New to teaforum ( glad to see some familiar "faces" like @John_B , @mrmopu ( hopefully the same one as reddit's mr.mopar ? ) , Jay of course ( can't remember the exact username here, talking about the guy from TealifeHK ) and just starting with a long post ( or it seems to be nowadays ) .
After some time struggling with the - apparently - lack of standardization for some terms ( or "tags" some vendors throw on their descriptions casually... ) like gushu or ye sheng, these days i find myself wondering what is really moonlight white tea.
Initially only pressed cakes came to mind but there's of course a loose leaf version of it.
I don't have much experience with white tea, so far only tasted a 2013 YunnanSourcing brand fuding shoui mei mini-cake ( which i like ) and this moonlight white from Teamania i just opened a couple weeks ago ( more on this later* ) plus some loose leaf samples from YS that doesn't fit within the current context so i'll just leave 'em out .
Also as part of my personal project, just bought like a dozen ( maybe more... ) white tea cakes ( some of them sold as moonlight white / yue guang bai ) i intend to taste and compare ( if customs allow me to, time will tell ) . It was - precisely - while i was doing my tea-shopping that this moonlight concept started to feel like just another one for the list of the aforementioned "means-this-for-me" .
From what i've read - scattered - over the last 6-7 weeks moonlight white cakes can be:
- A mere visual concept where one side of the cake has light-colored/close to pale leaves while the other side has more or less uniform dark/dark-brown overall tone .
- Previous point led me to cakes that just seem to combine spring harvest leaves + late autumn's ( each on one side ).
- Also related to previous points... there's also a suggestion that these cakes could even blend white & black tea, and while the disposition should feel obvious ( white tea on one side, black the on the other side ) what i've seen on pictures doesn't seem to focus on white/black contrast and leaves are just - more or less - scattered together.
- Tea that is withered under the moonlight only ( arguably the hardest to believe ) .
And then i read about spring moonlight white cakes, summer ones ... and the general notion that such cakes are made with lower grade material, the kind you wouldn't sell as loose leaf nor think is good enough for sheng pu-erh.
After all this, the long story short of it is: was wondering if something like an overall definition for "moonlight white" do exist ( not very optimist about it anyways, but probably nice to discuss about it ) .
*As for the moonlight white cake i got from teamania , here's their description:
And my first impressions ( take it with a rock of salt, i'm convinced this needs much more tasting ) :Moonlight White Tea or Yue Guang Bai in Chinese is made from a Yunnan white tea cultivar. The tea leaves for this tea cake are plucked from 100 - 300 Years old Jinggu arbor trees at an altitude of about 2200 meters. This tea is made with an unique processing method: The tea leaves are withered by moonlight instead of sunlight. The longer withering period causes more oxidation compared to Fuding or Zhenge white tea such as Peony white tea or Baihao Yinzhen. This gives a darker color and a deeper, more complex aroma to the tea. The flavor is smooth and fruity, with a full-bodied texture.
Harvest: Spring 2012
Taste: Sweet and honey-like aroma with low astrigency.
Origin: Jinggu Shan, Yunnan, China.
Preparation: Appx. 3g per tea pot, temperatur 100°C. Rinse the tea leaves bevor infusing with boiling water.
Tip: This tea is ideal to mature a few years.
The cake looks ugly. Nothing to do with all those moonlight white cakes you can see on YunnanSourcing, KingTeaMall, MoyChay, you-name-it ... , in fact the picture on teamania's website is weird ... like some really tiny picture that was resized, but anyways... what i have doesn't look like it in the slightest, more like brown-ish with plenty light yellow-ish leaves here & there, feels "dry" just by looking at it and maybe i've been spoiled by looking at too many cakes that looks beautiful just looking at the patters of those pressed leaves... but this one looks... different... the word "amateur" ( or not very skilled ) comes to mind looking at it ( based on looks alone had trouble convincing myself this was a 2012 white tea cake ) .
Took a big chunk of it . Don't have a scale... yet, plus i'm one of those few weirdos that needs big cups ( 450ml is my regular one ) and loves using plenty leaf. This is not precise by any means, but based on the 20gr pu-erh samples i've received... let's assume i use around 40grams ( maybe a little more ) each time i grab a chunk of any cake and around 400ml ( most probably slightly less ) spring water and always go for quick few-sec steeps ( as long/short as needed, with the usual time-increments ) .
Gave it a 25 sec rinse, must admit i lost count of how many cups i got out of it ( probably around 20, i tend to make a final brew boiling leaves in 900ml water for 15 minutes + then rest for 15-20 min ) , tea looked dark red and kinda smelled like YunnanSourcing's 2013 shoui mei cake... or rather... was loosely similar, only worse, less intense.
The tea itself didn't look nor feel thick/viscous ( unlike 2013 YS shou mei's ), first three cups were way too pungent... to the point my tongue went partially numb ( first time experiencing such a thing ) , after that it was easier to drink, within the same flavour profile as YS shou mei... only on the weaker and plain side of the spectrum with nothing changing until the very end.
Not exactly a nice first impression but probably yes possibly not there's room for improvement:
Teamania's moonlight cake no only looked uglier than average, when i removed the generic wrapper noticed more tea-residue around than the few cakes i've seen so far, maybe not an important detail... but the cake itself is tightly compressed ... certainly much more than YunnanSourcing's ... and waaaaay more than Farmer-Leaf's sheng, in fact... reminded me more of this shou cake i bought from Farmer-Leaf .
Also i know that Teamania's owner ( Switzerland based ) favors dry storage and we're talking about a 7 year cake that looks too dry, so maybe there's a chance it might "revive" and improve if allowed to breath for a while although this year will have to wait until spring for that ( 70% humidity average for the whole year where i live, this year is going to be higher; no freezing temperatures, snow free... couple year ago we had summer-like weather until mid-december... this year we're already at "deep-winter" temperatures in autumn ... which are around 10ºC/50ºF ... reaching "critical" single digits sometimes around 5ºC/41ºF that doesn't last long ... you could say our winter feels like canadian summer ) .
For this first tasting i used everything ( the whole chunk plus everything that was around ). Given that i quick-steeped it shouldn't be so incredibly pungent... but i'll blame myself anyways .