Horizontal Tasting: Cultivar 21 White + Benifuki White

When it comes to white tea, I’m always ready for a cup. With its processing largely transparent and the classifications based on picking, there’s an ebb and flow to discerning quality that’s exciting. The careful balance the producer must traverse to effectively manage humidity and temperature during drying provides ample information when tasting the finished product. I’ve decided to take a look at two white teas that come from cultivars primarily processed for black teas and highlight their differences and similarities. Let’s quickly review each tea in it’s native form before getting into the comparison!

Hong Yun (TRES #21) – Hong Yun was created by the Taiwanese Research and Extension Station and is the result of the Keemun variety and Nepalese assamica variety from Kyang. Created around 2008, this cultivar produces a strong cup and possesses dark, thin, twisted leaves. Bold and robust, I’ve found this cultivar to yield a thick mouthfeel, cherry sweetness, and a sun-ripe tomato savoriness that packs a punch. There’s a complexity in tannins that are amplified by a peppery spice. Because TRES #21 is primarily a black tea, I’ve found winter pickings to bring a brilliant balance, presenting a nuanced approach to these strong facets. This black tea turned to white does wonders and significantly changes its profile!

Benifuki – This cultivar was fully introduced in 1993, though development began in the 60s. A cross between Benihomare and the assamica variety Makura CD86, this tea spread in popularity due to its high content of catechin methyl; siting relief from allergies and hay fever. It possesses a peppery quality and stone-fruit strength that beautifully mellows out.

With those brief descriptions provided, let’s dive into these two cultivars as they make their way to us through white tea processes.

Cultivar 21 White

Benifuki White

TRES #21 WHITE DETAILS

Season: Spring 2018
Cultivar: Hong Yun
Origin: Alishan, Nantou, Taiwan
Picking/Processing: Bud + 1-2 leaves. Hand-made 3-4 day wither, electric oven-baked
Elevation: 1100m

My Brewing Parameters
Leaf to Water Ratio – 5 g for 100 mL
Starting Temp – 85°C
Infusion time(s) – 20 sec. +5-10

Eyes Dry: Long, large leaves of rust copper, black smoke, and aged moss-stone greens. Fine hairs remain on the leaf and stem
Nose Dry: Warm hay, butternut squash, rows of corn fields in Autumn


Nose Wet: Pinewood, humid moss, slight almond and licorice
Eyes Liquor: White grape, champagne peach color growing rich into molasses
Mouth Texture: Medium-bodied and growing viscosity into infusions 2-4
Mouth Taste: Cantaloupe, honey, pear, nettle leaves


Nose Cup: Candied melon
Mouth Finish: Clean with a tickling sensation on the tongue
Eyes Wet: Large unfurled leaves with sweeping gradients of dusty viridian moving to espresso brown and plum
Body Sensation: Refreshing and cooling with contemplation and airiness

BENIFUKI WHITE DETAILS

Season: Spring 2019
Cultivar: Benifuki
Origin: Kawanehon, Shizuoka, Japan
Picking/Processing: Bud + 1-2 leaves. Oxidation is longer than the usual length found in Bai Mudan
Elevation: 400m

My Brewing Parameters
Leaf to Water Ratio – 5 g for 100 mL
Starting Temp – 85°C
Infusion time(s) – 25 sec. +5-10

Eyes Dry: Pumpkin and Autumn leaf orange, deep plum and maroon specks. Noticeably fewer hairs on the leaves and stems, possessing silver buds. Jagged leaves, hardy and thick
Nose Dry: Musty log cabin, peppercorn spice


Nose Wet: Mashed strawberries, rose, pink peppercorns
Eyes Liquor: Thick and hazel-peach growing into brown sugar
Mouth Texture: Full-bodied with a gripping texture that holds the sides of the tongue
Mouth Taste: Vine-ripe tomatoes, stone fruit, mellow pepper


Nose Cup: Stewed tomatoes and sugar reduction, cherry
Mouth Finish: Astringent with umami salt turning to candied-fruit sweetness
Eyes Wet: Saturated rust and clay oranges and browns as the leaves remain jagged in structure
Body Sensation: Cheerful and energizing with a sense of buoyancy

Both teas are extremely enjoyable as they provide different energies and cater to different palates. While attributes of wood like oak and birch are common in both, TRES #21 White possesses lighter and more refreshing flavors and aromatics. Melon, fennel, and lakeside grasses come to mind as the later infusions take shape. Benifuki White still maintains core attributes of the cultivar, namely the vigor and strength in cherry, brown sugar, and a spice that is more powerful than the aforementioned tea.

Have you tried either of these teas or conducted comparative tastings with similar leaves? If you’re interested to try this yourself I purchased these both from UNYtea. With experimental batches and other varied ways to bake, oxidize, and time the production of white tea’s drying step – there’s an endless path to be explored!

Steep well!

-Marco

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