Mandala Tea White Night
Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: large, very fuzzy with dark undersides
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 175
Preparation Method: gaiwan
Liquor: deep gold
This is a tea that I had been wanting to try for a while. When I saw that Mandala Tea’s website was back up and running I just had to order some. It’s a bit different from other white teas in a few ways. The first major difference is that it was produced in Yunnan Province rather than Fujian. It also uses the same big leaf variety that is used to make puerh tea. During processing, the leaves are withered causing some level of oxidation. This is evidenced by the darker underside of the leaves. The leaves are then gently air dried.
There’s actually some debate in the tea world about whether or not it should be categorized as puerh. To make things even more confusing it is frequently pressed into cakes just like puerh would be. it also has the potential to age due to the minimal processing. I’m firmly on the white tea side of the fence though. Just because something is made from leaves that could be puerh does not make it puerh. There is no kill-green step which makes the end product very different from sheng puerh.
I try to gongfu every Chinese tea that I review here but this one made that a bit of challenge. The positively giant and very fluffy leaves only fit in my very widest gaiwan. The result was milder in flavor but still very nice. Western-style brews were both stronger and more complex. Fresh meadowy floral notes ended in a sweet honey-like finish. I was almost reminded of sticking my nose into a bag of fresh Timothy hay. That might sound a bit weird but it’s a vivid sensory memory that I have from many years of guinea pig ownership. As would be expected from a tea that is so bud heavy, the mouthfeel was wonderfully soft and viscous.
Don’t rinse this tea and don’t filter before you drink it. You’ll be washing all of that trichome-y goodness down the drain! It will also significantly change the mouthfeel of the tea in your cup. Cranking up the water temperature will give you a stronger brew but it will release more astringency from the tea as well. I actually brew this tea both ways depending on my mood that day.