When I was younger (and much fitter) I used to run track and field. As most people know, when you run a lot your legs get very sore. My legs were so sore that I asked my coach what I could do to stop it.
His answer wasn't too encouraging. He said the reason I had so much pain in my legs was because my muscles were breaking down every day. As I continued to train the muscle fibers would slightly tear causing the soreness. Unfortunately, there really wasn't anything I could do to get rid of the soreness besides stop training altogether. But that was the bad news. The good news was every time my muscles would break down, my body would rebuild them stronger than they were before. This is why I kept getting faster as I trained more. This is also why people build muscles when they lift weights.
What Does This Have to Do with Tea?
Everything. At least for a Bai Hao Oolong. Another popular name for this oolong is "Oriental Beauty" and we refer to it as "Imperial Formosa Oolong." These Oolongs use this same concept to produce a wonderful flavor. Bai Hao's are plucked in the early summer, about a month later than other Oolongs in the region. Over this month long period the tea leaves are naturally torn while they are still alive on the plant at almost a microscopic level. Much like our muscles, when tea leaves are naturally torn, its reaction is to send as many nutrients to the damaged part of the leaf to help rebuild it stronger than it was before. It is at this very moment that the tea farmers pluck the leaves, retaining all the extra nutrients. The tea is then oxidized for a long time (giving it a darker color) and then fired to help retain the flavor. The end result is a unique and lively flavor that is rare even in the tea world.
The Flavor has Bold Notes of Orange and Honey
A good Bai Hao should taste like nothing but orange and honey as soon as you sip it. The flavor is so bold you would think the tea was somehow enhanced artificially, but it is not. After you taste the orange and honey, the flavor should mellow out to a slightly nutty and flowery finish. It should linger in your mouth for minutes after your first sip. The resulting cup should be spectacular.
How Do I Know if I Am Getting a High-Quality Bai Hao?
The best way to identify the quality of the tea is to inspect the dry leaf first. The leaves should be twisted and slightly balled up. They should have colors of green, yellow, brown and orange, with silver streaks running through them. After you brew the tea, it should have a wonderful scent of oranges and peaches, with slight undertones of walnut. The smell should be very fragrant, to the point where you almost feel like you are in a orchard.
Bai Hao Oolongs were one of the first gourmet teas to become popular in this country. With its unique processing and fragrant orange and honey flavors, I can see why.
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