Many good teas consist of one leaf bud for every two fully developed leaves. Other premium teas are imperially plucked, one bud for every leaf. Ito En’s Yunnan Gold Tips are just buds, and nothing but the buds. It’s kinda what a white tea would be if you let the leaf buds oxidize.
This tea is smooth in terms of how it feels in your mouth, has a really malty taste with an aftertaste that’s sort of like honey or caramel. And with the tea plant pumping all that sugar to nourish these buds, it’s not surprising that this tea is sweet, even if you don’t add sugar, honey or agave. It’s not as full-bodied as a “regular” one-bud, two-leaf black Yunnan, but with a five-minute steep, this tea can hold up to milk.
At $7 an ounce, it’s not cheap. It can be purchased at Ito En’s store on Madison Avenue in Manhattan if you happen to live in NYC or it can be ordered online at http://www.itoen.com/leaf/.
So what don’t I like about this tea? Well, for one thing it’s not organic and that’s a pretty big deal for me. When you buy produce, you at least get to wash it before you put it in your mouth. Tea arrives dry and goes straight into your cup when you make it. While I like Chinese black teas, when I think about safe application of pesticides (or food safety in general) China isn’t the first place that comes to mind. Organic tea is a big selling point for me and given that there is so much wildly harvested tea in Yunnan, it wouldn’t think it would be hard for Ito En to find an organic source for this tea. Numi Teas apparently has an organic Yunnan gold tip tea, and I’ll certainly be giving that one a whirl at some point and see how it compares to Ito En’s.
But if you like malty black teas or like Yunnan’s in general, this tea certainly meets the taste criteria.