Wild White Tasting Notes

Wild white infusion (steeped leaf)

Wild White

Yunnan, China

Wild white was a bit of a surprise for me as a white tea. My instructor, Sylvana at ITEI (International Tea Education Institute) said she would take me on a trip to the jungle. This tea took me back to the Li River in China.

The dry leaf smells woodsy, like a bamboo forest. The scent is light and gentle, like the woods after morning rain. It’s herbal like greek mountain tea (ironwort) or honey suckle with an aroma of citrus wood – perhaps pomelo or yuzu.

There is almost an abundance of buds, although there are some small leaves scattered throughout. The buds are whitish green in shades of pistachio, light olive and asparagus, with a soft fuzzy coating on the inner bud.


Unlike silver needle buds, the wild white buds have a unique shape, like little corn on the cobs with multiple layers of tiny leaves surrounding the buds. It’s akin to an oblong lotus flower beginning to blossom. The size varies from 1-3.5 cm in length, and they are thick, not slender buds. At the tips of the buds is evidence of some oxidation. But rather than brown, the oxidation seems to have turned the tips a curious mauve colour. Unlike previous whites I’ve tried, there are no stems and the browning is on the bud tip rather than the stem.

This tea was infused for 5 minutes at 90 C.

This tea can be infused for 5-7 minutes; it’s not particularly floral for a white, so it can withstand higher temperatures, around 90 C, which is necessary to really draw the flavours out.

This was steeped in the professional cupping set.

The infusion took on a stronger jungle flavour than the dry leaf, heavier on the wood smells, like citrus wood with a mild camphor, which mellowed into a cleaned stable smell. The buds were more of a consistent olive colour after infusing. Rather than fat buds, they had flattened somewhat and become somewhat more two dimensional. The purpley-red buds now reminded me of the shape of tiny lobster claws. The purple graduated from mauve to a much richer almost eggplant colour.

The Liquor

The tea liquor was very pale yellow, as if you’d added a tablespoon or two of apple juice to a cup of water. It was a shiny, translucent, thin liquor, which smelled citrusy, with a mild wooden musk. The texture reminded me of slippery young bamboo shoots, canned in liquid.

The smell took me back to the late summer of 2016, when I travelled to Guilin, in Guangxi China. It reminds me of travelling up the Li river on a bamboo raft tour, on a jungle lined river, smelling the woods, bark, osmanthus, bamboo, and citrus on the banks and hearing the water lap up over the raft while fishermen passed us by with their birds. It was the rainy season and there were flash rainstorms where the sky would just open up and pour down.

This cup transports me to the jungles on the banks of the Li River after the rain.

bamboo river raft on the Li River near Guilin, China

The tea itself was not astringent in the slightest. No tannins here, although some of the flavours that you would expect from a pu’erh. Sage, bamboo wood, citrus bark, high notes of ponzu and pomelo, and stable, freshly groomed (clean) horse. It reminded me of riding the dappled grey pony, Smoky, when I was a child. In the lower mainland (or as we call it, the lower rainland) around Vancouver, we get a lot of rain. Sometimes I would bring Smoky in after riding in a drizzle and groom him. This tea was like damp clean horse. There is a light dampness to it all, as though the flavours have been freshly cleaned with rain water.

The head notes are bamboo shoots, and as we travel into this forest, we get a body of groomed horse and stable that spreads gently throughout the mouth. The tail notes are citrusy; it is the ponzu and pomelo that linger in your mouth, leaving a distinct clean finish. 

I am presently enjoying a pot of this tea, steeped at seven minutes. There is a much stronger pomelo finish that lingers longer. 

a yellow pomelo

I’ve quite enjoyed all the places this tea has transported me to.


Dry Leaf Appearance: 14/20

It’s beautiful and the buds look so unique, but it does not look like camellia sinensis, it looks a lot more like some mountain herb like ironwort to me. In consideration of this controversy (evaluating it as a camellia) and of the few leaves mixed in with the buds, and the variation of sizes, I’d give this a lower grade.

Infused Tea Leaf Appearance: 9/10

It looks more consistent once steeped and the purple bud tips are lovely. It’s visually appealing and interesting to look at.

Aroma of the Infusion: 17/20

I really liked the aroma, however it was milder than I expected in comparison to other whites that I’ve tried recently.

Colour of the Liquor in the cup: 10/10

Exactly what I would expect from a white tea.

Flavour (Taste+Aromas): 33/40

This tea is like a pleasant surprise, the works a bit differently than the aroma. The flavours are somewhat mild compared to floral whites, and you don’t have the heavy lost in the woods richness of a puerh. And yet, this isn’t a ghost of one of those teas, but its own wild beast. It’s subtle, and yet very complex. There are layers here, like the layers in the buds themselves. The layers peel back and reveal themselves with multiple tastings.

Total Score: 83/100

It’s probably obvious that I quite liked this tea. So please excuse me, while I dip out to dip my spoon back into the Li River and travel back to Guilin (桂林市), whose name means the forest of sweet osmanthus.

%d bloggers like this: