is now being harvested once again, albeit on a small scale by a family concern. The plucking standard is given as a bud and two leaves. The tea is described as hand plucked and produced.
|Water Used:||Filtered tap water|
|Weight of dry leaf:||6 grams|
|Infusion style:||Asian / Gong-fu|
|Steeping vessel:||150 ml porcelain gaiwan|
|No. & duration:||Infusions of 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 40, 50, 60, and 90 seconds duration for a total of 9 infusions.|
As you can probably tell from the picture above, this is a voluminous tea. Those 6 grams worth of the dry leaf all but filled up the gaiwan, somewhat reminding me of a large cardboard box filled with expanded polystyrene packing peanuts. They smelled of bran flakes, but after meeting hot water for the first time they were soon giving off an aroma that blended spinach and sweet peas.
That first steeping left next to nothing in the way of dust or debris in the tea strainer, and it remained as clean as a whistle throughout the whole session.
The taste of that first infusion was complex but oh so subtle. I picked up hints of blueberries, oak, and that sweet floral thing, and as the session wore on no new notes entered or left the mix, nor did the balance between them shift, instead it was just the intensity levels that rose and fell. It was like the difference between a volume knob and a graphic equalizer, if you see what I mean.
The liquor’s body entered the ring as a welterweight, but by the third round had beefed up to more of a middleweight, and stayed there for the rest of the session.
During the 5th. infusion I detected the first signs that the tea was starting to slip a bit, so I bumped up the duration of each subsequent steeping accordingly.
As I sipped the 6th. round I felt a mild, dreamy Qi bump slow roll in, bringing with it a sleepy sense of calm.
After that there was a distinct feeling of the tide going out, and after the 9th. round it was clear that I’d had the best of what the leaves had to offer, so called a halt to the session at that point. Nine infusions seemed like a decent enough yield, though.
This is certainly a tea that stands out a fair bit in comparison with other whites, and you can’t help but wish that you had a little more information about its background, such as the finer details of its terroir, how exactly it was processed, or even how the cultivar now differs from the others it was originally related to.
Technical details notwithstanding, this is when all is said and done a jolly nice tea, one I shall be reaching for as and when I’m in the mood for something bright but not too light.