Bai Mei is a stunning tea to both look at and drink. The dry leaves are made entirely of silver-green tips that are hand sewn to form six-petaled flowers, similar to plum blossoms. Though the aromas are very light, Bai Mei is more assertive and more vegetal than other white teas. It smells of the faint sweetness of roasted leeks, shifting to honey after a few minutes.
Slurping the tea into the mouth, it’s body is soft and subtle. Bai Mei gently suffuses the mouth with roasted vegetal notes, along with the floral qualities of lily of the valley.
Bai Mei captures the beauty of Chinese art teas, teas whose leaves are manipulated to form charming shapes. Bai Mei comes form China’s central Hunan province, where tea is an ancient art form. White tea has been made there – some would say perfected there – for centuries. The region produced small amounts of white teas during the Qing dynasty, but it was only in the late 1800s that white teas emerged from the area in significant amounts.
Bai Mei means “White Eyebrow,” which is a little what the large tips look like when they are loose. Bai Mei is handmade by skilled workers, usually women, who sew six long buds together with string, then gently flatten them out to shape the connected buds into flowers resembling plum blossoms. When submerged in hot water, the flowers plump up to release a delicate sweet brew with the faintly sappy flavors of classic, refined white teas.