Today, I will be reviewing the flagship product of Herman Teas and Handunugoda Tea Estate. This is the Virgin White Tea. At this time, this product is offered in the pyramid teabag format or loose form for USD $36.50. Check it out here.
According to the Herman Teas website, the tea buds used in this product are not touched by human hand during production. The pickers wear gloves, and cut the buds from the tea bushes using scissors, which are gold in color to conform with tradition. The buds are then dried using filtered sunlight. That is all there is to production of this Virgin White Tea.
Herman Teas had a lab analysis at SGS in Switzerland completed on this tea, and the lab results show that this product has an antioxidant content of 10.11%. This tea is offered only at one tea salon, the Mariage Freres in central Paris.
Generally speaking, I find Sri Lankan silver needle (silver tips) teas to be notably lighter and more delicate than their better known Chinese counterparts. However, since Handunugoda is in the lower elevation Ruhuna region (Southern Province) of Sri Lanka, known for the stronger, bolder teas coming from the island, I am interested to see how this product will compare to those I have had from the Uva region, which is a mid elevation region with a vastly different climatic system, and produces more aromatic Ceylon teas.
Let’s get to the review…
The dry buds have a pale yellow color, and are covered in fine downy-like silver fuzz, with the areas nearing the stems having a charcoal gray-black color. The buds are very smooth, long, and of a medium plumpness, coming to a point at the tip. These buds are fairly similar in appearance to others I have seen from Sri Lanka and India, and still not as thick as the high quality silver needle teas from Fujian Province, China. There are no leaves or bare stems whatsoever in the mix, just whole, unbroken buds with some bud fragments. The buds are cleanly cut at the stem, evidence of the use of scissors to detach the buds from the bush, rather than hand plucking. The size of the buds is relatively uniform, with an average length of about 1.25 inches (32 mm). The aroma is interesting and light, and I find it unusually earthy, with scents of fresh white button mushrooms, hay, and touches of vanilla and coconut flesh.
Five grams of dry buds were placed in a six ounce (180 mL) porcelain gaiwan, and infused with 185°F (85°C) water for 3:00 minutes. An additional minute was added to each subsequent infusion, and a total of five infusions were prepared. The color changed rather dramatically between the first and fifth infusion, as you can see in the photos below.
The first infusion has a pale, light yellow color, clear and transparent. The later infusions become darker, having a deep gold-yellow color. The aroma has scents of honey, hay, delicate flowers, and vanilla. The body is medium, with a velvety, delicate texture to the first infusion, which becomes richer in later infusions. There is no bitterness or astringency to this tea. The taste has notes of honey, vanilla, delicate flowers, and hay. The earthy hay aroma and taste dissipate with each infusion, leaving the honey, vanilla, and delicate flowers as the dominant qualities. The aftertaste carries a delicate honey and flowers character, with a clean, refreshing finish.
The infused buds have a pale, dark forest green color, with darker brown areas near the pluck site. The buds have a soft, smooth texture. The majority appear to consist of a mature bud enveloping a younger bud. There are no leaves or bare stems in the mix. Most of the buds are whole and unbroken, but there are some bud fragments in the mix. The buds are long and fairly slender when compared to plumper Chinese silver needle teas. The aroma carries the scents of honey, vanilla, and delicate flowers.
The Virgin White Tea from Herman Teas is certainly a high quality white tea, with impressive aroma and taste. Offering a wonderful balance of honey, vanilla, and delicate floral qualities wrapped in a velvety texture, it’s difficult to imagine a tea enthusiast not loving this product. Although difficult to say with 100% certainty when not physically tasting this tea next to a silver tips tea from Uva, I do believe that this tea from Handunugoda Tea Estate does have a slightly stronger, fuller character than that of the Uva white teas, especially in the later infusions. When compared to a Fujian Chinese silver needle white tea, this Virgin White Tea is still quite delicate. I need a few fresh silver needle samples from China, India, Kenya, and Uva (Sri Lanka) to do a side by side comparison. Any vendors offering fresh white teas from those areas care to be featured in a future post? Email me, if yes.
Thank you to the management of Herman Teas and Handunugoda Tea Estate for providing this sample of Virgin White Tea! Cheers!