Review: Teavivre Bailin Gongfu Black Tea

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Thumbs up!"As dashing as a tux and tails, the white tea varietal really comes through, bringing a dewy refreshment against the wholesome comfort of mapley bran."
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Some things are black and white. No contest, one way or the other….but what if the black is kind of white? Then, the white of the white and the black of the black gets a little upside down and spun sideways. But finding that Teavivre’s Bailin Gongfu Black tea is grown in the silver needles’ stomping grounds in Fuding, Fujian province from traditionally white tea varieties, it was one shade of grey, I was eager to colour.

By appearance, the tea doesn’t look much different from other black teas but they do have a fine leaf. Whole and uniform, the twisted waves are flat black with a yellowish grey tint with a scatter of vivid camel tips to lend some contrast and sheen to their half inch to three quarter inch forms. The tea’s bouquet is also completely in black tea territory but it is quite enticing. Fragrant and sweetly woody, the aroma has a fresh, dark character with hints of cocoa and dried thistles. It is more forested and deep than warm or cozy to make one wonder what lies beneath.

So to bring in the colour, Teavivre suggests steeping one to two teaspoons at 185°C for two to three minutes. With two teaspoons dunked for three minutes, the tea comes alive as the infusion expands into a medium brown. It’s not quite clear with a tinge of green to the tone but the scent steals one’s senses with its sweet, curious greeting. Not grey at all, yet it does seem to draw lines of both black and white to be most amusing. The beauty of the black is mapley, malty with an oat-like enticement, just like maple syrup coated bran flakes. Lovely on its own, but what truly makes it even better is the black character flickering against the wonder of the white. Cast against tender aromas of clover and cucumber, the black’s beauty shines as one rifles through black and white qualities. While the white character elements aren’t quite as greenly fresh as in white teas, they are just as succulent and add an appetizing oomph from the weight of the black tea grounding. Both black and white add sweetness like maple and melon, which I just might now try, for the contrast is captivating. As riveting as the tea’s bouquet is, the cup certainly doesn’t disappoint as it opens to an enigmatic ease. Coasting through with a white tea’s succulence and juicy smoothness are a mix of black tea maltiness and floral tinged cooked cucumber flavours. Yet, as if the division of black and white were palpable, the most engaging part is the bit of roughness to the texture that gives it grip and an engrossing weight, making it fun to sip, gulp and slosh. Even if the flavour wasn’t as interesting, the embracing feel would have one gulping. But the wholesomeness of the malted bran is tastily sating with a dig in quality, while a light orchid perfumes the graininess with a cooked cucumber sense of hydration for an ethereal touch. As such, the tea changes somewhat upon cooling as the floral aromas become more perceptible in the flavour. Although there’s no aftertaste, the tea leaves one’s mouth feeling clean.

With the tea lines blurred, a second steeping is just a shade lighter brown, tinting it up with a medium light scent. The bouquet continues its range with a bit of roasted wood, almost cedar-like, with a graham cracker lining offset by a gentle nectary floral, like honeysuckle and pink clover blossoms. The flavour remains full and satisfying with a malty sturdiness and leafy sweetness that is as refreshing as it is appetizing. Still smooth, a touch of maple in the combination is hard to resist. A third cup also retains a lightly honeyed scent, crossed between warm clover tenderness and a bit of driftwood, as drier heat notes speckle the bouquet. The light body is milder, but not faint, as it seems more thirst quenching with light potato and cooked sprout flavours, edged with wood from the mild tannins. Even a fourth cup has an amusing enough texture to enjoy.

Black or white or read all over, Teavivre’s Bailin Gongfu is a lesson in how much fun it is to colour outside the lines. The tea certainly marvels at how much variety and region impact tea flavours relative to processing. Yet, regardless of the cerebral interpretation or slant, the fusion of white tea hues in a black tea is blissful with a tasty heartiness and entertaining complexity. It’s a tea sure to be a colourful and distinguishing cup to contemplate the shades of grey.

— To purchase Teavivre Bailin Gongfu Black Tea, 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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