Monday, April 1, 2013

Review: Cha Yi's Bai Cui Mei




I've been looking forward to this post all weekend and all day! Despite being pretty tired from work & gym, I am pumped to get this post out there for all to share! While I will admit in advance that this post is not going to be held in the blogger hall of fame for incredible writing or a hooking narrative, I am excited because the pictures in this post are 100% mar-tea!

Why the sudden change in media material? Well, as I excitedly blurted out the other day, I got new glassware which allows for incredible pictures and a very interactive drinking experience (Al will be doing a post on the new glassware soon!).

Anyways, without further ado, I bring to you, my tea review! (Eminem material right there, just saying)

Some of you might remember my slightly disappointing experience at the Ottawa Tea festival a few months back. Though the venue was nothing to behold, I was happy to pick up quite a few sample packs of all kinds of tea. I must admit that it took a gargantuan effort to open one of the teaser taster packs and ruin the 'everything in it's place look' but I can assure you that it was well worth it and I look forward to doing it again. The lucky tea victim this week was a white tea named Bai Cui Mei taken from the Cha Yi's tea kit, a little tea shop located in Ottawa.

Before I dive into the world of tea, I would like to take a little moment to mention that out of all the booths at the tea festival, Cha Yi's smiling employees were the most friendly and the most informative group of people there. They were more than happy to tell me of their travels and adventures and indulge my many tastings! And no, this is not a sell out as I will be fairly reviewing a bunch of tea I got from the most disagreeable booth as well (and Im sure it will be quite good).

Bai Cui Mei is a type of Bai Mu Dan from China's Fujian province. As it is a white tea, it does have a slightly longer steeping time at gentler temperatures to allow the flavour to shyly come out without fear of being burned. This tea recommends 1 1/2 teaspoons per 250ml of 80 celcius water, and a steep time of 4-5 minutes.

At first glance, the dry leaves look in disarray and seem to exude identification issues as the mix of leaves is quite diverse. While many teas are uniform in appearance, shape, and colour, Bai Cui Mei is an inquisitive mix of elongated and twisty brown/grey leaves, combined with wire-like, furry white shoots. There is no immediate aroma which only helped to further increase my curiosity.

I was skeptical at the amount of tea to use. Though I am used to being stingy, the leaves looked lonely sitting at the bottom of my tea pot and I wondered if they would be able to provide much taste and aromas. I should not have doubted them.

The moment the water hit the leaves, I was honestly very surprised. Though I expected a light yellowish tone, the water immediately took on a golden honey grown colour which only intensified with time. This is quite uncommon for a white tea as they are known to be quite subtle and gentle teas. If anything, it was behaving more like an oolong or light darjeeling (of which I am no expert sadly...added to my list of teas to drink). After patiently waiting for the leaves to unfurl and unveil their aromas, I poured myself a small cup and am not ashamed to say that I did not know what to expect.

Before tasting the tea right away, I prolonged my curiosity by smelling the tea (from the cup, not the pot). I was greeted with a fragrant, yet light, sweet smell, not unlike candy. At this point, I threw away any expectations or notions of this tea and went into it with a clean slate. Even with that mentality, I was surprised when I took my first sip, which yet again, was nothing at all as I had expected it to be.

Despite the confident aroma, the liquor was very mellow and gentle and oh so subtly sweet! What struck me was the metallic after taste that followed each sip. I don't know if anyone has ever licked batteries as a kid (not saying I have), but it reminded me of that (I'm sure tea experts are rolling in their graves). The metallic taste was quite persistent, though not unpleasant, and was only subdued by taking more sips; an oddly addictive and enjoyable trait.

The taste, colour, and aroma were very constant with further steeps which is an enjoyable quality of tea. The post-steeped leaves were incredibly aromatic and powerful. Well as powerful as leaves can be. Smelling the wet leaves from the pot this time, I was reminded of all my previous sips in one big whiff.

The small/medium sized leaves were now a more uniform brown greenish brown and were quite tough when munched on. I did not live up to my Canadian Cow nickname this time around and left the majority of them uneaten.

All in all, this was an amazing experience and reminded me to throw away expectations when faced with new things (both with tea and with life). Though this might be an odd start to white teas considering how a-typical it was, I look forward to exploring the rest of the samplers and the surprises that, they too, are hiding.

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