Review: Norbu Tea Ya Bao Camellia Varietal Wild White Tea (Spring 2010)

Norbu Tea, White Tea, Yunnan Tea Add comments
Katie’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"It's a well-balanced combination of spicy and sweet with an acidity that cuts through."
Katie’s Teaview: 9.5/10
Other Teaviews: Geoff gave it 9.7/10
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This 2010 Spring plucking is from the Dehong Prefecture in the Yunnan Province, China. Normally for a tea this unique, I'd tell you all about the research I did beforehand, but anything I'd say here you can just find on the Norbu website, and chances are it will be worded better there. So I'll just dive right into the tasting for this one.

Apparently, Ya Bao literally means Bud Treasure, and the leaves look like the buds on something you'd find in your garden then enthusiastically spray with weed killer. I put 6 grams in a 150 mL preheated gaiwan, rinse it, then steep at 195° for 30 seconds. It smells grassy and weedy with hints of pine, citrus, and milk. It has a pleasant, refreshing crispness in the nose. The liquor is shockingly pale, bordering on clear.

The tea is light overall but has a surprising depth of character and flavour. It is crisp and complex with hints of pine, grass, hay, juniper berries, cream, citrus and pepper. You wouldn't think all those flavours together wouldn't be good, and they aren't, they're fantastic. It's a well-balanced combination of spicy and sweet with an acidity that cuts through. It's wild and untame with a hint of creaminess that brings it back down to earth. It's interesting, unique, delicious, and quite hard to describe. It's definitely the sort of tea you have to try for yourself in order to fully understand it.

Steep two: 60 seconds. While still very wild and similar to the first, the flavours are somewhat better blended together. Steep three: 2 minutes. Still very excellent and bold. More creamy, juniper, pepper qualities; less hay and citrus. Overall, the tea does resemble your average white, but only in passing. This is its own unique leaf, similar to a white tea about as much as Taco Bell resembles a Mexican restaurant.

Steep four: 4 minutes. Somewhat calmer, now. It is mellower in the same way a good gong fu'd Keemun mellows. It is still very bold and complex and makes an unmistakeable statement, yet the statement is somewhat less boisterous than before. Steeps five and six are both 6 minutes. I probably could have pulled out another steep or two, but I'm running short on time.

Do yourself a favour and buy some of this tea. It is just too cool. So unique. You may not like it as much as I did; my husband sure didn't. But you won't know if you'll love it unless you try. It doesn't fit perfectly into any common categories, which is something I value when choosing what teas to buy besides my basics. I look forward to adding this to my collection soon.

— To purchase Norbu Tea Ya Bao Camellia Varietal Wild White Tea (Spring 2010), 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.

Teaviews Member: Katie Katie Reviewer
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