Tea Trekker’s 2016 Yin Zhen is simply outrageous! What a glorious taste and pure, classic style. A winner! Read on to find out why our 2016 Yin Zhen has character and finesse that only happens one out of ten years, at best.
In a typical year, the pluck time for Yin Zhen is mid- March, putting it in the early part of the pre-Qing Ming plucking season. As Yin Zhen is the smallest of the white tea crops, this leaves ample time for the tea workers to get to the business of producing the later-harvest white teas that are combinations 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 co-operative, in spite of being a late spring with snow and frost occurring into March on some tea slopes.
Therefore, Tea Trekker’s 2016 Yin Zhen 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 can find just a hint of frost nip on some bud tips, but more exciting than that is the depth of flavor that these buds have due to their struggle to survive during the early frost-filled weeks of March.
It is wood-sy, twigg-y, outdoor-sy, very fresh-tasting, and has a mild, honey-like sweetness. It is not floral. Tea Trekker’s 2016 Yin Zhen has a lovely light showing of the effects of withering. This year there is none of the light green bean-y flavor that was a bit dominant last year when the buds were young and which is helping the 2015 harvest to age quite nicely! 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.
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 the buds are still greenish.
We selected our offering for 2016 from 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); while Mary Lou enjoys 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 2016 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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