Saturday, January 24, 2009

Tea Tasting Saturday #4 - Bai Mu Dan (White Peony)

When I first looked through "The Harney & Sons Guide to Tea," one of the things that surprised me was that Michael Harney actually recommends a few tea companies other than his own, which I thought was a very gracious thing to do. Among the other vendors he lists in the book is Upton Tea. When I realized not all the teas in the book were available in sample sizes from Harney, I consulted my latest Upton Tea catalog and ordered some of the samples there. Before the year is over I may be ordering samples from anyone who can supply them, but so far I've found the first three or four months' worth purely from Harney and Upton, and that suits me just fine since I have received excellent service from both.

This week, I wanted to mention a particular tea tasting technique Harney recommends. Or perhaps I should say "tea sniffing technique," because he basically encourages you to get your nose down in the pot and really get a good whiff of the tea leaves. I didn't know that the first smells when you remove the teapot's lid are just water because "the vaporizing rate of water is faster than that of the aromatic compounds in the leaves." Makes sense. I started doing it his way, and he is right: There is much, much more of a distinctive aroma when you pour off the tea, stick your nose as close as possible to the wet leaves, and sniff away. I don't recommend doing this with an audience, as I know I don't look very ladylike doing it, but I do think I'm educating my sniffer, and that's what it's all about!

Name of tea: Bai Mu Dan (White Peony) -- It's also known as Pai Mu Tan.

Category: White Tea

Purveyor: Upton Tea

When purchased: January 2009

Dry leaf appearance: Dark green leaves, with a noticeable variation in size. (I learned from the Harney book this is because this tea is a mix of tips and whole tea leaves.)

Wet leaf appearance: Wet dark green leaves, again with the noticeable variation in size.

Steeping temperature and time: 2 teaspoons of tea, 180 degrees, 3 minutes

Scent: A stronger scent than the other white teas, and initally it reminded me of the scent of water poured of freshly boiled butterbeans or peas. Interesting!

Color: Medium gold

At first sip, this was a bit strong for my tastes, and it had a very "dry mouth" feel after I was finished sipping. Maybe I used too much tea? I tried a second cup. Hmmm. But then I added some slightly cooled water, steeped it for about four minutes, and this was perfect! If I make this tea again (and I always get at least two or more cups out of these sample packets), I will use less tea from the get-go.

Additional notes: I'm starting to pay attention to the fact that subsequent steepings can sometimes be as enjoyable as (or better than) the first one.

Next week's tea: Pan Long Ying Hao, first of the Chinese greens


  1. Interesting selection today! I've only known it by the name White Peony, so learning other known names is fun.

    Question for you, what type of thermometer do you use to get the temp to all the varying degrees for each tea?

    By the way, glad to see you saw the blog post today. I can't wait to go shopping for some lovely tea towels to begin sewing!

  2. Angela,
    You are going to be a "Tea Snob" before too long!!! HA-HA. But you can come sniff tea at my home anytime you like. I don't think there would be anything that you did that was not Lady Like!

  3. My White Peony tea is from an Adagio white tea sampler. They recommend steeping for 7 minutes. I use a tsp and steep for five minutes and find the tea quite enjoyable.

    I've enjoyed your reviews. Maybe I'll try the "tea sniffing technique". My focus tends to be on taste only and I miss the finer points of the whole tea tasting experience.

  4. I'm going to be doing the Harney tasting, too! :-) Thanks for the Upton note for the source!


Thanks so much for taking time to leave a comment! It makes my day to hear from readers!