Wild White 2015 Reserve
A transportive and soothing aged white tea for times of introspection and contemplation.
This 2015 Wild White comes to us from one of our well-respected tea foragers, Mr. Fan, also aptly known as “Hunter.”
Many years ago Mr. Fan had taken a position in the forestry department of his local government, in his hometown Zhenge, and was tasked with managing a population of wild boars that were wreaking havoc for local farmers. In 2009, while he was tracking boars in the mountains, he stumbled into an area dense with wild, abandoned tea trees. He was taken aback by the beauty of this discovery: to see so many tea trees, thriving on their own, at home in the ancient forest. And so began his path as a tea forager and producer.
For many reasons, Mr. Fan is a unique tea artisan. Firstly, he does not own any land himself, and he does not have a tea farm. He focuses on crafting tea from wild and semi-wild abandoned tea trees in the mountains, and his wealth is only his understanding of their location and their rhythms.
This tea is made from tea trees that were planted by tea farmers in the 1970’s, and then abandoned as people left the villages for coastal cities. They are of the traditional Zhenghe Dabai (Big White) 政和大白 varietal, situated within thousands of acres of old growth forest, more than 3600 feet above sea level. They grew from seeds that were washed downstream from a river that runs through the middle of the forest. In these vast, old growth forests, the wild tea trees compete with a variety of other types of trees, all seeking precious, diffused sunlight. Thus, the roots of the tea trees extend deep into the earth to draw nutrients, and they grow slowly, accumulating these rich nutrients and compounds in their leaves. We feel this richness in the tea they yield.
Wild White “Big Leaf” are foraged leaves of the Zhenghe Dabai, or “Big White” varietal. Big White is an ancient varietal of tea tree, indigenous to Zhenghe, Fujian, with origins tracing back to the Song Dynasty. These wild tea trees grow deep in the forest, and sprout later in the season, in May. It is what most Zhenghe white teas are crafted from. If only the bud is picked, then the white tea would be Silver Needle. Wild White “Big” consists of the bud, leaves, and stem, and is thus considered a Shoumei. The leaves are rustic, large and full of vitality.
White teas, especially a Shoumei grade, are well suited for aging, as they consist of more mature leaves and stems, which have nutrients in them that develop character with age. Hunter has compressed this Wild White into a cake to encourage the aging process. A common saying suggests that at 3 years it becomes a medicine, and at 7 years, a treasure. At 8 years old, this tea can now be considered both.
It was harvested in late May of 2015 and we have been aging it ourselves since we received it. Some of the wild tea trees are 8 feet tall, and so the leaves are picked by villagers standing on ladders propped up against the tree trunks. The tea is made following the traditional craftsmanship of Zhenghe white tea, which involves slow, indoor drying. The entire process is done without any applied heat; it has not been sun-dried, baked, or roasted over charcoal. This white tea was naturally dried indoors for 18 days before being pressed into cakes. The cakes are beautiful to look at and turn over in your hands, displaying the tonal array of various stages of oxidation in the leaves, and the sheen that remains on them with such delicate handling.
As you might expect, this is a deeper white tea: we taste more earth matter, burnt sugars, and cooked fruit – all qualities evoked by time and patience. It is a grounding tea, subtly tannic and warming, that evolves through infusions with an even temper, another attribute of age, or wisdom.
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|Steep time||10 sec - 2 min|
|No. of infusions||10+|