Blog 113: The Aroma of Spring White Tea
The aroma of spring white tea best represents the overall quality of the harvest. If we want to fully experience a white tea, the aroma is the first and the most important aspect.
Spring white tea has a charming aroma that’s distinct from most all other teas. Being a slightly oxidized tea, spring white tea has a revitalizing but restrained aroma.
The thoroughly examine a spring white tea’s aroma, we must follow a certain path. In general, we’re going to throughly experience the fragrance in dry tea leaves, on the lid of the Gaiwan, in the tea soup, on the wall of the Gaiwan, and finally, the fragrance in infused leaves.
The Dry Tea Leaf Fragrance
The dry tea leaf fragrance is the aroma a white tea has when it’s just out of the package. In this state, most fragrance substances are still “asleep”. Thus, they release a quite transient light herbal smell.
After getting in contact with hot water, white tea leaves start to show its revitalizing aroma. Fragrances become more complex and playful.
The "Lid" Fragrance
If we use a Gaiwan, fragrances will accumulated inside the lid. This is because the high-boiling-temperature fragrances vaporize and gather on the lid of the Gaiwan.
An experienced tea drinker would know that fragrances on the lid is the best and the most important aroma of a tea. Because different fragrance substances have different boiling temperature, the aroma of a white tea will change with the water temperature.
Take a White Peony for example, its aroma can transform from the initial earthy fragrance to a floral fragrance, and finally to a refreshing bamboo-leaf like smell.
The “Falling Into Water” Fragrance
Not all fragrances are experienced by our nose. In fact, there are some fragrances that need to be tasted. In tea-making, we call this type of aroma as “falling into water fragrance”.
As the name suggests, this fragrance is embedded in the tea soup. The tea soup of spring white tea is mellow, smooth and aromatic. The mellowness and smoothness describe the mouthfeel. Specifically, the feeling in our oral cavity. The aroma, however, is “tasted” by our nose.
Take a sip and slowly stir with your tongue, the aroma in the tea soup will arise. If you close your mouth and breath out, you can “taste” this “falling into water” fragrance with your nose.
The “Lingering” Fragrance
The lingering fragrance lingers on the surface of the tea cup.
Good quality white tea contains abundant fragrance substances. Those that blend into the tea soup, even a small amount, are still enough to leave an aroma on the tea cup.
Some tea drinkers prefer to smell Gaiwan or sharing cups because they offer a stronger smell. However, fragrances in Gaiwan and sharing cups are not pure. They mix with other fragrances such as the “leaf bottom fragrance”.
If you want to sample the “lingering fragrance”, be sure to only sniff your tea cup.
The “Leaf Bottom” Fragrance
The leaf bottom, or Ye Di(叶底) refers to tea leaves after rounds of infusions. (Click here for Blog 59 for details)
Some tea lovers wonder why the leaf bottom is important. After all, it’s just some used leaves. Why should we even care?
Actually, the leaf bottom is a great way to examine the quality of a tea. High quality tea leaves are still strong, glossy and alive even after more than 10 infusions.
Correspondingly, the leaf bottom is still able to emit a pleasant and vivid fragrance at the end of its life.
If a spring white tea has a leaf bottom that’s dead and smells dull, it usually means that this tea is low on nutrient contents. Therefore, it’s not a good quality spring white tea.
Spring white tea is often compared to green tea. Both teas have relatively simple tea-making. Some people might even say that fresh spring white tea tastes a little bit similar to green tea. But if you know the aroma of a spring white tea, you’d understand why white tea is different from a green tea.
If you can find all 5 fragrances of a white tea, you’ve found a truly green spring white tea product.
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