20 July 2008

White Hot

Sun God, why are you still punishing us?

One of the only brief respites I've found recently was iced White Peony tea, which I cold-brewed overnight, for about 10 hours. Poured for breakfast yesterday, it was a revelation: deeply golden colored, with a sweet, soft yet rich taste.

I was surprised at the depth of flavor- and color- for a white tea, which is made solely of the tender, unopened budset (the uppermost leaves) for a characteristic subtle, refined taste. Traditionally, white tea was only produced the Chinese province of Fujian, and as legend has it, picked by white-silk-gloved virgins.

Those being somewhat in decline these days, white tea is still harvested meticulously but by trollop and maiden alike, and is also grown on a small scale in India and Sri Lanka. Much like Champagne, however, it's worth seeking out authentic Fujian white tea- the terroir for this delicate tea does make a noticeable difference.

White Peony, or Bai Mudan, is actually a type of white tea referred to as new style, as it is slightly more processed than the traditional style. Developed in the 1960s, in the new style the leaves are handled minimally and carefully, just with the addition of a brief oxidation process.

This bestows a deeper color and flavor to the tea, one that might surprise you if you've only had a traditional white tea like Silver Needles.

In a rare case of choosing the cheaper option, I have to say I prefer the taste of new-style white tea over its prohibitively expensive traditional-style counterpart. (And don't even consider that this might change my stance on designer clothing.) Especially cold-brewed, the delightful, almost honey-sweet flavor of white tea just seems to come out more in the new-style version.

I'm guessing this is what the mystery tea shop in L.I.C. uses for its iced apricot-white tea.

And even though it only has to do with the tea in name only, I couldn't resist taking a look back at the real thing- a beautiful, heavenly scented white peony from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden a few months ago. Yes, you may call me Ms. O'Keeffe from now on.


Bonbon Oiseau said...

Ms. o'Keefe? This sounds delicious.

{this is glamorous} said...

Oh! Iced White Peony tea sounds heavenly.