Bai Ye Cultivar And The Beauty of the Leaves
Despite the power of tradition, the world of green tea is evolving rapidly in China. The last few years have been particularly eventful. On the botanical front, many new cultivars have been created and tested for an increased yield or to produce teas adapted to modern tastes. Bai Ye No. 1 is amongst the newest fashionable cultivars. It has been cultivated only since the 1990s, but its renown has spread well beyond Anji County in Zhejiang Province, where it originates. It was named “white leaf” after the pale yellow, almost white colour of its leaves, which are distinctly marked by a green central vein.
Early in the harvest season, plantation sections planted with Bai Ye No. 1 are easily distinguished from those planted with other tea plants by their golden shimmer in the sunlight. Later in the season, as they mature, the leaves will develop the deep forest green hues typical of other cultivars.
Aside from the surprising colour of this cultivar, the leaves produce infusions that are markedly less tannic, as in the case of the Bai Ye No. 1 tea, Anji Bai Cha. With its attractive pine needle-shaped leaves and its delicate flavour, Anji Bai Cha became popular rapidly, so much so that producers from northern Zhejiang currently cannot meet the demand. Each year, producers from other provinces take advantage of this situation by clearing forests to increase the size of their gardens and planting Bai Ye No. 1 to produce their own Anji Bai Cha.
Anji Bai Cha’s attractive appearance is one of the principal reasons that it has become one of China’s most prominent teas in only a few years. The Chinese are fascinated by tea’s visual aesthetic. In addition to appreciating the form and the colour of the leaves, they also have a strong appreciation for the leaves’ movements in the water during infusion. The most sought-after leaves are those that rest parallel to the sides of a glass.
Bai Ye No. 1 meets all of these aesthetic requirements so perfectly that producers do not want to cultivate Bai Ye No. 2, which was recently developed by tea researchers. The leaves of this new cultivar do not unfurl as beautifully in the water as those of Bai Ye No. 1.
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