2010 Early Spring Ya Bao - Wild White Camellia Varietal Tea

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White Tea
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170 °F / 76 °C 3 min, 30 sec

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From Norbu Tea

About this harvest:
This is the absolute first pluck of Ya Bao from the Spring, 2010 season. The buds are tiny compared to later harvests, and the flavor is unbelievably fresh and clean.

Full Product Details:
Ya Bao literally means “Bud Treasure,” and is the perfect name for this unique tea! This white style tea is composed entirely of hand picked tender young buds from a wild growing varietal of Camellia.

Ya Bao comes from a wild Camellia varietal specific to the Yunnan/Myanmar border region. Sometimes referred to as “Ye Sheng” or “wild Pu Erh tea” by indigenous populations, this is not a Camellia varietal traditionally used in the manufacture of Pu Erh tea; however, Xiaguan tea factory regularly produces compressed teas incorporating both leaf and bud materials from this Camellia varietal.

This Ya Bao is from Dehong in the far western portion of Yunnan province (Lincang, Baoshan, and Dehong all have areas which produce Ya Bao). In early Spring, the youngest new growth buds from these trees are harvested and simply dried in the sun to produce this Ya Bao. The leaves and buds which grow on these trees later in the spring harvest season are used to produce various wild arbor Pu Erh teas in the factories of the region.

The steeped liquor of this Ya Bao is really light and clear with just a touch of yellow green. In my opinion, the flavor is a bit fruity with a hint of evergreen and/or fresh young vegetable (think squash blossoms) type freshness to it, but the taste is light, crisp, and super fresh. It bears some similarity in taste to a traditional white tea, but is far more complex (to me, at least). It is difficult to describe because it is so unique, but it is a welcome treat to celebrate springtime!

This tea is very forgiving to steep. In our experience, it is not temperature sensitive and does not become unpleasant even when using water at a full boil. For Gong Fu style steeping, I recommend using about 5-7 grams in a 150cc gaiwan, use approx 195 F water, and start with a quick rinse followed by a 20-30 second first steep. We usually get at least 5 distinct Gong Fu steepings out of it before the flavors start to fade. Western style, we recommend treating it like a regular green or white tea.

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4 Tasting Notes

1328 tasting notes

For the longest time I had this one filed under ‘herbal’ because I just saw those great big buds and thought ‘this is some kind of flower’. It was sent to me in the days of yore and from whence I cannot recall, but eventually I had a proper look at it and got it put back in its proper place. Actually I think it’s gone back and forth between white and herbal a few times, as I distinctly recall at least one instance of ‘what are you doing here?’

I used most of the sample in a combination with something else, a magnolia scented yellow that I thought I had a lot more of. Nothing more annoying than emptying a sample pouch into a large pot and finding that, GOSH! That’s not even enough for half a small pot! It felt like so much more. So I grabbed a random white that I knew there would be plenty of to boost it up a bit, and ended up with a result that was…

Let’s just say I poured it out and started over. Dill and pickles are also flavours I don’t much care to find in tea. Good time to try the rest of this sample though. Properly mind.

First thing that I notice is that when this is gently steeped, it’s very very pale in colour. Second thing I notice is that my tea strainers need replacing, because pale tea + old strainer = grey tea.

There is a herbal sort of aroma to this, reminding me a bit of licorice root and spearmint. I suspect this is the element that interacted so badly with the yellow as mentioned above. Also quite floral, but primarily licorice root and spearmint-y for me.

Okay, all I can taste is licorice root. Seriously, this doesn’t even taste remotely like tea. It both tastes and feels like chewing licorice root. If I hadn’t actually seen the leaf, I would be dead certain that’s what it was.

So at this point I cheat and look at the company description and other people’s reviews, and I just can’t recognise anything. Anything at all. All I can find here is licorice root, complete with that specific flavour at the back of the tongue that you get when you swallow a licorice root infusion.

I did eat licorice earlier today, but not right now and I haven’t touched a licorice infusion for months. I only drink that when I’m sick!

I will put this mysteriousness down to the age of the sample which as you can see is a bit on the iffy side. I really ought to learn to throw things out before I let it get this old. Or even better, use it up.

I’ll just pretend the rest of this cup is a licorice root infusion, because that makes it easier to deal with.

On the upside I’m now down to 28 teas! O.O

Pamela Dean

Lacking temperature and time parameters for your steep, I can’t comment on the lack of complexity it produced. Gongfu treatment can unlock the layers of this rare, wild cousin. If you have any of your sample left and are curious to go beyond licorice … a Western cup infuser setup in a small cup with high tea/water ratio and a couple of short steeps would probably widen the palate without the demands of a full gongfu session. To go further, the gongfu steeping suggested in the tea description worked well for me. Then there is the age of your sample … aging any white tea, even in a tin or packet, can substantially change its qualities; often the result is increased complexity. I’m aging this ya bao in a white paper (food grade kraft) bag alongside the green sheng and am keen to find out what awaits, a year or two hence, in the sheng pumidor.

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6770 tasting notes

This one looked just too unique not to try!

It’s so hard to describe these buds so please look at the product pic!

Prior to infusion it has a mellow floral-candied-sweet smell. Post infusion…a sweet carrot smell is what I thought about first with a little sweet spring floral scent and almost a sweet chocolate hint or something…I know…totally random and really strange. :)

This is completely white in color but it’s very flavorful! It’s an extremely clean and sweet taste – very hydrating!

This is a tea you will have to try even if only for the experience! This will be in the “make-up” TTB! So…be on the look out!!!

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348 tasting notes


This is my second superb white tea in two days. I’m starting to feel blessed or something. This is unique in that the varietal used is often only used to create raw pu-erh. The leaves can only be harvested in early spring. The buds smell like wilderness – milky, minty, wild. That experience also translates to the taste yeilding a cup similar to Greek Mountain “tea” but far more nuanced. White tea is back on its pedestal next to Yunnan Golds…in my mind.

Full Review: http://www.teaviews.com/2011/03/31/review-norbu-tea-ya-bao-camellia-varietal-wild-white-tea-spring-2010/

165 °F / 73 °C 6 min, 0 sec

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4 tasting notes

This tea (to me) has hints of pine, licorice and peach. I just brewed about a teaspoon and a half of these Ya bao buds in a small glass gaiwan. I’m new to Ya bao but i’m very interested in them now. This tea is great! If you like white teas and you like puerh I highly suggest this tea for you.

175 °F / 79 °C 1 min, 0 sec

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