Amethyst Wild Purple White Mini Bing (紫芽白大餅, Zǐ Yá Bái Xiǎo Bǐng, "Purple Bud White Mini Bing") - In 2018 we asked Nannuo mountain tea farmer Li Shulin to make Moonlight White - the sun-dried Yunnanese white tea known for its large buds and leaves - out of the Zǐ Juān 紫娟 (“Purple Grace”) cultivar. Zǐ Juān Chá was bred from the naturally-occurring purple tea plants of Nannuo mountain, Zǐ Yá 紫芽 ("Purple Bud"), known as eventually yielding a particularly purple plant high in the blue/purple pigments anthocyanins that give the naturally-occurring mutant Zǐ Yá its distinctive hue. While the naturally-occuring Zǐ Yá leaves have a heterogeneous appearance, generally darker than normal “green” Sheng Pu'er, the Zǐ Juān leaves, bred for their pigment concentration, have a uniform blue-green color and yield a beautiful and remarkable liquor ranging from purple to pink when processed into Sheng Pu'er (Purple Grace). We wanted to see what would happen if it were sun dried - allowing the plant pigments to remain unaltered by the cooking process, Shā Qīng 殺青 ("Kill the Green"), applied to Sheng Pu'er. When we visited in 2019, Li had a surprise for us - he had produced batches of Moonlight White using both Zǐ Juān 紫娟 (“Purple Grace”) cultivar and Zǐ Yá 紫芽 ("Purple Bud") seed-propagated plants. As with Sheng Pu'er, the Wild Purple White leaves are neither as consistent nor profound in purpleness, though they are definitely of a different hue than regular Moonlight White. This is because it is from seed-propagated, genetically-distinct plants that may all be expressing different degrees and even forms of purpleness. Molecular evidence for the mechanism of the purple morphs of the tea plant being absent, we can only speculate as to whether the trait is genetic, epigenetic, and how many different mutations result in the phenotypically similar trait of purpleness. What is important to know about this tea is that it isn’t as purple as Purple Moonlight, but it is a superior tea, because it is sourced ultimately from seed-propagated plants as opposed to clones. Seed-propagated plants have a deeper taproot, longer lifespan, and superior Qi to clones, making them more highly sought after by connoisseurs and aficionados. It is more pungent and maltier than normal Moonlight White, and has a rushing, uplifting Qi that is the real reason we are so excited about this tea.
This standard size mini bing includes 100g of pressed tea. The base color of the wrapper is tan, indicating that it is a White Tea. The ring and bat are indigo, indicating that this tea is made from Zǐ Yá 紫芽 ("Purple Bud") leaves.
If you’re familiar with amethyst you know it’s a gem, and so is this tea. Slight notes of hay, fermented sugar cane and a joy to drink. Can be steeped many more times than I’d initially thought. 4 stars because I’m not the most knowledgeable on the subject but I thoroughly enjoyed this tea.