The Tea Detective
Uncovering and Exploring the Facts About Tea
Taiwan's Bai Hao Oolong-Christened
Oriental Beauty by Queen Elizabeth II
Tung Ting may be Taiwan's most famous and beloved oolong, but Bai Hao is
definitely the most unusual in regard to its growing and harvesting methods.
Named "Oriental Beauty" by Queen Elizabeth II in the 1960's, Bai Hao also goes
by the name White Tip, in reference to the white edges of its leaves after they
have been gnawed by insects.
That's where the unusual part
comes in-Bai Hao is actually harvested later in the
season because the tea farmers wait until the tea
leaves are inhabited by little parasitic insects call-
ed jassids or green leafhoppers (Jacobiasca
formosana-common leaf-hopper).

The tiny herbivores chew on the tea leaves, trigg-
ering the plant's defense mechanisms, initiating
certain bug repelling compounds within the leaf
that intensifies the tea's flavor.

Unlike the other spring
oolongs that
are harvested in April
and May, Bai Hao is an
early summer tea, with
harvesting delayed until June, after the leafhoppers come out of their
winter dormancy period and begin feasting on the tender, sweet
young tea leaves, puncturing the edges.

The bugs chewing initiates the same process that rolling does, releas-
ing the same bug repelling flavor filled compounds triggered as a defense mechanism within the
leaf when it's being bruised or harmed.

After about a week of munching the tea
leaves are lightly perforated and bug free.
The tea is carefully harvested, keeping the
leafsets intact.  They are given a light with-
ering and the leaves are gently rolled be-
fore being given a lengthy oxidation, then
lightly fired to preserve the flavors.

The chewed edges of Bai Hao leaf turns
white, standing out against the dark green
of the leaf and looking like strands of white
hair, thus the name White Tip oolong.

The tea was a favorite of Queen Elizabeth II,
who named it Oriental Beauty in the 1960's.
Bai Hao was developed in
Taiwan following WWII,
and often was marketed to the West as Champagne
Oolong.  In Taiwan it often goes by the name
Pingfang tea.  To further confuse you it also goes
by the names White Monkey Oolong, and Dong
Fang Mei Ren.

                                                Bai Hao is
grown in the northern region of Taiwan, in Bepu and
                                                Emei in Hsinchu county, and in Toufen in Maioli county.

                                                Oriental Beauty is a medium oxidized tea, anywhere from 35 to
                                                70%.  The liquor is a darker orangy-red color and it has the app-
                                                earance and strength of a
black tea, with the complex fragrance
                                                of an oolong.

It is fruity in taste with a deeper mellow, yet sweet honeyed, peachy flavor with distinctive and
fruity aroma.  The more tips it has, the better the quality of the tea.  Bai Hao is a summer har-
vested tea, plucked in June and July.

It is an open-leaf style oolong unique to Taiwan, and easy to iden-
tify with an open, slightly curled or loosely twisted leaf that ranges
in color from a bright, woodland green to a textured mix of dark
brown and lighter chestnut brown leaves with white edges.

Taiwan's teas aren't identified by garden or region but rather by
grades assigned by the government's Tea Inspection Office.  There
are eight grades, but the most important to look for are fancy and
fanciest, and in the case neither is available and you have no other
choice, Extra Choice is an okay, medium grade tea, but nothing to
crow about.  
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