Review: Grand Tea Premium White Peony

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Raven’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"With a more caramelized character, the tea brings a spirited sweet, slightly smoky aroma and bamboo like flavour, reminiscent of sheng pu erh, that holds on through several infusions. "
Raven’s Teaview: 8.3/10
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It’s a might fortunate that Peter Piper chose to pick a peck of pickled peppers to leave all the peonies for tea. Okay, so there isn’t any of the actual peony flowers in White Peony, despite its resemblance to them, but white peony seems justly named with a riddling kind of fun to its appearance. I can’t say as many white peonies have rhymed through my cup as other types of tea, so it seemed about time to pluck some more. Although they don’t sell any magic beans, Grand tea is almost a giant of a purveyor with their wide selection of teas, many of which are available in different grades to suit both one’s fancy and one’s pocketbook. As such, they carry both a Supreme and the Premium White Peony but their Premium seemed a fanciful start as a precious Fujian grown gem, although it was harvested in 2009.

The Once upon a time begins from the leaves, which come in fantastic re-sealable structured plastic pouches that safely protect the leaves from crushing. As a result, one gets to delight in the up to two inch whole leaves and the sets of two leaves and stem, while there are also several needles included. The leaves are quite dark, mainly consisting of a gradation of greyish and dark browns and tans with a few dark olive green leaves. This contrasts the handful of fuzzy beigey grey needles that are easily seen, long and relatively thick, amidst the mix of leaves and stems which have their own covering of nice down. Wholly, the alternating hues and shapes of the cuddly leaves look as if gathered by a forest nymph.

Opening the package, the robustness of their scent was an absolute surprise; so aromatic. But the surprise was not only their zeal, the bouquet of the leaves reminded me a lot of sheng pu-erh, as it has an almost leathery mesquite smokiness, atop a fuzzy sweetness, as if truly sprung from a tome of ancient tales. The leathery notes accentuate the sweetness giving it some pop and shape the sweetness to a caramelized kind of fruitiness, perhaps like red grapes that have just started to brown. The bouquet also has a subtler downy quality that brings to mind willows and the smell when re-opening my cottage as it seems to have a slightly woody undertone. The kind of leathery notes are a bit unexpected but the fragrant enthusiasm and interplay of aromas is enough to invite adventure.

Grand tea fortunately maps out the journey, including brewing instructions on the package for sailing two teaspoons of tea in six ounces of 71-85°C water for about one minute. So with the kettle out of Mother Hubbard's cupboard, I brewed an the lower end at 72°C. As the cup fills with a light rosy beige, the brew is just as aromatic as the dry leaves, with a medium scent that maintains a fuzzy smokiness, like a worn in leather satchel, tickled with a prominent sweetness that seems more fruity, like stewed red apples and cooked red grapes. It’s quite engaging, readily drawing one into its story. Happily, the tea’s flavour has just as much lyric with a heartiness not often found in white tea. (And it's enough for Sneezy, Sleepy, Grumpy, Doc, Dopey and Bashful too). Quite bamboo-like, a musky smokiness threads through a sweet wooly fruitiness, like cooked red apples. Despite the more mature tone from the leathery bamboo notes, the scent has a tenderness to the sweetness that keeps it fresh and supple. With a medium body, the tea isn’t bitter or astringent giving it a suave smoothness while a tasty sweetness carries through the sip with a pleasing feel. The feel is refreshing without being too dry but the suede-like caramelized flavours have a darker character, rather than the brightness of what I usually think of as refreshing. Having had a fair share of bamboo shoots, both canned and fresh, the tea has the boldest bamboo flavour I’ve ever encountered, with a remarkable sturdiness for a white tea. Yet, the combination of a kind of apple-like fruitiness with the bamboo is almost winey, whereas the bamboo flavour isn't starchy or heavy, also seeming a bit like soaked sandalwood or chestnut hulls. As the sip finishes, a delightful chestnut tinged aftertaste blooms through one’s mouth.

From the depth of the first cup, a further read of the leaves ensues without hesitation. After a second two minute infusion, the cup still brims with a light to medium scent, imbued with a similar husk-like leathery sweetness, hinting of raisins and stewed apples. Amazingly, the flavour is still full despite a bit lighter body. The bamboo lessens as does the fruitiness, to seem more like warm paper with a bit of sweetness which has a pleasant hum. While the tea continues to feel silky through the sip, it leaves some dryness on one’s tongue after a quick finish with little aftertaste.

Turning one more page before happily ever after, a third steeping of the leaves continues to open to a light to medium scent. The bouquet seems to evolve as the leathery notes recede to an almost flowery citrus, like fresh lemongrass, with just a shade of sweetness. Although the texture is coarser, the tea retains a nicely satisfying flavour as it becomes more chestnut like and the increased dryness adds an almost snap to the sip. As it turns out, the tea also does wonderfully cool, revealing a slightly different path Hansel and Gretel would surely follow, as the cup enchants first with a flutter of soft, snapdragon florals which extend on Wheat Thin crackers with a touch of rusted leather.

Grand tea’s white peony seems to weave an enchanting tale of nut brown maidens rather than the lighter sparkle of a fairies den. The compelling feature of the tea is that it has a dynamic behaviour and ample flavour. Through multiple steepings, its flavour changes slightly as it reduces in magnitude and cools. Although I often think of subtlety when thinking of white tea's story and green or whiter flavours, there’s nothing dainty about this tea. Reminding me a lot of pu erh, it seems likely from a Zhenghe Big white varietal, rather than from Fuding, with a bit more leisure time before its final drying. It would be a fabulous choice for people frustrated by white tea’s subtlety but perhaps not as suited when looking for a clean, crisp, sprout-like white. Regardless, with such a full, warming and sweet flavour that happily hangs in even after the ever after, it’s enough to climb a bean stalk for.

— To purchase Grand Tea Premium White Peony, 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: Raven Raven
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