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, a 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 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.
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 or green or floral or roasted flavors. And it has absolutely no astringency, especially this year. The Bai Hao this season is 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: Because this 2018 ‘vintage’ harvest is so spectacular, we purchased more of it this spring rather than the 2019 harvest, which we did not think was as delicious. The 2018, because of its high oxidation and later harvest will drink well for many years and is as spectacular today as it was when we first tasted it almost exactly one year ago. We are very happy that there was ample supply of the 2018 harvest available so that we could do this. rjh 27 June 2019