Some years ago when young tea master Chen sent me her first attempt on making white tea from Hong Yu, I was impressed. Not that the tea was good enough, but that she has picked this very special cultivar for her first attempt for producing a white tea that is Taiwan’s very own.
Hong Yu cultivar
Hong Yu ( aka cultivar TTES#18 ) has a unique character that is quite different from any other cultivars. Developed from a native wild tea plant, camellia formosensis, Hong Yu is not even a camellia sinensis at all. This difference in species means the tea produced using it has an aroma and taste profile very different from those made from the usual sinensis species. It has reinvigorated Taiwan’s black tea production. Hong Yu Black Tea — Red Jade — is the country’s signature black tea after all.
Most people believe that tea is made from varieties of the species camellia sinensis — such as camellia sinensis variety sinensis and variety assamica. That is simply not true. There are other species of camellia used in tea processing. Shengcha pu’er from much sought after “tree-type” old tea trees in Yunnan, and in fact in nearby Laos and Thailand, have come from some trees that are widely considered as other species, although no work has been done to prove their true identities yet.
In Taiwan, the story is different. They have compared the actual DNA sequencing of camellia formosensis with that of the sinensis species to conclude indeed they are different species.
To make and market a white tea that can differentiate from the largely soft and sweet members in the category need to have a different identity. When I first tasted a Red Jade, I thought the raw material would be a wonderful material also for making white tea with. That is why I was impressed to see that first trial production from Chen. Maybe I mentioned it to her sometime ago? Or maybe this really is an obvious choice?
A personality of its own
Concurrently many other producers have been indeed making white tea and other varieties with this same cultivar and a few other new cultivars related to it. It is indeed an inspiring gift from Nature.
We began wholesaling deeper oxidised Hong Yu White Tea two years ago and this year, I feel that it should be shared with our online consumers.
Hong Yu Deep White is different from Fuijian white teas. Where the Chinese ones are so soft that the strength is still subtle even when you let the leaves soak in the teapot for a long time. Hong Yu the cultivar itself is a vibrant and individualistic character. Otherwise there wouldn’t be a Red Jade so well loved. The white tea version demands similar respect at infusion. As such, it is a great tea for for testing both your gongfu tea skills or large pot infusion technique.
Once you have got the hang of it, you will be able to enjoy a tinkling liquor with a fuller body than other white teas, floral accents with a signature minty note that is found nowhere else other than Hong Yu.