A lesser known variety of tea is White peony tea which is an exquisite type of white tea. White teas are very lightly fermented tea leaves from the tree, also known as Camellia sinensis. White Peony is the American name for this type of tea, although there are no peony flowers in it, and although it does have a lightly floral undertone, it does not taste of Peony either. However you may notice a light and mild Peony aroma from the brewed leaves.
The Chinese name for White Peony tea is Bai Mu Dan, or in other dialects, Pai Mu Tan. It is produced by plucking the top leaf shoot and the two immediate young leaves.
How to Prepare White Tea or Bai Mu Dan
1. Teapot Selection: You will need to find a good teapot to brew your white teas in. The ideal teapot for brewing White Peony will be made from ceramic or, most ideally, glass. Using a clear glass teapot in which to brew is the best so that you can appreciate the aesthetic value of the tea, watching the beauty of the leaves as they dance and unfurl in the water. Using a teapot in which to brew your white tea allows you to brew much more leaves easily and with convenience. If you indulge in afternoon tea, a teapot is a necessity!
2. Place the Dried Leaves into Your Teapot: For the average sized teapot you should use 3 to 4 teaspoons of dried tea leaves into your teapot. If you prefer a stronger flavor, by all means, add more tea. Adding too many tea leaves will not hurt your stomach or digestive tract. In fact, drinking very strong white tea will contain more anti-oxidants, so please experiment to get the perfect flavor for you!
3. Adding Water: The water temperature that you brew your white tea leaves in is of the utmost importance. White Peony Tea, and all other white teas, are so tender and delicate that if you use boiling water, or water that is too hot, it will brew up a bright yellow with a bitter and unpleasant taste and all of the nutrients in the leaves will be destroyed. However you must be careful because brewing the leaves in too low of a temperature will result in too light of a flavor, being barely more than a glass of warm water.
The ideal temperature to brew your white tea in is between 85-90 C (185-200F) and you should steep the leaves in this water for 3-5 minutes. The resulting liquor will be very pleasant and mellow with a hint of a floral undertone and a very light Peony fragrance.
4. Serving: After properly brewing your white tea, serve the brewed infusion by straining out the tea leaves and pouring the bright, clear apricot colored liquor into your teacup. Bai Mu Dan white tea is a lovely tea to refresh yourself with any time of day, and a perfect tea to serve as a hostess to your guests.
Flavoring Your White Peony Tea: White Peony Bai Mu Dan is a very versatile tea, with its traditional lightly sweet and mellow flavor. Because of its versatility, you can add a twist on your favorite tea by adding flavors to the brew yourself. Some recommended flavors are fruit flavors such as blueberry or strawberry (strawberry white tea is simply scrumptious!) or even citrus flavors such as lemon or lime. Herbs such as lavender or lemongrass may also be added to your White Peony tea to give it an extra touch of flavor. Just be certain to not add too many excess flavoring or it will overwhelm the light and natural flavors of the White Peony tea itself.
Next we would like to share with you the traditional Chinese way of preparing and serving Bai Mu Dan tea with a Gaiwan.
Teavivre’s advanced tea ceremony specialist Angel Chen will illustrate how to properly brew White Peony tea with a Gaiwan.
1. Tea Set Preparation: The first step is to gather all of the necessary materials for your tea brewing. These materials may include your tea tray, tea holder, your Gaiwan, the fair cup, the Pinming cup, a filter, a shelf, and the components for a tea ceremony, including tea pin, tea spoon, tea scoop, tea funnel and the tea container. Once you have gathered all of these, lay them out as you would like, using the photograph above as a general guideline.
2. Add the White Peony Tea: Using your tea scoop, remove 2 or 3 grams of dried Bai Mu Dan tea from your tea canister, and place the leaves into your tea holder.
3. Prepare Your Tea Set by Warming and Cleansing Your Containers: It is a good idea to use boiling hot water to cleanse and warm your Gaiwan and your fair cup and Pinming cup or cups. This is easily done by pouring boiling water into these vessels, gently swirling the water, then discarding the water you have used to cleanse and pre-warm your cups. This process will prepare your cups for the best tea drinking experience.
4. Adding the Tea to Your Gaiwan: The next step is to take your pre-measured tea from your tea holder, and placing it into your already warmed Gaiwan.
5. Adding Water: Again, the best temperature to brew it in is between 85-90 C (185-200F), anything higher than that and you will destroy the young tender leaves and their beneficial properties. The most ideal type of water is fresh spring water, mineral water or purified water. Never use tap water to brew your White Peony tea, because the chemicals and harsh minerals in the tap water will greatly affect the final flavor of the tea negatively. After pouring your hot water into your Gaiwan, wait for approximately 45 seconds. Sometimes white teas can take longer than other teas to brew simply because they are so lightly oxidized.
6. Serving: The proper way to serve Bai Mu Dan in China is to first pour the brewed tea into your fair cup through your tea filter. After pouring the brew into the fair cup, you should then divide the tea into each Pinming cup equally for you and your guests to enjoy together.
7. Re-brewing: White Peony tea, as well as many other teas, can be re-brewed several different times. The brewed leaves still remain fragrant after being brewed even up to 5 or 6 times! In order to extract more flavor and fragrance from re-brewed tea leaves, you should add an additional full minute to your steeping times every additional time you brew your tea leaves. Each re-brewing will result in a slightly different cup of tea, with subtle nuanced changed to the flavor and aroma, making each additional brewing a new adventure!