This year, one of our first Tea of the Month Club subscription boxes of 2017 was filled with unexpected selections from Xingyang Workshop. Best known to fans here for their perfectly clean shu pu’er and classic sweet sheng, the January club box gave Xingyang the space to feature new projects outside of their classic collections of pu’er teas. Instead of the expected, they had the chance to share experiments, side-projects, and new passions.
From all of their developing projects, Xingyang picked three new teas to feature in the new year: their Yue Guang Bai Moonlight White tea, a downy spring Yunnan black tea, and a 2016 shu pu’er pressed honeysuckle! Following many requests from January’s club members, we’re excited to share a small selection of all three teas with everyone as a part of our collection from Xingyang workshop.
Since they premiered in the January box to club members, we’ve been tasting all three – on their own and back to back – as we reflect on 2016 and the year past and look forward to a new year.
Yue Guang Bai – sometimes translated as “Monnlight White” – is an unusual, traditional Yunnan tea.
While most large leaf assamica picked in Yunnan is usually sun-dried to make sheng pu’er mao cha, Yue Guang Bai (as the name “Moonlight” suggests) is instead dried overnight. This difference in temperature overnight as the tea dries combines with a lower moisture content to create a traditional Yunnan white tea. The large, buddy leaves are covered with silvery down, creating a tea with an appearance similar to Bai Mu Dan.
Xingyang has been experimenting with Yue Guang Bai, and pressed these organic spring leaves from their partner farmers in Jinggu at the end of 2016.
Though the aroma is similar in some ways to more widely available Fuding white teas, the brew is immediately darker in color with a satisfyingly full and rich flavor.
While Yue Guang Bai is popular for daily drinking, it can also be set aside and aged, making the tea popular for collectors to enjoy over many years.
These beautiful, downy golden buds come together to create a truly classic and satisfying Dian Hong in Xingyang’s 2016 Yunnan Golden Buds Black tea.
While gorgeous buds like these are more often used by Xingyang Workshop to create smooth, sweet, and creamy shu pu’er teas (like their 2008 Goden Buds Shu Pu’er), the workshop has recently been experimenting for the last few seasons with fully oxidizing these tea buds to create traditional Yunnan black teas. This Golden Buds is particulary downy and slightly curled for a fuller, creamier body.
The fine down of this spring harvest makes the brewed tea smooth and full in the mouth, while the large assmica buds give the brew delicious notes of honey, floral cream, and sweet malt.
The last new tea from Xingyang is quite literally a blend of old and new: the 2016 Honeysuckle Shu Pu’er blends Xingyang’s super clean shu pu’er with honeysuckle flowers. While blending and scented pu’er with flowers is nothing new for pu’er teas, it’s an unexpected choice for Xingyang workshop, and we were excited to give the new project a try!
Whether it’s pressed with chrysanthemum and roses or stuffed into oranges and miniature clementines, there are few things more traditional that scenting pu’er. Indeed, the fact that many in China first drink pu’er for its health benefits – either enjoying a pot with dim sum or after a large meal, or making a daily brew on the advice of their doctors – means that adding traditional medicial herbs to pu’er is, for many, both reasonable and delicious.
For most of its history, Xingyang has focused on more classic, “pure” pu’er, sourcing and blending to bring out the best in a particular pressing or recipe each season. But while many use flowers or herbs to cover up common leaves with mass-market appeal, Xingyang has been working in the last year to develop a line of scented pu’er, blended with local flowers and with respect for all of their ingredients.
Pressed and finished just last year, the 2016 Honeysuckle Pu’er is one of Xingyang’s very first blended offerings.While the honeysuckle pu’er is part of a larger series of “new traditional” blends that Xingyang has been working on, it was the honeysuckle in particular that Xingyang chose to share in the January club box. The sweet, lightly floral honeysuckle complements the tea leaves’ sweet, clean flavor with a refreshing finish. Honeysuckle is a traditional anti-inflammatory and often recommended as an herbal cold-fighter, making it a natural choice for cold, winter months.
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