25 Days of Tea: Day 16 (White Peony)

img_lg_whitepeonyWe’re stepping into some controversy as we embark into the category of White Tea.

But first, lets have a look at White Peony (or as its also called: Bai Mu Dan or Pai Mu Dan), a very mild, slightly sweet white tea from China. It’s made from harvested leaves (2 leaves and a bud) before the leaves are fully open and still have the fine white, fuzzy “hairs” on the leaf. These leaves are left to wither slowly and air-dry so that there is minimal oxidation as compared to green, oolong and black teas and is not exposed to heat from a flame. The low oxidation and minimal processing yields a very delicate, fresh, crisp brew with mild, light honey flavor.

Now to the controversy: There is overwhelming information on the internet about the caffeine content of white tea – which is generally thought to be lower in caffeine than green or black tea. However, there is evidence that original tea plants from the Fujian, China may have a low caffeine content compared to other other tea plants. That said, there are studies that show that white teas contain as much or more caffeine as green or black teas. I did a blog post in 2009 on this and used the research from Nigel Melican, a tea master and scientist in the tea industry. You can revisit that blogpost information here. . but also check out this post by Cha Do back in 2008.

It’s important to gather as much info from sources related to the caffeine levels in white tea, especially if you are sensitive or allergic to caffeine. I’m still reading and researching the mystery around white teas and caffeine to stay informed and relay the information to my tea followers. Americans in particular are very intent on knowing caffeine levels in tea, often asking for subtleties by percentages. My standard answer is always the same: If you are sensitive or allergic to caffeine, do not drink tea (camellia sinensis). There are so many other options like herbals/tisane and rooibos–which rivals green tea in many ways related to health and wellness benefits and anti-oxidants. And its totally caffeine free. Here are further notes on White Peony (Bai Mu Dan):

• Overview:   A very mild, subtle, delicate and slightly sweet tea.
• Dry Leaf:    Large, unbroken leaves
• Liquor (liquid):   Pale yellow
• Aroma:   Fresh, slightly hay, light floral
• Flavor notes:    Floral, sweet, herbaceous
• Brewing recommendation:     185-190˚F  for 3 to 5 minutes.
• Caffeine: Yes

If you are interested in giving todays pick a try, please visit the Pearl Fine Teas tea shop today and use code: 25TEAS16 at checkout to get 25% of White Peony – today only!

Happy Sipping!
-The Chief Leaf

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25 Days of Tea: Day 16 (White Peony)

NEWS: Making Tea History in Taiwan

D.C.’s Chief Leaf  was 1 of 10 Tea Professionals from the United States and Canada to have completed a week-long intensive study of oolong teas from withering to final product in Taiwan from June 20-28, 2009. Ms. Scott was part of this exclusive first group of foreigners to produce tea at the prestigious East Coast Taitung Branch, Tea Research and Extension Station – an unusual and rare opportunity for anyone other than Taiwanese tea growers.

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Indoor withering process of Wen Shan Baozhong

The group was lead and organized by Thomas Shu, ABC Teas & 3rd generation Tea Master, Josephine Pan, Organic Teas Only, and the Taiwan Tea Manufacturers Association (TTMA).

Notable Tea Masters Norman Shu, current Chairman of TTMA; Jackson Huang, Senior Advisor to TTMA; Ted Fan, Secretary General of TTMA and on-sight instructor David Liao worked side-by-side guiding the group during processing, cupping sessions and tea tastings. On average, their days were 12-15 hours of intensive study of 6 cultivars:

1. Tai Cha #12/Chin Sin Oolong
2. Da-Yeh Oolong
3. Wuyi
4. Tai Cha #18
5. Tai Cha #8
6. Taiwan’s Wild Tea Tree

The week kicked-off the with hands-on processing of Baozhong Tea (Wen Shan Tea District) which took approximately 13 hours to complete.

Their second day was highlighted by a visit to the Shan-Ben Tea Garden, producer of the 1st Place Winner for Green Oolong Tea at the World Tea Championship in Las Vegas earlier this year. Winner Ken Rudee, incoming Chairman of STI and Board Member of the Tea Association of the US, returned to Taiwan to present 82-year-old Mr. Wu with the prestigious award.

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Making pressed oolong tea (with some help from a Master)

By day three, they had processed Pressed Oolong (Hua-Tung Tea District) and completed the “bootcamp” with the hand processing of Formosa White Tip Oolong Tea/Oriental Beauty (Ta-Chiang-Wu/Long Tan, Touyan)-Taiwan’s most precious tea.

“This was the most intense and rewarding tea experience I’ve had to date. To be able to actually hand-make tea was a rare opportunity, said Ms. Scott. “I have an even greater appreciation of the work and craftsmanship that goes into a single cup of tea. It’s not easy and is truly an art.”

By weeks end, the group had cupped and tasted over 60+ teas from Bai Mu Dan to Aged Oolong along with some that have not been sampled outside of Taiwan. A Master Cupping session was held at the ABC Teas Factory and was led by Norman Shu.

Mid-way through the week they were able to take a short break at the Luminous Mountain Spring Resort & Spa and enjoy the natural hot springs. Their week culminated with a Grand Tea Tasting at TTMA, a 10-course farewell dinner and closing ceremony on Saturday, June 27th. Certificates of completion were given.

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The totally wonderful Thomas Shu and Elise on the slopes of a tea garden in Yilan, Taiwan

Taiwan Public Television (the equivalent of PBS) was there to interview and film events earlier in the week and was scheduled to cover the closing ceremony to gather more footage for a 15 minute television special on their oolong study tour. Ms. Scott granted an interview to the TV Station.

“I was thrilled to offer my thoughts and opinions on the value of Taiwanese oolongs in the US Tea Market. We are big fans and huge supporters. Their teas are outstanding,” she said. “I used this week to not only learn from revered tea masters, but to also connect with the growers, develop relationships and purchase teas directly from the gardens, said Ms. Scott. “Our fall collection of Taiwanese oolong tea is really quite special.

Many of the teas purchased will be available this fall in time for the Holidays.

If you enjoyed reading this post, please consider sharing with a friend. We look forward to your comments! Happy Sipping!

NEWS: Making Tea History in Taiwan