White tea: Bai Mu Dan (and a digital teaspoon)

Bai Mudan

A dry, light, white chocolatey infusion.
White tea » Fujian New White Teas, ★
Also known as: 白牡丹, [King] White Peony.

Bai Mudan (Chinese: 百牡丹, English translation: White Peony) is incredibly light in weight. A typical three-gram infusion is larger than a heaped tablespoon of this tea. When measuring your teas, pay attention to the density of the loose leaf: one teaspoon of tea can weigh anything from 1 gram (large-leaf white tea) to almost 3 grams (CTC black teas).

I use a digital teaspoon to weigh exactly 3.0 grams of tea for every pot that I brew. Here’s my spoon below:

magic teaspoon
My digital teaspoon. It can weigh tea leaves (or anything else) to within 0.1 grams of accuracy!

I also check the water temperature with a thermometer.

digital thermometer
My digital tea thermometer. With this and the magic teaspoon (above), you get perfect brews every time.

The thermometer reveals two things:

  1. that water boils before 100 °C, and that water poured straight from a boiling kettle into a cold cup is only 88 °C.
  2. that once poured, hot water cools very slowly. Hot water in a glass jug without a lid cools by 0.1 °C every five seconds.

I brew each tea for three and a half minutes at the recommended temperatures: 70 °C for green teas, 75 °C for white and yellow teas, 80° C for black and oolong teas, and 90 °C for pu’er teas, fruit infusions, traditionally-scented teas and tisanes. My phone serves as a stopwatch.

This results in perfect brews every time, and allows for fair comparisons of different teas.

*

Bai Mudan is actually a lower-grade pluck of Silver Needles, although many tea-drinkers prefer the taste of Bai Mudan. The former contains sticks and mature leaves, and is suited for personal consumption, whereas the latter contains the finest, furriest, fluffiest tender buds of the same bush—and is the better choice when sending a tea gift.

It tastes of white chocolate and honeydew melon. The flavours aren’t obvious, and over-brewing will bring out a dry white wine taste, which some people enjoy!

I drink all my teas plain, because I want to enjoy the subtle flavours unhindered by fruits, spices, cream or sugar. With a refined palate, you can taste all of these (fruits, spices, cream and sugar/sweetness), and more flavours, in natural, unadulterated tea. Conclusion: do not add ginger to Bai Mudan.

Bai Mudan is light and voluminous. A normal brew, just three grams, is approximately one flat melon-scoopful of tea leaves. It also tastes very dry, so don’t drink too often. Drink it in combination with Silver Needles to demonstrate the differences between finer and rougher plucks very nicely. ★★★★

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