Guest contributor Bob Johnson (my dad)
I have enjoyed Chinese white teas for years and when I visited Fuding in 2014 I discovered that their famous white tea is also made into compressed bings and aged similar to puerh teas. They were available for all grades of white tea: Bai Hao Yin Zhen (White Hair Silver Needle), Bei Mu Dan (White Peony), Gong Mei (Tribute Eyebrow) and Shou Mei (Longevity Eyebrow) and I regretted not buying one at the time. Recently I was able to find a 300g 2015 Silver Needle tea cake from the Chinese tea seller, Teasenz.
The cake is lightly compressed compared to puerh but can be handled without falling apart and is entirely made of buds as advertised. In addition to the traditional steps of withering and drying the tea, these buds are also steamed to soften them and then pressed into cakes.
The distinctive sweet aroma is enjoyed from both the dry buds and the pale yellow liquor. So how does the flavor of this cake compare to the fresh leaf version? I have found very little information on this. White tea has been compressed not only for convenient storage and transit, but also so that it can age and mature to become smoother and richer. I found this tea to be more complex and floral than the fresh buds which have more of a honey sweet taste. There is an old saying in Fuding that “it is tea in the beginning, will turn into medicine three years later, and becomes treasure after seven years”. This tea has only aged two years so I’m looking forward to seeing how the taste changes over time. I’m also curious to learn more about aged white teas and try other grades as well. These bings also appreciate in value as they age as you would expect, so pay attention to the date when you shop around. If you are looking for a different way to experience white tea, then check out these aged versions of your favorite.