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It is said that the famous Tieguanyin oolong tea, the leaves are picked by monkeys and then given to the humans who care for them. The best green tea is from the plant Camellia sinensis var. sinensis which tastes fresh, comes from China and Japan. Meanwhile, the best black tea is from the Camellia sinensis var. assamica, which tastes bitter because of the high tannin content and becomes firm when a little burnt, comes from the highlands of Assam in India and Java in Indonesia.

One of the most famous tea leaves in the world, its name Da Hong Pao is picked from the oldest tea plant which is more than 300 years old grown in the Wuji Mountains of Fujian. That tea plant grows on the sidelines of barren rocks, like a bonsai that can withstand natural selection. The processing technique of this oolong tea dated back to the Ming Dynasty.

In Yunnan South China, the assamica variety tea shoots are made of Pu Erh tea which is fermented twice as much, taking up to hundreds of years to process. It tastes like earth and is dark reddish in color. The Yunnan area is historically the origin of the first immigrants to the Malay Archipelago or maritime Southeast Asia.

In Indonesia, generally, the tea plant of the assamica variety is the most delicious to make black tea and drink it with rock sugar. This creation is proven to increase the consumption and production of black tea. This contrasts with the tradition of Yunnan. Its natural bitter tea flavor was introduced by the famous physician Hua Tuo in the story of the Three Kingdoms (Sanguozhi Yanyi). “The bitter taste of tea forms a good and healthy mentality.”

Learning from nature and apes, white tea is picked from the youngest tea leaves. The white tea can be made of ​​any tea variety chinensis or assamica. The most important thing is that the young leaf is not yet open and thin like a needle, still fluffy, and has a smooth white color. So, the production of white tea is very limited. One the most expensive of the white teas is Bai Hao Yin Zhen (Silver Needle) which is produced in Fujian province in China.

White tea leaves are soft, naturally sweet, and have a distinct aroma from green, oolong, black or red teas. The antioxidant content is the highest among the other types of teas. Brewing it using water before boiling, the color of the brew is clear. Sipping it lightly so you can feel its distinctive aroma and taste. Its soft pulp is still edible and healthy.

Recently I specially brewed three kinds of white tea from three plantations in West Java: Mount Satria, Sambawa, and Cukul. I visited those plantations at the end of the last millennium, where I touched the leaves and fertilized the roots with the “black gold” vermicompost or worm castings. The white tea collections on the photo were given by my dear brother who is involved in the management and development of the tea plantations.

The tea plantations showed promise after the application of the worm castings in combination with reducing the artificial (inorganic, synthetic or chemical) fertilizers. It is because the tea plants produced healthier leaves (bright green color) and tended to increase the production of the new tea leaves.

Hopefully, drinking white tea regularly can nourish the body and the mind remains clear, shiny metallic like millennium color, while still in the hard time or new normal in this pandemic. Cheers!

-Bintoro Gunadi