Bai Yun Oolong
Fall Harvest 2009
English Name: White Cloud Oolong
Growing Area: Wu Liang Mountain, Jingdong County, Yunnan
Varietal: Yunnan Wu Liang large leaf
Oxidation: +/- 70%
Packaged in 50 gram portions
This “Bai Yun,” or White Cloud Oolong was made from fall harvest, 2009 “wild arbor” Yunnan Large Leaf tea grown in the Wu Liang mountain area of Pu-Erh prefecture.
It was processed in the style of the famous Taiwan oolong known as Bai Hao, Dong Fang Mei Ren, or “Oriental Beauty.” During the past several years, a number of Taiwanese tea growers, tea masters and entrepreneurs have settled in Yunnan, bringing their own distinct styles of processing with them. This tea is, in my mind at least, a fantastic example of what outside influences & expertise can do with Yunnan’s high quality “wild” tea raw materials, and the much lower price of a high quality Bai Hao style tea produced outside of Taiwan is definitely a welcome bonus.
I feel it is important for me to emphasize, however, that this tea is Yunnan tea processed with Taiwanese methodology and know-how. It is distinctly different from authentic Bai Hao oolong produced from traditional cultivars in Taiwan, and should be viewed as such.
As is typical of Bai Hao style oolongs, this Bai Yun oolong was allowed to oxidize to around 70-75% before it was pan fired by hand in relatively low temperature woks to arrest the oxidation of the tea leaves. The leaf style is long and twisted rather than rolled and you will notice many little white buds mixed in with the mostly mahogany colored leaves. These white buds are the source of one of this style’s names: Bai Hao literally means “white tip” or “white fine hair.”
The relatively high degree of oxidation yields a lovely amber colored liquor when infused. The flavor can best be described as a nice balance of sweet/sour with some mild floral, citrus, and honey undertones. It is quite infusable, yielding 5 or 6 quick gong-fu style infusions before beginning to fade.
A treat not to be missed.
About Bai Hao Style Oolong:
Oriental Beauty style tea is a very interesting tea requiring a unique environmental factor that causes amazing flavor profiles to become possible. In the late Summer & Fall months of August through October, a particular type of Leafhopper (Cicadellidae) known as a Tea Jassid becomes most active in Yunnan. These tiny insects use their nearly microscopic mosquito-like pokers to suck nutrients out of the most tender leaves & buds of the tea plants, causing a very small amount of damage and stress to the affected tea plants. The bitten tea leaves then oxidize at the feeding location and produce unique polyphenol compounds and tannins which attract spiders and other predators to where the tea jassids are highly concentrated. The wonderful coincidence that happens is that these defensive compounds give the tea a sweet-and-sour taste with a totally unique mild honey overtone.