If a green tea is judged only by how umami it is, a lower grade than Tea Hong’s Anji Baipian* Supreme may already top the chart. The grace of this top quality of one of the most sought after name in green teas is not measured only by its savouriness, but its silky smooth body and elegance in its taste character. Perhaps that is why the small county of Anji is never producing enough to satisfy the demand from the growing affluent class in China. That said, it is good to see a small counter trend against the taste of expensive vulgarity in that vast population.
Overtone of warm baked broad bean with accents of fresh herbs and honey. Touches of bouquet. Silky and extremely smooth body that is umami with a touch of cream and an extremely light bite of cinnamon. Moisture stays in the mouth for a very long time and then a nutty and slightly malty sweet aftertaste.
Since this is perhaps the smoothest green tea there is, some people maybe letting the leaves soaking in the infusion vessel at all time without the issue of astringency. However, this convention that you may see in some rich people’s homes in China really cannot do justice to the graceful taste profile of this much demanded label.
Give ample time for the infusion, but do empty the liquor after each infusion. You may use a high leaf ratio or a standard one and adjust the temperature and time to your preference, but note that a higher ratio does give more obvious taste characters. In the case of this supreme quality, it is true that you really can use a lot of leaves for maximum taste without the worry for astringency or bitterness.
A little note about the name of this tea
In recent years, somehow the original name of this tea, Anji Baipian has morphed into the name of the cultivar for the tea, Anji Baicha, which literally translates as the White Tea from Anji.
Bai: White; Cha: Tea.
Anji is a small county in Zhejiang. Its rural economy largely relies on tourism, bamboo and related products, and since the revival of Anji Baicha, the tea as well.
The reason why this green tea is called white is as explained in many other tea cultivars with the name white in it: that in old rural semantics in China, the word white actually refers to lighter colour, as in the word wu ( black ) to darker colours. Young leaves in these cultivars have a relatively lighter shade of green. In Phoenix, there are the cultivars Bai-ye and Da Bai-ye ( literally White Leaf and Big White Leaf ); in Wuyi, there are Bai Jiguan ( literally White Rooster Crest ), Bai-ruixiang, Bai Qilan… etc
There is a saying that the word white comes from the tiny white hairs on its leaf shoots. This must have been propagated by people who do not know much about tea. The person who invented this theory might have seen those hairs for the first time in an Anji Baicha plant. The same kind of hair actually exist in most other tea plants. Many more abundantly. An older myth that was still popular even 10 years ago says Anji Baicha is the only true white tea a decade ago. Laughable it may seem, but there are people in this world who still think fables, myths and boastful claims and other tall tales can convince. They have yet to learn to respect other people’s intellect.
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