(title with apologies to The Cure.)
Ben: So, white teas. I’ve discussed two on this blog, the most recent being Jing’s Silver Needle back in March. I’ve always regarded them warily – they’ve never done much for me at all. When Kate at Lahloo Teas sent us a big ole batch of her teas to try, I skipped merrily through and tutted at the Snow Jewel. Great, I thought, more white tea.
Having started a new job a few months ago and suddenly faced with an atmosphere where people drink a truly heroic number of liquid (three hot drinks and three glasses of water a day minimum), I’d purchased one of Lahloo’s chatjans, lovely handmade ceramic cups-and-strainers which seemed the ideal way to drink looseleaf at work (we’ll probably do a discussion about such things another time). Rummaging through my tea cupboard at home, I grabbed a few things I could take with me into work to try. Forlornly sitting at the top was the bag of Snow Jewel. As I was taking Lahloo equipment (and as I struggle to find the time to try everything at the moment!) I took the white tea with me – if nothing else, it’d be a curiosity for the people I work with.
We’ve discussed what white tea is before but it’s worth a quick reiteration. Different types of teas are prepared in different ways – green tea is picked, withered, heated, rolled then dried, for example. Most people think of green tea as the closest you can get to ‘fresh’ tea, whereas white tea is a step up from that – it is picked from the top buds of the plant usually in Spring when they are still downy and then whithered in the sun. That’s it. Because it doesn’t have the same level of preparation, white teas don’t usually last as long as other varieties but they’re usually infinitely fresher.
I’ve found the white teas we’ve discussed before to be too watery and grassy to my taste. The freshness has always been too much, making the tea too close to drinking wheatgrass or similar.
On a hot afternoon whilst writing endless, endless reports, white tea struck me as a good idea. The grassiness would be peppy enough to keep me going until five. The instructions ask that you ‘take a little time’ with this tea – something I don’t really have at work as a rule but we’ll keep that quiet for the moment. The kettle is boiled, it’s left to stand for two minutes before the water is added. The leaves look as you would expect – fluffy, plump, light. Goodo. Nice that the instructions are given for standard kettles, though it would be nice to get temperatures for those of us with swanky kettles at home.
Waiting another three minutes for the tea to brew as directed, I had a realisation about the Lahloo peg. I thought it was a silly little artsy accoutrement, a marketing device for Lahloo to appeal to a certain kind of middle-class purchaser who likes such quirky touches. Now I realise it’s purpose – it’s for clipping the package together again once opened! Genius! I like the wee tins Adagio teas come in and Jing’s ziplock pouches are excellent but I absolutely adore this way to go about things. It’s so simple and elegant. Kate recently mentioned on the Lahloo twitter feed that she was unsure if she’d keep them and I’m glad to see she’s stuck with them. Bravo!
So yes. Three minutes after water is added, I lift the infuser out of the mug and inhale the smell. Yep, still the ole white tea grassiness. What I was expecting, really. A sip reveals a slight nutty maltiness but it’s unmistakably a white tea.
I sip at it as I write my reports. As I tend to do whilst working, I forget it’s there after a bit and, half an hour later, take a sip of the lukewarm brew.
Oh my! It’s an absolute revelation!
The wheaty taste has gone and instead I’m greeted with this amazing peachy flavour. It’s light and sweet and delicious, making me gulp down the lot. Suddenly I feel foolish – this white tea stuff is actually pretty good if you give it a chance.
Even better is that re-using the leaves (you can use good quality leaves time and time again) reveals an even sweeter, peachier flavour. I infused the same leaves four times and at the end was overwhelmed by how different the first brew tasted compared to the last.
Kate at Lahloo – I salute you! My lazy drinking and your excellent tea have made me discover how nice white teas really can be. Perhaps I’ve lucked out and found a really nice example? Not sure yet. Either way, I think I’ll be reordering as soon as it runs out.
Ben was drinking Lahloo Tea’s Snow Jewel white tea, available for £8.50 per 30g.