Roughly six months back, I got it in my head that I had to hunt down some Taiwanese white tea. At first, I wasn’t sure it existed, but I vaguely remembered seeing mentions of it on Upton Tea’s website. Being a sucker for white teas – especially those from odd growing regions – I felt it was time to acquire some. To the Upton site, I went, and…found nothing. Well, not completely true. I found the listing for a Taiwanese white tea, but the item was no longer available.
This led me on a rampant Google search. The first option to come up was Norbu Tea, one of my favorite go-to sites for weird, awesome teas. Like Upton, they had a listing, but the item (at the time) wasn’t available. Strike two.
It took me the better part of a day (give or take real life) to find any other mention of “Taiwan” and “white tea” in the same entry. I had no idea it was such an exclusive item. Taiwan was mainly known for oolongs, so I suppose it wasn’t that much of a surprise. Just disconcerting.
In my Google perusal, I got sidetracked searching for odd white teas in general. I came across a site I’d never seen before. It was the homepage for a secluded Russian Orthodox monastery located on Vashon Island. Don’t know where that is? Apparently, it’s right next door to Seattle. That’s okay, fair reader, I hadn’t heard of it, either.
Monasteries that sell odd wares were not a new concept to me. I’ve imbibed my fair share of Trappist beers as proof. What was unique was that this particular group blended and roasted their own coffee. They even gained some notoriety due to a feud with Starbucks. The coffee giant sued them for using the trademarked term, “Christmas Blend”.
Really, Starbucks? Suing a Christian monastery for creating a Christmas Blend? For shame.
Considering the blend is still on the Vashon Monks page, I guess they won that little tiff. But that’s not what attracted my attention. Listed in the right tab was “White Tea”. My natural assumption was that they somehow/someway grew their own tea!
I zapped them an e-mail inquiring about it. And never got a reply. Upon a revisit to their site, I understood why. They didn’t grow their own tea, they merely sold it; this one was…a Taiwanese white tea!!! My idiocy brought my tea quest full circle. The product they were offering was a light-roasted white. And for two ounces, it was a pricey sonuvacup.
A part of me wanted to wait for an opportune time to visit the monastery and buy it then. Several months would pass before I revisited that little inkling. Instead of planning a trip, I decided (once I was gainfully employed again) to simply purchase it. Two days later, I received it.
My first impulse was to tear open the bag and bask in the scents and sights. The leaves were dark brown with speckles of green, and the aroma was straight fruit with a roasty tinge on the back-whiff. I didn’t brew it up until a couple of days later.
Given a typical Western-ish white tea treatment, the liquor brewed up fairly dark. The taste was roasted nuts on the forefront followed by smoky grapes. Pretty good but not great. Something told me that my approach needed changin’.
The next day, I treated it to a gongfu prep – like I would with any roasted oolong. Four-ish steeps at around forty seconds each. That sounded fair. The results were friggin’ magic. Same smoky-grapiness as before, only more pronounced. The roastiness was more understated and complimentary. No vegetal aftertaste came through, either. I never knew of a white tea that required a gongfu approach for perfection. Then again, I hadn’t heard of a Taiwanese roasted white tea.
A unique, orthodox tea from a unique Orthodox importer.
For more information on this white tea, go HERE.