Sorry to be absent for a while on Steepster. We have been busy putting the finishing touches on our new website. With that done, I hope to contribute more to the conversations here, and answer whatever questions I am able to.
I thought that with the season, yabao would be a good tea to meditate on. Here in Minnesota, all the trees are just bursting with little “yabao” buds. They are those hard buds ready to unfold into a clump of leaves. I can only imagine the little buds in Yunnan right now and the Xingchen workshop busy picking.
I stumbled upon Yabao as a complete accident. I drank tea with the same vendor every day for a month or so, and each day they would pull out something new and crazy to challenge me, asking me questions about what I tasted. Finally, they ran out of new things to show me, until he remembered yabao.
The vendor looked sort of shifty-eyed around him before pulling a pressed brick of the buds out from under his desk. He wouldn’t say a word about it before I tried it. When I was at a loss for words, tasting something I had never before experienced, a look of triumph appeared on his face. “I bet you have never had THIS one before, huh?”
He was right! I didn’t even know what those strange little buds could be. He explained that they are picked in late winter and that only a few of them can be taken from each tree so as not to stunt the tree’s growth. I unfolded a bud for me and showed how many layers they have. We counted over a dozen.
I resolved to get some of this tea. I went back every day asking him about the yabao, but he didn’t want to part with any. He only had nine bricks. Finally, right before I left, he gave me one of his bricks. Last time I was in China, he was pleased to hear that I was going to brew it at my wedding for the guests.
The woman in Kunming who represents Xingchen workshop was so surprised when I walked into her shop and immediately identified a bag of yabao. She practically jumped out of her seat. “Don’t you want jasmine or something? How do you know about yabao?” I explained to her trying it before, and she invited me to sit for the full afternoon drinking some pretty crazy teas.
I was able to get back in touch with her workshop when I started Verdant Tea. In fact, yabao was one of the teas I was most excited to share when I was just getting started. It is a subtle experience to be sure, but one whose depth is rewarding under the right circumstances. I enjoy yabao the most in the evenings when it is dark and quiet, as it reminds me of mulling spice, of cedar wood chests, and the like. It is fun to see others discovering yabao as well. Happy tasting!