Every once in a while we come across a tea so special, we just have to share it with our CommuniTEA - even when we can only get a very limited quantity. This gorgeous green tea is one of those exceptional teas (we were only able to get 16, 2-oz bags!). So without further ado, we are excited to introduce to you a small batch of a very special green tea: Anji Bai Cha from Zhejiang Province, China.
The history of Anji Bai Cha green tea
'Bai Ye', or white leaf, is the cultivar responsible for Anji Bai Cha green tea, and refers to a leaf made lighter in color due to a lower concentration of chlorophyll. Not to be confused with white tea, Anji Bai Cha is a green tea praised for its high minerality and balancing amino acids.
Anji Bai Cha was 'rediscovered' as a varietal as recently as the 1980's, when two mother bushes were cloned and cultivated in Anji County, Zhejiang Province. Only one mother bush is said to remain, having survived an astonishing three centuries.
Still largely unknown in the west, the Anji Bai Cha cultivar is highly appreciated in China for its aroma and aesthetic. The leaves unfurl with such beauty, and the finest Anji Bai Cha leaves are said to stand parallel with the sides of the infusion glass. As a result of this increasing demand, the cultivar has been planted in other regions of China, and it is now possible to find Anji Bai Cha not from the Zhejiang Province. But just as with wines, we find that terroir plays a big role in the flavor and experience of Anji Bai Cha (more on that below!).
The terroir of Zhejiang Province
While we have been known to offer the occasional style-representative that is grown/produced outside of its province of origin because they are, in-of-themselves exemplary teas (think: Bai Hao Jingmai), we take great pride in offering teas directly from their native region. We respect that an authentic tea experience is born first in the garden, and then again revived in the infusion in your cup.
Zhejiang Province is a lush coastal province that is home to some of the most highly prized teas from China made by traditional methods, such as Long Jing and Anji Bai Cha. Anji Bai Cha is produced only in very small quantities in this region, as there is extensive regulation protecting the bamboo forests.
By virtue of Zhejiang Province's diverse landscape, the mountainous areas produce the highest quality teas and the lower lying areas produce more industrial-style tea. One may note that the same rules of quality apply to wine and many agricultural products, as a bit of climatic stress brings a more interesting product and nuanced taste. Tea bushes are no exception in benefiting from the good drainage and climatic variations of altitude and slope.
What to expect from a cup of Anji Bai Cha
From the first glance, you will notice the distinctive nature of Anji Bai Cha. Comprised of leaves with a pine needle-like appearance, Anj Bai Cha's crisp leaves are pale and almost silvery, living up to their Bai Ye (white leaf) name. Expect the infusion to be jade in color and, true to the Bai Ye cultivar, hardly tannic at all. Flushed with herbaceous savory notes and a mild nuttiness, Anji Bai Cha retains the characteristics of its fellow green teas while also exhibiting a unique balance that is soft on the palate and almost makes us want to invoke the entirely Japanese concept of umami to describe a Chinese green tea!
If you live in Saratoga or near a spring, we highly recommend tasting this tea with low mineral spring water. Our local suggestion: State Seal Spring in Saratoga State Park. Brew for 2 minutes at 165 degrees Fahrenheit.