Every year, our tea lab receives thousands of tea samples from all over the world. As we cup up each new lot and harvest, our small team of formulators, educators, and procurers, search for the teas we need for the coming season and keep an eye open for any surprises that appear along the way. While many of our samples come from tea growers we’ve worked with in the past, eager to share their newest creations, we also receive samples that sometimes can be shrouded in mystery from growers we have yet to work with. Wrapped in nondescript foil, these tiny parcels of tea may only include minimal background information about the grower or garden, leaving them to be judged according to the single most important factor: flavor.
That’s how this incredible tea became the first white tea to take its place in our Reserve Series.
No. 304, 2016 Aged White Peony is a model of the highest quality white tea production, and a fascinating example of how time can transform the flavor of a tea. Unlike other tea types, which go through many stages of processing after they’re picked, white teas are a practice in letting nature work its magic. Originally prized for their medicinal qualities, white teas are plucked and laid out to dry immediately, with minimal processing (i.e. firing, handling or rolling). This reduced human intervention lends itself to a truer expression of terroir, variety, and season, which teamaker Teng Fei Cai puts beautifully on display in this tea.
When asked what qualities the aging processes contributed to the mix, Formulation Manager Donovan Eilert pointed out two contrasting notes that are elegantly united in this tea. On the one hand, a more grounded and earthy flavor, with hints of tobacco and petrichor. On the other, a more delicate, floral note, reminiscent of bee pollen and fresh beignets. With a gradually building sweetness and a silky texture that lingers long after the last sip, it’s no surprise that this exceptional White Peony found a well-deserved place among our Reserve Series. We invite you to share a sip with us, and celebrate fine teamaking in its subtlest form.