Anji Baicha High Mountain 2023
April 7, 2023
For lack of a better name, we call this Private Room tea from Ms. Qun “High Mountain Anji Baicha.” While Ms. Qun’s legendary Anji Baicha trees are only slightly higher in elevation than others, this is such an exceptional and otherworldly expression of Anji Baicha, we must somehow indicate its difference.
For many people, and across cultures, Anji Biacha is a highly anticipated, and highly appreciated, Spring tea. The name “Anji Baicha” is obscuring: while in this case it refers to a green tea, “baicha” translates to “white tea.” The varietal has been named this way because of its unusually colourless leaves: due to their lower chlorophyll and higher amino acid content, Anji Baicha leaves are a near-translucent, pale green. When dried, these pale, uniform leaves lay very flat like pine needles. Distinct to them is a dark, green vein which runs down the spine of each leaf, with fine arteries branching off of it. In water these flat, papery leaves behave in an unusual way: they unfold by spiraling open, from something flat to something multidimensional, gradually revealing their striking emerald markings. When these leaves are fully open and suspended in the gaiwan, they look like auspicious cranes.
Anji Baicha was the favourite tea of a legendary ruler of the Song Dynasty, Emperor Huizong. He was a gifted poet, painter, calligrapher, and very engaged with the tradition of tea. In 1107 Huizong authored a treatise on tea called Daguan Chalun. In it, he describes Baicha tea at length; he believed it to be very special amongst teas for its pale, delicate appearance, and noted that it grew sporadically on cliffs, and therefore resisted being domesticated by man. This Baicha, that Emperor Huizong so admired, remained a mysterious reference in his text for several centuries, until, in 1982, Baicha trees were discovered in the high mountains of Anji County.
With the notoriety that this varietal now has, a handful of highly regarded cultivars have come to exemplify Anji Baicha production, Ms. Qun being one of them. Her Anji Baichas are so sought after, they do not normally appear on the market, which is why we call them Private Room teas. These are extremely small batched teas intended for special occasions, or, had they appeared at a different time, teas that would be reserved only for an Emperor. It is through the trust of my tea mentor in Beijing that Cultivate was able to acquire the contact for Ms. Qun, and it is only on account of friendship that we are fortunate enough to carry a small portion of her tea.
This tea is from what would have been Ms. Qun’s last batch of 2023’s Anji Baicha. As she does not make second harvests of this tea, it would have been picked on the cusp of Qingming.
The dimensionality of this tea is a feat to describe; it opens up so much space in the mouth, we could call it “spherical” or “globular.” Odd combinations of fruit and flower fill this space. It has a soft, downy quality that synthesizes into something like a fuzzy peach.
The leaves of this year’s harvest are particularly fine and spindly. They smell far richer than they look – like marshmallow and cream. This tea is delicious: full bodied with a clearing finish.
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|Steep time||10 - 60 sec|
|No. of infusions||8-10|