Tieguanyin Baicha (White Tieguanyin)

2021

Leaves from the Hongxin Tieguanyin cultivar processed as a sun-withered white tea. Crisp cucumber and melon top notes give way to a base of herbaceous and nutty (almost buttery) fullness that contrasts with the traditional flavors of white tea. Two Fujian classics in one!

Note: This tea arrived in a small delivery and we may sell out quickly. If we do, please rest assured that more is on the way in a few weeks. If you would like to be notified when it is back in stock, please let us know!

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Tea Origin
Anxi County, Fujian Province, China

Tea Bush
Hongxin Tieguanyin (Red Heart Tieguanyin)

Tea Master
Zhang Shuiquan and Zhang Qingjian

Harvest Time
Mid-April

Picking Standard
One bud, two leaves

Though Anxi County’s famous Tieguanyin tea bush has historically been used to make wulong tea, White Tieguanyin transforms its spring leaves into an incredibly smooth sun-withered white tea. Crisp fruit aromatics with an herbaceous and nutty, almost buttery fullness contrasts with the flavors of traditional white tea. The tea brews a clear light yellow-green cup with a long-lasting aroma and full taste. Its richness persists into the mellow and layered finish that Tieguanyin is known for.

Because the leaves for White Tieguanyin are harvested earlier than for wulong tea, the single bud and two leaves are thinner and softer and have a delicate appearance. When brewed, the tea rehydrates into long slender tea buds and full, round young leaves.

Origins of white tea in Fujian

Two round bamboo trays covered in a thin layer of tea leaves drying outdoors.
Letting White Tieguanyin wither and naturally dry outdoors spread on bamboo trays.

White Tieguanyin is of course made from the leaves of the Tieguanyin bush, unlike the most famous white tea Baihao Yinzhen (Silver Needle). That and other white teas like Bai Mudan (White Peony) come from the Dabai and Dahao cultivar tea bushes from Fuding County, a bit north of Anxi in Fujian Province. What makes a white tea a white tea is its natural air-drying process.

White-style tea has appeared multiple times in the mountains of Fujian since the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912). In remote areas like Anxi and Fuding, tea is considered both a beverage and a medicine. Chinese herbalism considers white tea in particular to be beneficial for the health of the respiratory system. With Fujian’s long history of tea cultivation, even countryside people who aren’t tea farmers will grow a few bushes for their own family’s use. It’s both convenient and economical for families to harvest and naturally dry their own tea like any other local medicinal herb. This natural air-drying (instead of pan-frying and roasting) results in white tea, much softer and smoother than green tea.

High mountain cultivation and cultivar

A few rows of tea terraces on a sunny hillside in Anxi.
Tea terraces that were dug by hand into the mountainside by Zhang Shuiquan’s grandfather.

The Zhang family who produce our Tieguanyin teas grow the original Tieguanyin cultivar of tea plant on their farm in Anxi County. They do not blend it with other local cultivars, as is the case with most Tieguanyin on the market today. The leaves used to craft this tea are grown in a higher (above 1000m) mountain region that is far removed from Anxi City, where most Tieguanyin is made. In this high mountain region, the environment is relatively untouched and free from pollutants, and as as a result, the regions tea naturally carries a light wild flower aroma.

Close up of a sprig of Red Heart Hongxin Tieguanyin, showing the characteristic red on the smallest leaf.
The “Red Heart” Hongxin Tieguanyin cultivar’s signature red inner leaf on the spring growth.

This high-altitude cultivation also enables producers to grow the higher-quality Hongxin “Red Heart” cultivar of Tieguanyin, which is better adapted to the cooler climate. Unlike the more common Lüxin “Green Heart” cultivar grown at lower elevations, Hongxin Tieguanyin displays a distinctive faint red blush in its youngest leaves, surrounded by mature green leaves.

 

History of Anxi tea-making practices

Finished leaves of Chuan Tong Tie Guan Yin (Traditional Tie Guan Yin) wulong tea in a small display dish.
The long, dark, twisted leaves of Traditional Tieguanyin.

For centuries, Anxi wulong was made in much the same way as rock wulong in other parts of Fujian Province or Dan Cong wulong in Guangdong Province are still made today. This traditional style of wulong is what gave this type of tea its name, called wu long or “black dragon” after the long, dark, twisted shape of the finished loose tea leaves.

However, in the 1990s, Anxi producers began replacing the long, low-temperature roasting of their wulong with a quick, hot roast to retain the leaves’ greener character. Other adjustments were made to the processing to produce a much lighter, less oxidized, and intensely floral tea that was much more similar to a green tea. Because green tea has always been and remains the most popular type of tea in China, this new green-style Anxi wulong was wulong producers’ attempt to capture some of the very large domestic Chinese market for green tea. This tactic was extremely successful, and modern green Anxi wulong has become incredibly popular. These days, green-style Anxi wulong has become the face of Anxi tea in China.

A cup of the pale infusion of Tieguanyin White tea next to the dry leaves.
A cup of the pale infusion of White Tieguanyin tea next to the dry leaves.

Some Anxi producers are now slowly moving back to making wulong in the traditional way, with the darker roast and the long, twisted leaves. In much the same way, some of these producers have also begun producing their own white tea, since it has become much more popular on the market these days since it was popularized by the success of Fuding white tea. Different methods of processing yield very different end results, but all benefit from the high quality and unique clean character of the Tie Guan Yin tea bush.

No chemical fertilizer, pesticide, or herbicide was used in the production of this tea. Click here to read more about our promise to fair trade and the environment.

Tieguanyin Baicha (White Tieguanyin) brewing guidelines

Teaware: 12 oz. glass, porcelain or yi xing clay pot
Amount: 1 Tbs (4g) of tea leaves
Water: 195°F (boiling) filtered water
Infusion: First infusion at least 2 minutes. The leaves are good for 3 infusions.