Meditations on Moonlight
Our staff, Kyle Trenshaw is back with another blog post on our newest batch of Wuliangshan Moonlight, a white tea cake. Fun, educative and honest - always a pleasure to read Kyle's writing. Enjoy!
I spent a Sunday afternoon sharing tea with the usual suspects. On the menu was a gongfu of Happy Earth Tea's Wuliangshan Moonlight organic white tea. As we settled into our seats and I got the water boiling, I was really struck by the lovely coloration of the tea leaves and buds. Most tea cakes are quite
dark brown from the aging process, but the Moonlight organic white tea has strands of creamy white from the buds intermingled with an almost purple-brown from the tea leaves themselves. Pleasing even before it’s steeped!
I brew teas like the Moonlight organic white tea at 98°C and use flash steeps after an initial rinse. The first steep was very light in the cup with a sweet aroma. The lid of the gaiwan was similarly sweet and reminiscent of dried plums. As many tea bar regulars know, I am not a huge pu-erh tea fan and often find the “funk” or
“earthiness” of them to be rather off-putting. However, with the Moonlight white tea, that earthiness, while still present, is so mild and faint that it adds a robustness to the tea rather than anything overpowering. The balance of the cup is lovely; a tangy citrus element, notes of apricot and dried fruit, and the rounded
smoothness of an aged tea all came together in that first steep.
On the second steep, the plum aroma of the gaiwan had deepened, and the steam rising from the cup promised an even sweeter tea flavor. The hints of citrus from the first steep became a much more pronounced presence similar to the first bite of an orange after you have peeled it. The cup was still quite well-balanced with the aroma being a bit misleading! The sweetness, while still definitely part of the experience, actually started to step back to reveal the lively minerality of a white tea.
The third steep might have been a bit colder than the first two, maybe 90°C instead (I realized I had forgotten to reboil just as I had filled the gaiwan), but my misstep provided a window into some of the lighter, brighter, and more floral possibilities of the white tea.
This “cold” steep offered a rich caramelized plum aroma from the gaiwan, but a soft floral sweetness from the cup. The apricot and orange of the warmer steeps bowed to the warming flavors of the tea buds. I tried another “cold” steep and got more of the delicate lily aroma in the gaiwan along with the voluptuous caramel that was already present from earlier steeps. Although one might not think of it as something to enjoy in a cup of tea, the experience reminded me somewhat of walking through a craft store, perhaps through the flower section or next to a display of comforting candles.
My companions and I went through several more steeps, each one as robust, smooth, and balanced as the last. Top notes of orange zest and a hint of floral character, a body of dried stone fruits, and lingering flavors of caramel and salty umami on the palate. I so thoroughly enjoyed the flavors across the steeps that I actually tried a Western-style preparation for the tea the next morning, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. The Moonlight organic white tea brings together all the best flavors of black teas, white teas, and pu-erhs in a single cup. Come visit me on a Saturday at the Happy Earth Tea tea bar and tell me what you think as I pour a cup for you (with a splash for your favorite tea pet, of course)!