Kinnari’s ‘Bolaven Silver Cloud Sticky Rice White Tea’ – white “Silver Needle” arbor tea from South Laos, scented with “Nuo Mi Xiang Nen Ye” (“Sticky Rice” herb)
white arbor silver needle tea from Bolaven Plateau, scented with “sticky rice” herb (click picture to enlarge)
White tea – one of the 6 Chinese tea categories – has two roots. One of these roots geographically originates in Fuding, Fujian province. There, white tea is traditionally processed from the native small-leafed “Da Bai” tea plant variety. The other root has its geographic origin in the province of Yunnan. There, the tradition of producing white tea from the large leaves of the native tea trees goes back several hundred years as well.
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On both locations, there are two basic types of white tea. Once, this is the “pure buds” picking standard, also referred to as white “silver needle” tea. And second, it’s “two leaves and a bud”, going by the names of “Pai Mu Tan” (or “Bai Mu Dan”) or “White Peony”. At this, the following applies to the latter: the lower the share of leaves, the higher the tea quality. Accordingly, the best quality of Pai Mu Tan is a picking standard of “1+1”, i. e. one bud with its two adjacent youngest leaves each.
Like some other countries bordering Yunnan, among them Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand, Laos is a genuine “cradle country” of the tea tree. However, the history of the tea trees growing on Bolaven Plateau today is more recent. There, the tea plant has been introduced by the french colonial power only by the end of the 20th century. Since then, its leaves serve to produce black tea, green tea (see our ‘Bolaven Plateau Green’) and white tea.
„Nuo Mi Xiang Nen Ye“ – Aroma donor of Southeast Asian “Rice Teas”
Also from Yunnan comes the method of scenting tea leaves with “Nuo Mi Xiang Nen Ye”. The herb, native to Souteast Asian countries, exudes an intensive “sticky rice” aroma. During the tea’s processing, this is transferred to the tea leaves through the scenting procedure. While in Yunnan traditionally mostly Pu Erh teas are refined this way, we also know Oolong tea from north Thailand that is scented with the herb. In both places, sticky rice teas are considered a unique specialtly. And of the same special uniqueness is our Silver Cloud Sticky Rice White Tea from Laos‘ Bolaven Plateau.
Picking and Processing – natural growth in biodiverse environment and traditional
Accordingly, our Bolaven Silver Cloud is a white tea with “pure Buds” picking standard, namely a white silver needle tea. This means, only the young fluffy buds are picked for this tea, causing its natural rareness. The seed-raised, partially over 70 years old tea bushes grow in a semi-wild tea garden, whose soil benefits from volcanic origin. There, they thrive among coffee plants in-midst a biodiverse flora and fauna. Their roots, reaching meters into the soil, bring the terroir’s whole wealth to bear in the tea leaf – and in the resulting tea! At this, a nearby waterfall’s spray provides for natural irrigation.
For another part, Bolaven Silver Cloud Sticky Rice White Tea owes its artisan character to its manual type of processing. As a true artisan tea doesn’t come without a great share of hand work in processing. And the the artisan principle is one of the cornerstones of the Kinnari philosophy. Unlike the scenting with jasmine flowers, the sticky rice herb remains among the tea leaves after processing. So, it will contribute directly to the infusion’s color, aroma and taste.
Based on its arbor character, the white basis tea is initially closer to the Yunnan tradition of white tea than to the Fuding tradition. However, a property that also distincts this silver needle tea from Yunnanese “White Moonlight Buds” is one of its specific processing features. While white tea usually dries in the sun only, the buds here get a light roasting as a last processing step. Accordingly, one could just as well consider Bolaven Silver Cloud as a green tea with pure buds picking standard. Also, that roasting is significantly contributing to the special taste of this tea. Still, the result is altogether certainly closer to a white silver needle tea than to a green tea.
Bolaven Silver Cloud Sticky Rice White Tea – Color, Aroma and Taste
In a first infusion, Bolaven Silver Cloud Sticky Rice White Tea initially shows a pale yellow color and a delicate, hay-like fragrance. In a Gong Fu Cha series of infusions, both color and fragrance will intensify through the steeps. The complex taste of the basis tea, carried by a light sweetnees, unifies with the aroma donor to a culinary singularity. At this, the “sticky rice”aroma – despite clear presence – appears as pleasantly unobtrusive. Consequently, the resulting taste is a well-balanced combination of both flavors. As a whole, it reflects the character of the Bolaven terroir with astounding pictorial power. The velvety-soft, slightly oily texture carries the described taste pattern of this tea way beyond the actual drinking.
The Tea – Preparation
Just like many other white teas, Bolaven Silver Cloud Sticky Rice White Tea prefers somewhat lower infusion temperatures. Due to the water-resistant effect of the fluffy buds’ silvery fuzz, a first infusion initially appears somewhat pale-colored and subtle. During infusion, the material keeps releasing tiny air bubbles. Therefore, it is recommendable to start with with a temperature of 80°C – 85°C. Beased on your personal preferences, you may select a dosaging of 3-5 g white buds on 200-250ml water.
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First spread Silver Cloud sticky rice white tea on the bottom of your teapot. Then, pour over with hot water. For a more stable result, initially warm the teapot by pouring hot water over it, just like in ceremonial Chinese tea preparation (Gong Fu Cha). After an infusion period of 2-3 minutes, pour into cups or an interim vessel (cha-hay) and let cool down to drinking temperature.
For further, tendentiously more intensive infusions, you might gradually increase water temperature and/or infusion period. Due to the increased release of tannins, both might effect a slight bitterness and astringency. Therefore, adjust the individual parameters according to your personal taste preference.
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Kinnari Tea – Ecological and Social Responsibility
Tea is the greatest passion of Anna and Thun, the German/Laotian operators of Kinnari Tea in Laos. This is why quality for Kinnari Tea means more than just a good leaf grade, even a lot more. Beyond the obvious properties of the tea leaf, acting responsible regarding our natural and social environment is a cornerstone of Kinnari’s quality concept. At this, goal is the highest achievable level of harmony between the company’s economic activities and all stakeholders’ interests, including nature.
Bolaven Silver Cloud White Silver Needle Tea – Biodiversity in the tea garden (click picture to enlarge)
Hence, paying fair prices to the actual producers in Xinghkhouang and Bolaven is only ONE manifestation of Kinnari’s quality philosophy. Beyond this, Kinnari teas come only from tea trees raised from from the seed and grown naturally. Further, Kinnari emphasizes that these tea trees grow in their natural, biodiverse environment. With this, a no-pesticides, no artificial fertilizers and no hazardous substances policy is just a mattter of course.
For detailed information about the history, background and philosphy of Kinnari Tea, please read my pertaining article in Siam Tea Blog:
Bolaven-Plateau – young reservoir of wild tea trees in southern Laos
Bolaven-Plateau is a plain at 1200 meters altitude in south Laos, stretching across an areal of 10.000 km². The region is home to several different ethnic groups belonging to the Mon-Khmer language family. At this, the largest of these “mountain tribes”, the “Laven”, have inspired the region’s name: Bolaven = home of the Laven.
On Bolaven Plateau, the turn of the 19th to the 20th century is coined by the French colonialization. Back then, besides a number of other agricultural crops and pertaining cultivation techniques, the French also brought the tea plant here. Since that time, tea has been cultivated on Bolaven Plateau – mostly in community with coffee. Also the tea gardens in Paksong, where our Bolaven Silver Cloud White Silver Needle Tea is picked and processed, go back to that time.