White Peony (Chinese: Pai Mu Tan, also: Bai Mudan or Bai Mu Dan), is one of the 2 main or best know types of white tea. Like its sibling, White Silver Needles, it originates from the northeastern part of China’s Fujian province, mainly from the Fuding and Zhenghe counties, where the specific processing type producing white tea as we know it today was invented only during the second half of the 19th century, making white tea the youngest of the 6 classical Chinese tea categories.
Originally, white teas are derived from a specific group of subvarieties of camellia sinensis called “Da Bai”, which is characterized by the silvery-white hair densely covering the tea plant’s young buds. While Silver Needles will be the white-haired buds only, the White Peony consists of always one bud with the pertaining two most upper leaves, giving the Pai Mu Tan a plush, significantly bolder and deeper taste than its pure bud sibling. Though today, the specific white tea processing method finds imitation in other parts of China, too, as well as in other countries, such as India or Taiwan, the Fujian original remains unbeaten.
Our White Peony comes from Fuding, the place producing the worldwide finest and most popular Pai Mu Tan teas. There, it is sourced from an organic certified (USDA organic seal) tea garden, where it is handpicked and manually processed under the eyes of a genuine master of the white tea tradition. We did not shy investing a costly and time-intense effort virtually working ourselves through an extended range of different supplier’s offers of different grades and styles to identify this one as our clear favorite, showing just about the right ratio of white buds to leaves to bring about the most rounded taste result, the perfect harmony between the characteristic floral notes of the white peony’s buds and the depths and full-bodied character of the pertaining top leaves.
For the production of white peony tea, the pluck is withered in the sun for a period of 1-3 days and then indoors again for several hours, before it is baked to stop the oxidation or fermentation process at a comparably low level. Other than with Oolong teas for example, the White Peony tea leaves are treated in a gently and non-intrusive way throughout the whole process, as breaking up the leaf surfaces would cause a significant and for this tea undesirable alteration of the dry product’s taste. This is also the reason, why Pai Mu Tan tea never comes in rolled form, but always in the form of whole loose leaves. Though the White Peony processing scheme seems to be one of the most simple ones among those for Chinese teas at first sight, it is in fact one of the most delicate, too, as the satisfactory outcome essentially depends on a range of hard-to-influence factors, such as the weather conditions. During withering, the tea leaves’ enzymes interact with other constituents to produce the characteristic smooth taste and aroma of Bai Mu Dan tea. It is also during the withering process that the white-haired, but otherwise green buds will take on the all-over shiny white appearance of the buds in the dried material, complemented by a diverse variety of colors in the dried leaves, ranging from muted green via red and brown to black color shades.
While there’s a persisting rumor that Pai Mu Tan tea derives its name from the characteristic floral hint to its taste, there is also an old legend involving the ancient Chinese deity White Peony, who supposedly gave this tea to a mortal once in a bid to cure that person from a disease. According to the legend, that person indeed experienced a miraculous recovery, this story pointing to the often quoted outstanding health properties of White Peony tea, which is commonly believed to be even more beneficial to human health than green tea in some regards. So, it is particularly rich in polyphenols and catechins and is generally said to possess antioxidant, antibacterial and antiviral properties, improve cardio-vascular functions, lower cholesterol levels, have beneficial effects on tooth health, and show general anti-aging properties. However, we strongly suggest that this tea is well worth being drunk for its unique taste features in the first place, with any potential beneficial effects on human health coming along as a desirable side effect.
Though white teas are sometimes referred to as a specific type of green tea, mostly due to some obvious parallels in their processing method, the existence of a dedicated white tea category appears to be more than justified, when it comes to taste: what stands out most in comparison to green tea is the Pai Mu Tan’s particular soft floral note, inspiring a connotation of spring flowers, and fresh fruitiness, complemented by an nutty, slightly earthy and woodsy body on the one hand, and its proverbial “forgivingness” on the other: White Peony tea will be good after one minute, it will be good after 2 or 3 minutes, and it will still be good after 4 or even 5 minutes, when most green teas would be completely spoilt already. Now, this doesn’t mean that it won’t matter how long you steep your Pai Mu Tan. In fact, White Peony tea will release its taste in individual stages that can be nicely either singled out by choosing a purposeful timing while progressing through a series of infusions, as would be Chinese style, or timed to your own preferences instead, combining a desirable range of taste and aroma notes in a longer first steep. However, even with that latter, more western approach, never miss whatever the next infusion(s) will bring, as we promise you that it will definitely be worth it, and this will be, where our specially selected high grade organic White Peony tea (Cha Bai Mu Dan) will really proof its exquisite quality and high class and what makes it stand out from others of its kind.
For friends of white teas we also recommend trying our Imperial grade