We all enjoy a good meal prepared with love, intention, and skill. And now, farm to table — that which was once obscure — is considered a given. It is not even an added value, but rather something that we, as folks that like to dine out or purchase food from farmer’s markets, have come to expect. Choosing just the right eggplant for that rice dish we are excited to try, or noticing the fresh texture and flavor of the autumn harvested, delicata squash in that risotto from our favorite restaurant down the street. We eat food to relax, to be with friends, to have a treat, maybe to explore something new. The full experience of a lovely glass of wine with just the perfect pasta. A cup of nutty coffee that really wraps up a meal. Artisanal tea that has been grown at peak elevations and crafted by a…
How does one taste all the depth and nuances of tea like a pro without going through any extensive training? In the connoisseurship of wine, many folks become certified wine sommeliers only to learn its appreciation at a professional level. Tea is more complex on the palate than wine. Yet few of us have the luxury of training in tea tasting to fully appreciate what tea has to offer. However, you can follow these guidelines below to getting acquainted with the process of how to taste tea like a pro: Preparation is important. In the beginning of your taste journey, be sure to set aside the space and time to devote to tasting and learning, without partaking in food or other drinks that might skew your palate. Developing a palate means you have to start fresh. Avoid garlic, spices, curries, and other pungent herbs at least a few hours prior…
Luckily for me, I am not easily moved, having clocked in probably an actual million cups of tea and tasted through hundreds, perhaps thousands, of different teas. As far as tea curatorship goes, discerning what is special about a tea when it is a wildly special tea (and then figuring out whether I could actually sell this tea, much later), vs whether the price to value parity is acceptable based on… taste, not appearance, nor name brand, seems to be my forte. So folks, you are drinking my value system.
Though I am not easily moved, today’s highlight of Bailin Gongfu almost made me shed tears. You have to taste it, words, or pictures, or any descriptions from me, will never do it justice. Black teas of the world, get off the stage!
Into the mountain at Bailin village to pay respect to the wild white tea bushes. These guanmu bushes branch from the bottom and spread like long gollum fingers, reaching to the sky at around 8-10 feet tall, making it relatively difficult to harvest. The groves are so dense it’s hard to get in to harvest. These white teas were remnants of pre-Communist China, from the grandparents’ generation, and have been left to overgrow for the last 60 years. How does it taste? The topnotch connoisseur grade Bailin gongfu can be made with these wild plants, or the small Fujian varietal. Or we can commission some White Peony King from these instead. So much tea, so few American aficionados….
Which is the 40 hour process white tea, which is the shortcut 20 hour version out in the market today? The difference to me is obvious, and not an acceptable one. I opt for the traditional 40 hour method, with the sugary melon notes, vs. the grassy greener shortcut with a fragrance like cheap perfume. Those who don’t know, said Mr. Lin, insist on the shortcut Silver Needle. Mr. Lin shows off his pure silver water kettle that he cooks his aged white teas with. The smooth water quality of pure silver vs impure silver vs mere stainless steel kettles, is extreme! I take his word for it. Though I failed to score some Fuding mountain water, I am determined to get a pure silver kettle to test just how much better water boiled in it can taste.
As for the White Down, the March 28 lot was sublime- ashy grey silver, like Mr. Lin’s silver pot. Beautiful, 1000 meter elevation, tight needles, exquisite liquor.