Dec 9, 2010

2005 Bai Mu Dan (White Peony, 白牡丹)

Can white tea be aged as what they do with puerh? I don't know. I am generally very conservative about it. There are historical records of keeping white tea (as well as oolong) for years and use the tea for medical purposes. But I've never seen historical records of keeping white tea for connoisseur appreciation. But then, no record doesn't necessarily mean non-existence. Luckily I got this 2005 Bai Mu Dan sample from a supplier, and of course I wanted to try it.

Dry leaves: very lovely. Color is overall darker than new Bai Mu Dan. I added two photos of new Bai Mu Dan at the end of this post for comparison purpose.

I put this much in a glass mug. Later it turned out a bit too much for mug brewing. But the flavor was fine and didn't seem over-brewed.

I brewed the tea in a glass mug and put a gaiwan lid on top of it to conserve the heat. I like to have a lot of heat in white tea brewing.

The leaves are beautiful. Due to the processing method of white tea, the cells are well preserved in the tea leaves, which enables the tea leaves to last a long time without degrading.

Overall I love the taste of this tea. It has much "darker" taste than newer white tea. The flavor remotely resembles Oriental Beauty, Moonlight White and a non-smoked lapsang souchong I recently had. It has a unique chocolaty taste that I've never found in another white tea. I enjoy drinking it very much and will stop worrying about any of my white tea that can't be consumed in a few years.

About long-term aging of white tea, I've seen opposite opinions. The advocates say that white tea has cells more intact than any other tea (which is true) and therefore the leaf contents are in better conditions to age and develop favorable flavors (which I don't know). The opponents say that few other teas have the biochemical basis of Yunnan large-leaf varietals, and therefore can't develop complex flavors through aging (this sounds plausible too). But one thing that's pretty much for sure is, white tea can possibly have much longer shelf life than some other teas, due to its intact cell conditions. From this tea, I've seen that white tea can possible develop some unique, darker flavor through aging. But when would be a peak time for such flavor and will the good flavor fade within several years, only time can tell and only those who care enough to experiment can discover. Personally I wouldn't invest time and tea to experiment on it. But who knows, maybe some of my white tea will accidentally end up in the closet for years and give me some new knowledge :D 

These are photos of a new Bai Mu Dan taken last year. However, this tea is of a lower grade than the above 2005 tea.

Dry leaves are more colorful, with a lot greener leaves. The 2005 tea mainly has black leaves and white buds.

Tea liquor is of lighter color than the 2005 Bai Mu Dan.


Alex Zorach said...

I'd be really skeptical of Bai Mu Dan aging well. I've had a lot of bai mu dan, actually, which has been several years old which has not been good. But it could have just been stored improperly.

But, from what I know, sheng Pu-erh ages so well, I think in large part because it's so incredibly strong to begin with.

If I were going to age something not typically aged, I'd try a really strong tea. But who knows? I do like darker qualities in white tea, so maybe this would be worth trying?

Ruqyo Highsong said...

I like fresh white tea myself, consumed within a few months of being picked. It usually has a great spinach/watercress flavour to it, and I absolutely love that.

Ho Go said...

I am a fan of Darjeeling white teas and haven't had a Bai Mu Dan in years. Usually when a tea is aged, it is processed in a way that allows the tea to develop new flavors and complexity. Since white tea is minimally processed, my question is whether it will store well over time keeping its properties rather than changing into something else. In my experience with Darjeeling white teas, they will still taste good after a couple of years if kept well. But, I wouldn't keep them with aging in mind.

Matt said...


One has been preparing a post on aged whites and your post popped up! Nice article, will be sure to link it.


Gingko said...

Thanks guys for your input!

Hi Matt, look forward to see your article about aged whites! Before, in China, I barely saw any aged white tea in market at all. Just these two years, suddenly they come out! I am curious to see if they will generate a new market trend.