A couple of months ago, I had acquired an authentic cake of premium Yue Guang Bai “Moonlight White” from Seven Cups tea house in Tucson, and have been meaning to write an article on it for some time. It is a peculiar tea as far as Chinese teas go to be sure, and one that our Overlord has an interest in for… reasons.
This tea is sourced from Lancang county in the Yunnan province of China, and located at its heart are the Jing Mai mountains, home to ancient, thousand-year-old tea trees which are harvested year-round and yield top-quality pu’erh. When you hear about different varietals of premium pu’erh tea, this is typically the terroir they are sourced from. Here is where the story gets interesting: Moonlight White is not picked from domesticated camellia sinensis trees as a majority of teas are, but instead from a wild cousin species called camellia taliensis. In both chemical composition and appearance, it shares greater similarity to the assamica species from India, which has a maltier more tannic flavour typical of most breakfast teas.
The picking and withering method for Moonlight White is steeped in mysticism. Instead of picking and processing under sunlight, it is said the harvesters pick the buds and first leaves under the light of the full moon, and allow the leaves to dry all night under moonlight. Whether or not this is true is hard to say, but it makes for a great story. The result: a gorgeous blend of delicate, silver buds against jet black leaves. It is hard to properly classify this tea as it shares properties between white, black, oolong and pu’erh tea. It is also said that the preparation method for Moonlight White is hundreds of years old, despite Moonlight White only having been trending on the global tea market this past year.
I’ve found my favorite brewing method is to use 6g of tea leaf to 100mL of water at 95°C (205°F). Bear in mind, this is for the traditional Chinese method of flash-brewing not for Western-style brewing in large teapots. The liquor brews out a very pale, golden orange colour. The aroma of the tea is very light and woodsy with subtle sweet, honey notes. The flavour is refreshingly brisk and slightly tannic leaving a dry texture in the mouth. The most surprising thing about this tea is its long and drawn-out finish, which transforms from a subtle dry, floral flavour to one that is fruity and syrup-like, a flavour I compare to fresh peaches.
I highly recommend this tea for your collection if you enjoy the subtlety of white teas like Bai Hao Yin Zhen “Silver Needles” or the complex body and aroma of an oolong like Bai Hao “Eastern Beauty.” This tea is a great all-rounder, but best not to pair it with anything too strong in contrasting flavours; peaches, persimmons, or even lychee or longan pair nicely with its delicate, sweet character.