Dan’s Teaview Snapshot
|"An Ji Bai Cha is a real treat for any fan of delicate white teas (despite the fact this is a green). Subtly sweet, beautifully flavorful, and highly engaging. For such a supposedly-rare tea, a price tag under $8 per ounce is a fantastic bargain. "|
Grand Tea made me laugh, unintentionally, for several reasons. For starters, I stumbled upon a tea that they offer, called Chong Cha. This “tea” is comprised solely of moth larvae feces. Folks, I cannot make this stuff up – head to grandtea.com and search for yourself. I am just hoping (praying) that Grand Tea headquarters is enormous enough so that there is absolutely no danger of my An Ji Bai Cha coming in contact with the Chong Cha.
Another reason I giggled, is that they offer videos on their website for various teas, including An Ji Bai Cha, in which you can grip the edge of your seat and watch the tea steep, right there on your computer screen,. No dialogue, just some Tangerine Dream-esque synthesizer burble, while you admire the leaves floating in the water. I suppose their intent is to show you how the leaves unfurl from their folded-in-half-lengthwise state and drift lazily down in the cup. Nonetheless, it didn’t really affect my decision to want to try the tea, it just kind of had me puzzled.
On to the goods. The majority of the leaves are of good length, and as previously mentioned, apparently “folded” lengthwise for a slender, flat appearance. “Bai Cha” translates to “white tea”, but this is actually a green tea. The confusion lies in that the unprocessed leaves are very pale in color – nearly white. However, the color is a muted yellow-green that brightens up in the cup. Teaviews’ Steven has reviewed another An Ji Bai Cha, which gives a hint of the rich and detailed history of this rare tea. To summarize, a legend from a 900-year old Chinese book mentions a tea plant with jade white leaves. In 1980, someone found a bush in An Ji that is believed to be said bush from the legend. After many years (decades!) of propagation, they are just recently able to harvest this tea in limited quantities. It is quite revered in China these days. There are twice as many amino acids as other green teas.
This tea should be steeped at considerably low temperature – in the 170’s, give or take. I’ve seen steeping recommendations anywhere from 1 minute to 4 minutes. I generally like sticking with a longer brew time, so I kept to the higher range of temp and a 4 minute brew. I may have overdone it, as I can tell the gentle flavors got a bit distorted, but the flavor is still unique and very nice: vegetal impact that sweetens slightly, followed by a mildly bitter aftertaste. I believe a new cupping should be re-evaluated at lower temperature and shorter brew time to give a proper comparison. For my second infusion, I used considerably cooler water, and a 3 minute brew. The results here seem much more akin to what I had been expecting from this tea. A mellowed out flavor, akin to many whites I have had. Way less “bitter” and vegetal than the first cup, this second cup is light as air and extremely refreshing on the palette. A slight spiciness plays up behind overall faint sweetness – with most of the flavors coming forth long into the aftertaste. Extremely pleasant cup. For a third infusion, I kept the temperature range the same as the second cup, and about 30 seconds longer steeping. This yielded entirely different results — here the spiciness was sharp and immediate (mostly on the roof of the mouth, if that even makes sense), but then immediately dissipates, and flavors are more mellow, with overall character being more savory than sweet, in comparison with the prior cup.
A second fresh cup, several days later, indicates that I made a boo-boo with my first steeping — the water temp *really* has to be cool, and mine was much too hot the first time round. Also, teh steeping time should really be kept at 3 minutes or below for the most primo quality, and for extending the quality into multiple infusions. This first cup is sublime from the get go. In fact, it’s the best cup yet, out of the four so far. Subsequent cups are even more fabulous than I remember from the first go-round.
An Ji Bai Cha is a real treat for any fan of delicate white teas. Subtly sweet, beautifully flavorful, and highly engaging. For such a supposedly-rare tea, a price tag under $8 per ounce is a fantastic bargain. All the folklore aside, the taste is what counts, and this is well worth 50 cents a cup (or about 17 cents a cup if steeped 3 times!).
— To purchase Grand Tea An Ji Bai Cha, or for more specific information on ingredients or the story behind this particular tea, click here to go directly to the manufacturer's web site.