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Tea Tasting: Two Chinese White Teas


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Kyle Stewart at The Cultured Cup is providing free samples of two Chinese white teas for this Tea Tasting & Discussion, the second comparative tasting we have done. I will mail up to three sets of two 10 gram samples of the teas to members of the eGullet Society.

Here are the two Chinese white teas. Please follow the links for more information on each of these teas and for initial brewing suggestions.

Pai Mu Tan (White Peony)

Yin Zhen (Silver Needles)

The sets of two free samples are available to members who ---

1) will do at least two brewing sessions from each sample, varying the brewing parameters,

2) will report on their experience and participate actively in the discussion within ten days of receiving the samples, and

3) who have previously posted at least twenty-five (25) substantive posts (simply questions, answers, comments that add to discussions) in the Coffee and Tea forum.

As always, everyone is welcome and encouraged to participate in the discussion, whether or not you receive a sample.

As I have mentioned in other topics, I have known Kyle Stewart, co-owner of The Cultured Cup, for some time now, having bought tea from his shop for many years, at least 10 years I believe it is. For the past four years or so Kyle has been instrumental to my tea education through the T-Bar Club at The Cultured Cup. And I have reciprocated by doing presentations on Yixing tea pots and on Japanese Wabi-Sabi style teaware for the T-Bar Club.

Kyle attended the World Tea Expo in Las Vegas last summer and completed his three years of training with the Speciality Tea Institute to become the first Certified Tea Specialist in Texas and one of only 32 in the world. I have had many pleasant times with Kyle and his staff, trading teas and sharing new tea discoveries. More than just a tea merchant I happen to buy tea from, Kyle is a culinary friend as well as a tea friend - the wonderful tea pairings at Sharon Hage's York Street restaurant and a shared interest in Asian food.

While the tasting is open to all members who have posted at least twenty-five (25) substantive posts in the eG Coffee and Tea forum, preference will be given until midnight (EDST) Friday, May 7, 2010, to those who have, in addition, not participated in the last two tastings.

Please PM me now if you would like to receive one of the the free samples and participate in this Tea Tasting and Discussion.

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Just a reminder that preference for the free samples given to members who have not received samples in the last two Tea Tasting & Discussions. Until midnight tonight. Please review the post above and PM me.

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 5 weeks later...

Brewing one at a time or comparing the two at the same time should be fine. You should have enough to brew each separately and then do them side by side if you wish. Just give us the usual info as to water source, brewing vessel and the brewing parameters you use.

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Just brewed the Yin Zhen (Silver Needles) 0.4g:1ounce, 175f, 7 minutes with a good result. Think it could have gone longer, however, or benefited from a richer ratio. I have typically brewed whites using a similar approach but will do it gongfu style, too, in the next few days. I'll be interested with whatever you all come up with.

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First try, attempting about a 0.4:1 ratio with 1.3 grams in my 75mL gaiwans, brewed 7 min (goofed and didn't set timer to sound so they went a tad long), water 175 degrees: first impression is that the silver needle smells and tastes just like the Pai Mu Tan--just a little milder, but similar peachy fruity sweet aroma and taste. It's also a paler liquor, light yellow-green, and the Pai Mu Tan is a golden color. I've never brewed either type of tea for so long before, and really expected the Pai Mu Tan to have a little bitterness, there was absolutely NONE.

2nd infusion, water started a little hotter, 180 degrees, 6 minutes, again, the same result: the silver needle is fruity & sweet, notes of melon and white peaches, but where the silver needle might be honeydew, the Pai Mu Tan is cantaloupe and tart orange clings. I really should try these iced, but I think these samples are all that I have here at home, not really enough for a great big pitcher of iced Pai Mu Tan.

Giving them 10 minutes for a 3rd infusion: still a fair bit of flavor, but the roundness and depth are going.

I've not drunk that much of either silver needle or Bai Mu Dan, but have had some of each from several sources, and never had the impression that they were as similar as they are seeming today. I even did a comparative tasting that included silver needle and Bai Mu Dan, and found them quite different. Now wondering if that was just poorly store or overly old silver needle that had lost the bright fruitiness that this one so clearly has?

Next time, higher leaf-to-water ratios and shorter infusions.

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The weather has broken, and I've brewed up some of the Pai Mu Dan. 2.5g, 10oz water, 175F 15 minutes (lost track of time, water had dropped to 155F by the time I came back to it.)

This tea is very very mellow. It has a sweet, malty aroma, with a slight papery edge. It has a mouth-coating thickness to it, and the aromatic sweetness follows through in the flavor. Then a balancing astringency kicks in and brings a hint of bitterness to the finish. There is very little complexity in the higher aromatics, very much unlike most greens and oolongs... This tea's flavor profile reminds me much more of a more delicate Assam than any of the Chinese teas that I'm familiar with.

Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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Ok... have brewed the Yin Zhen for the first time, and it is seeming a much more lively tea. 2.8 g, 10oz water at 175, 10 minutes.

This is less sweet and less astringent than the Pai Mu Dan... a more rounded and fruity flavor... less flat. (Really should do the PMD for the recommended 6 minutes... that extra time infusing may be responsible for these differences.) This tea has no real bitterness as far as I can tell... a nice long finish, with a slight lingering fruity tartness on the sides of the tongue.

Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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2nd round, 2 grams of tea in small gaiwans, 2 ounces/60mL water 160°F/71°C.

But before the water hits the tea, even the scent of this Yin Zhen is so much stronger than the version I had before, and it has a strong peach/plum odor, almost like an oolong I had tried recently. Mmmm. Anticipation! And the Pai Mu Tan has an equally delicious odor, but I expected that.

As soon as the water hits the tea, the scent shifts to vegetal, very strongly, but by the end, the wet leaves have a milder scent with some floral amidst the vegetal.

Again, after 30 seconds, the Yin Zhen liquor is paler than the Pai Mu Tan, light creamy yellow vs medium gold--but the flavors are closer than the colors. The Yin Zhen is a little more delicately vegetal, and the Pai Mu Tan has a bit more of a peach/camphor, almost fermented fruitiness.

The second infusion went longer, pushing the teas a bit, to 90 seconds/2 minutes. Now I'm seeing a stronger difference, with a deeper flavor to the Pai Mu Tan, and a more delicate flavor to the Yin Zhen. There is a slight bit of astringency to the Pai Mu Tan, but none to the Yin Zhen.

For a 3rd infusion (about 1 minute), both teas are quite nice, but the difference is more pronounced: the Pai Mu Tan is more like a ripe fruit, and the Yin Zhen is like the flower before the fruit.

Both still pleasing at infusion 4 (1 minute); at infusion 5, the difference again is more amplified: the Pai Mu Tan has lost the sweetness, and there's some caramel but also some astringency; the Yin Zhen is still pretty light and floral; 6th infusion (shorter again than the 5th), the Pai Mu Tan has a little lighter touch with a nicer balance of fruity and floral still present. A 7th & final infusion (the kettle is running out of water), at 180 degrees (because the Pino has trouble holding temp when the water level is low), there is still some lovely flavor coming out.

Edited by Wholemeal Crank (log)
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I did a second infusion of the YinZhen, and after a total of 20 minutes steeping, the leaves had gotten a bit flat in flavor. Not so say the second infusion was bad, just that the fruitiness observed in the first infusion was not as evident in the second. A nice mellow flavor, but the high notes didn't go so high this time.

Will give the PMD another brew and keep better track of time to see what it like closer to recommended brewing specs.

Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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Yeah... we've been talking apples and oranges up to this point. You two have been coming at these leaves from a gong fu point of view with tiny infusions and huge leaf to water ratios, while I've been coming at it from a very western teapot angle. I need to do some 1g:1oz infusions to see how they turn out. The extremely long steeping times recommended made me skeptical of the efficacy of the gong fu method on these leaves, but you seem to be having success, so I've gotta give it a try.

Edited by cdh (log)

Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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Just to clarify, Chris, I have not yet brewed this gongfu style. A ratio of 2.0-2.5 g per 6-8 ounces of water is generally considered to be western style. I have brewed it at the richer version of that, 2.4 g to 6 ounces in a gaiwan, but not at a gongfu cha ratio. When I do brew it gongfu cha, it will be at a starting (guessing) ratio of about 1 g per ounce, and I'll have to figure out the timing as I go.

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My first brewing of these was an attempt to get close to the same ratio, 2.5g to 6 oz water, that Richard is calling 'western style', but I miscalculated and should have used 1 gram of leaf in the 75mL/2.5 oz gaiwans to get to a 0.4:1 ratio (I used 1.3). I used the smaller gaiwans only because I wanted to try both teas side by side, which is harder to do when drinking a couple of 6 oz glasses of each tea. My caffeine capacity becomes limiting at that point!

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