Friday, 9 December 2011

do I really have to like white tea?

the perfect ride for white tea drinking
Not only because I keep saying that I write this teablog partially for tea newcomers and the tea curious, but also because I interact with so many non-teadrinkers, I get asked a lot of really good questions about tea. Andreas Heinakroon (@heinakroon) asked about white tea recently. Though I can't remember what his exact question was, I'm going to write this post as if it was, 'Hey, what's the best white tea to start with?' See? That's not such a bad question, is it?

Well, Cody Lynn Clark (@codylynnclark) certainly thought so. Her response when I asked the question was, 'I want to be a jackass and say that my advice to newcomers is to not try white tea at all... but, maybe you'll like it. I don't.' Then she continued, 'It always tastes a bit... musky? to me. And it's finicky.' Please, Cody, don't hold back how you really feel, ok? That is a certainly one way to look at it. Actually, I understand this position quite well. 

Musky? Not the first word to come to mind when I think white tea, but I get it. Finicky? I definitely see this one. Normally, these are some incredibly sensitive leaves. Very finicky.

The first several times I brewed white tea, it didn't taste much different than hot water. It's exactly what Jarrod said about it when I served it to him. You don't remember him? I talked about him in luring them over to the leaf-side. He's always eager to try something new, but this clearly wasn't to his liking. 

What did I serve him? A tea called China Snow Buds that I got from Claus Kröger in Hamburg. I find most white tea to be rather subtle, and this is far from an exception. It certainly didn't taste remotely like hot water to me. It's certainly not a bold tea, but there's a light, sweet flavour there. Here's how Claus Kröger's website describes the China Snow Buds

'An exquisite white tea from the slopes of the Taimu Mountains. This tea has not only a clear and fresh taste, but especially nice is a certain sweetness.' (my translation) 

If I had to say, I'd admit that I liked the China Snow Buds, but I wouldn't go for it first thing in the morning. I have to be in the right mood for this sort of tea, but it's not unheard of that I brew it. Really. 

Although this isn't a tea review, I'd like to show you the leaves. They're beautiful.

China Snow Buds leaves

If you look really closely, you can see a white furry substance on the leaves. That's not a bad thing. In this case, that stuff provides tasty goodness.

Here's my question for you gentle readers: how would you introduce someone to white tea? How would you deal with the observation that it practically tastes like hot water? What'd you say in that situation? 

As always, comments are welcome. They're very much appreciated. (Was that clear enough?)


  1. Good advice. I will send out my monkeys to gather leaves post haste.

  2. I'm still intrigued and would like to try it sometime in the future.

  3. Oh Andreas, I'm not done with this topic. After I harass other teabloggers/tea drinkers for their opinions/experiences, I plan on delving into this further. With pleasure.

    You hear that tea lovers? I'm partially relying on you to help me come up with a decent answer.

    Again: What white tea to start with?

  4. I am really not that much of a fan of white tea... It's just not strong flavoured enough for me, I like something with a bit more of a bite. That said, Bai Mu Dan it hink tends to be a bit more robust than anything that has something floompfy like 'clouds' 'mist' or 'snow' in its name. And THAT said, I actually prefer Silver Needles type teas... I had a really delicious batch from Amazing Green Tea (I think that was the name) some time ago.

    But yes, whether it makes me unsophisticated or no, white teas leave me a bit cold.

  5. Am really quite surprised at all of this weird ambivalence regarding white tea. Really.

    Like I say, it's not my favourite. It's rarely the first thing I reach for, but it's definitely got its place.

    I need to write the next blogpost on this topic about the many positives of this stuff.

    And Bai Mu Dan (Pai Mu Tan/White Peony) is quite delicious. And pack a punch...

  6. of now, both Verity and Geoff Norman (@lazy_literatus) have suggested Bai Mu Dan (Pai Mu Tan). Although I'm going to go through my other options, that'll likely be one I choose as the 'best white tea for a tea newcomer'.

    Any other suggestions?

  7. I wouldn't pick snow buds as a first white tea to try, and I certainly wouldn't pick silver needle.

    Personally, I think Bai Mu Dan and Shou Mei are more accessible white teas to people with a typical palate. I'd actually start with Shou Mei, just because it's bolder and richer, and it often has a rich aroma of autumn leaves, a smell that most people are familiar with and can enjoy on some level.

    If you want a middle-of-the-road white tea that balances accessibility with being somewhat similar to the higher-end white teas, Bai Mu Dan would be the best choice, in my opinion. And I'd look for a bolder, stronger example of it. I actually really like Adagio's Bai Mu Dan and I would recommend that as a very bold, accessible example of the style.