Tea Trekker’s Yin Zhen is simply outrageous! What a glorious taste and pure, classic style. A winner! Read on to find out why our Yin Zhen has character and finesse that doesn’t happen every year.
The pluck time for Yin Zhen ranges from mid- March to mid-April, putting its harvest squarely in the pre-Qing Ming plucking season some years, and in the Yu Qian season in other years. Yin Zhen is the smallest of the white tea crops, so this harvest is literally worked-in among the other leaf that needs to be plucked in the busy early-spring tea season in eastern (and western) China. Because Yin Zhen is a bud-only pluck, its harvest leaves ample time for the tea workers to get to the business of producing the later-harvest white teas that are a combination of bud and leaf.
Yin Zhen is very reliant on the early spring season’s weather conditions for the plump-ness, juicy-ness, and overall shape characteristics of the buds. This year the weather was not at all co-operative, or so it seemed at the time. In spite of it being a late spring with snow and frost occurring into March on some tea slopes, the late season was cool and the tea plants just didn’t try to grow. It seems that internally, however, they were developing incredible chemistry that has revealed itself in glorious, delicious, flavor and aroma-packed buds. So this year the harvest didn’t really start until just after the Qing Ming Festival, so our 2017 harvested buds are officially a Yu Qian pluck. Well, we don’t care about that technicality when the tea is as outrageously delicious as this!!
Ultimately, Tea Trekker’s Yin Zhen 2017 Yu Qian is comprised of well-formed, crescent-shaped buds that are slender and yet dense with aroma and full flavor. The mix of shapes is outstanding, with mostly crescents, some swords, and even a few straight buds for variety!
Due to the challenging cold weather and the inevitable later pluck time, a significant number of buds have developed a protective ‘sheathing’ that in some cases almost encases the bud. This vegetation, which if allowed to develop would of course be the first and second true leaves (ultimately forming the traditional 2 leaves and a bud silhouette) hugged the emerging buds and kept them from harm during the cold spring. We find incredible depth of flavor in the buds this year due to their struggle to survive during the frost-filled weeks just prior to harvest.
It is wood-sy, twigg-y, outdoor-sy, very fresh-tasting, and has a mild, honey-like sweetness. The 2017 Yin Zhen is more floral than some years, but that component is mainly in the aroma and not the flavor. Tea Trekker’s 2017 Yin Zhen has a lovely light showing of the effects of withering. This year there is none of the lighter, green bean-y, vegetal flavor that was a bit dominant two years ago when the buds were harvested at a much earlier time (but which is helping the 2015 harvest to age quite nicely – more about that later this summer!) The tea liquor has a richness and fullness that is the result of plentiful amino acids in the buds this year. White teas, because of the light oxidation they undergo, have a hint of the flavor of a mild black tea but without sharpness or astringency. This tea is smooth with a tease of honey in the flavor.
This year the aromatic quality of our Yin Zhen is unbelievable. Just a hint of stone fruit florals in the dry buds yields to an intense, classically pure tea aroma in the steeped buds.
Yin Zhen is distinctive in taste and appearance. These unopened, medium-sized buds are nicely shaped and have the characteristic silvery hue and a covering of white hairy down. If you look closely, you will notice that beneath their down jacket most buds are silver/white, which is quite a feat given the late harvest.
We selected a Yin Zhen that was produced under the EU Standard, which means that rather than just being under the ‘organic’ umbrella, in which only the land and growing conditions are monitored periodically; rather, under the EU Standard the actual harvested product is tested, evaluated and must pass stringent requirements under the EU regulations for pesticide use. We are happy to have our Yin Zhen and several other teas that meet this standard.
At one time Yin Zhen was the only white tea that was made in China. Today of course, other white teas incorporating both leaf and bud are made, but Yin Zhen remains the king of white teas. Authentic Fujian white tea is plucked from five tea bush cultivars that grow in and are unique to three restricted counties of northern Fujian: Fuding, Zhenghe, and JIan Yang. Our Yin Zhen is from Fuding which is the oldest and original area for cultivation and production of Yin Zhen. It is made from the the Fuding Dai Bai or Big White sub-variety of Camellia sinensis.
Bob prefers to drink his Yin Zhen as our Chinese colleagues do – after it has ‘rested’ and matured for several months or even a year or more – (see our listing for our deeply-flavored 2014 Yin Zhen!); while Mary Lou tends to prefer Yin Zhen that is younger, because she likes the energy and vegetal flavor of a recently-harvested Yin Zhen.
One of the highlights of our trip to Fujian Province several years ago was spending a few hours walking down the rows of a tea garden filled with healthy Fuding Dai Bai tea plants and watching the tea pluckers do their work. Later, in the tea factory we visited the indoor withering racks and received a lesson on the production methods of white tea. This tea brings those memories right back into the forefront of our mind’s eye.
Because our Yin Zhen buds are dense and full-flavored we tried infusing them for a slightly longer period of time than is customary. In fact, any steep between 2-5 minutes is fine for this tea. These buds will definitely show well when given a longer steep time. Re-steep as many times as you find there is still flavor; as the number of re-steepings will depend on the amount of time of the early steeps, the quantity of tea used and the temperature at which the buds are steeped. We find that this year’s Yin Zhen is quite flexible and can be steeped successfully using water that ranges from fairly cool to pretty darn hot.
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