A little south and west of the capital city of Taipei, three tea growing counties – Taipei, Hsinchu and Maioli – produce Taiwan’s most famous oolong tea: Bai Hao. This tea is also known as Oriental Beauty or White Tip oolong, and should not be confused with Bai Hao Yin Zhen, commonly known as Yin Zhen, the gorgeous white tea from Fujian Province, China.
Taiwan’s Bai Hao oolong is the original, most-prized grade of the ‘White Tip’ family of Taiwan oolongs (it is similar to the blackbird/crow differentiation, in that Bai Hao is a White Tip oolong but not all White Tip oolongs are Bai Hao). For many decades various White Tip oolongs were sold generically as ‘Formosa Oolong’ in the West, whereas Bai Hao was reserved strictly for the domestic market (and limited sales in other parts of East Asia). It has always been and continues to be seemingly expensive; however, because it re-steeps very successfully, one can infuse an incredibly large amount of liquid tea from the leaf, so it is actually quite reasonable on a per-cup basis.
However, this particular Bai Hao is made by an esteemed teamaker who also makes our stunning Baozhong oolong. Making both of these teas well requires very practiced tea making skills and complete control of one’s processes, as Baozhong is the least oxidized of all oolongs and Bai Hao is the most oxidized. One tea could not be more different from the other. Luckily their seasons are staggered, so that their processes are well-separated during the tea season.
Our Bai Hao is manufactured with leaf that comes from very well-managed tea gardens, and the finished leaf is as beautiful to look at as the tea is delicious to drink. These tea gardens have a very favorable location – they receive plenty of rain and frequent cool ‘foggy’ conditions that are beneficial to the health and vigor of the tea bushes.
Bai Hao (and Baozhong, too) is a very unique oolong tea. While some oolongs from Mainland China and Taiwan are semiball-rolled (and feature varying shades of green color and a greenish taste) and other oolongs are single, strip-style leaves (that feature varying degrees of roasting and have a dark taste), Bai Hao ( and Baozhong, too) however, are unique among oolongs because of their unique degrees of oxidation and their leafy, un-roasted style showing a combination of leaf and buds.
This lovely, slightly-curled, leafy oolong is comprised of a ‘top two leaves and a bud pluck. Our Bai Hao is hand-plucked – its slender appearance is comprised of nicely-shaped, twisted leaves, with a little open leaf mixed in. The leaf is a visually pleasing mixture of textures and colors: dark and chestnut browns, some russets and golds, and plenty of characteristic white tip or buds.
Bai Hao is a mild tea – it has no grassy, green, floral, or roasted flavors. And it has absolutely no astringency. The Bai Hao this season is again a ‘vintage’ harvest, due to the incredible weather that provided nearly-perfect maturation on the plant prior to manufacture. This tea is a beautiful example of itself, and is sublime!! This tea is sweet and soft, suggestive of rich tastes such as chestnuts, apricots, peaches and honey. The aroma has a slight aroma of tree bark, mushroom and biscuit. The tea liquor is a deep amber color in the cup.
NOTE: The 2018 ‘vintage’ harvest was quite spectacular, and we purchased much more of it this early spring, delaying our changeover to the 2019 harvest, which we thought could use some time to mature. The 2019 harvest is excellent, drinking very well, and again should be delicious well past the introduction of the 2020 Spring harvest, so we are now offering it. We are very happy that there was such a simple solution to the annual changeover from one harvest to the next. rjh 29 October 2019