White Tea "Jing Gu- Da Bai Cha" or "Dabaicha / Moonlight Tea" (from China Tea Book)

(Jinggu Dabaicha is also considered a type of green tea according to certain definitions)

Jinggu Dabaicha is produced in Jinggu County, Yunnan Province. It is a historically renowned tea that was first created during the Qing Dynasty but later lost. Production was resumed in the 1980s.

Jinggu County is located on the southern side of Wuliang Mountain in southern Yunnan, in the central-western part of Simao Prefecture, with coordinates ranging from 100°02'38" to 101°07'07" east longitude and 22°48'48" to 23°51'41" north latitude. The altitude ranges from 800 to 1700 meters, with tea gardens at around 1700 meters above sea level. The climate is mild, sunny, and rainy, with fertile soil. It belongs to the South Asian tropical monsoon climate, with an average annual temperature of 20.1°C. The coldest month has an average temperature of 13.9°C, and the hottest month has an average temperature of 25.4°C. The area has no frost throughout the year. In the Lancang River canyon below 1000 meters above sea level, in the middle and lower reaches of the Wei River and Xiaohei River, the canyon has abundant heat, with an average annual temperature exceeding 25°C. The low-heat river valleys, hills, and shallowly incised middle-mountain areas at altitudes of 800 to 1500 meters have abundant sunlight, with an average annual temperature of 17°C to 20.6°C. There is abundant sunshine throughout the year, with an average of 2098.5 hours of sunshine annually, and the annual rainfall is 1235 millimeters, concentrated during the rainy season from May to October. The average relative humidity is 76%, with distinct dry and wet seasons. Due to the influence and control of the southwestern monsoon, the area has characteristics of small annual temperature differences, large daily temperature differences, and distinct dry and wet seasons. At the same time, the area's mountains undulate, the rivers cut through, and there is a distinct vertical climate, with various climate types such as northern tropical, South Asian tropical, Central Asian tropical, and southern temperate. Soil types range from red soil, yellow soil, and paddy soil in the basin and river valleys to purple soil, alluvial soil, and paddy soil in the mountainous areas. The soil in the tea-growing areas is mostly purple soil, with deep layers, slightly acidic, deficient in phosphorus, nitrogen, and potassium, with a pH value ranging from 4.6 to 6.5.

Legend has it that around the 20th year of the Qing Dynasty's Daoguang reign (1840), a man named Chen Liujiu, who "ate six bowls of rice a day and wielded a hoe weighing nine and a half catties," went to do business by the Jiangyi River (the Lancang River) and discovered white tea seeds. He secretly picked dozens of seeds, hid them in a bamboo basket, and brought them back to Yongta, where he planted them in a large garden. After decades of cultivation, the tea trees were expanded to fourteen surrounding tea fields, covering an area of approximately 0.2 to 0.3 hectares, producing 200 to 250 kilograms of tea per year.

Currently, the large garden still has surviving Dabaicha trees. Among them, there is a tea tree with a circumference of 88 centimeters at the base, 61 centimeters at the chest, six main branches, a height of 4.26 meters, a canopy of 35 centimeters by 360 centimeters, and an annual yield of 3 to 3.5 kilograms of dry tea. The mother tree planted by Chen Liujiu has now grown for one hundred and fifty-six years. However, the processing method of Jinggu Dabaicha has long been lost.

Through research in the 1980s, the traditional processing technology of Jinggu Dabaicha was restored. After the fresh leaves are harvested, they are immediately hand-fired, then spread out and kneaded. After kneading, they are thoroughly loosened, evenly spread on a bamboo sieve, sun-dried until semi-dry, then kneaded again (referred to as collecting three rounds of dough), shaken, and air-dried. The finished Dabaicha has a beautiful appearance, with prominent white hairs, a fragrant aroma, and characteristics of olive fragrance. During feudal dynasties, it was made into Longzucha, tied into ear-shaped grains with red threads, and presented to the court as tribute, known as White Dragon Beard Tribute Tea.

Today, Dabaicha has been replaced by the method of baking green tea. It is harvested around Qingming, with fresh leaves picked when one bud and two or three leaves just begin to unfold. After firing, kneading, and drying, the tea is ready. Firing: Continuous rolling machines such as 40, 60, and 80 models or bottle frying machines such as 90 and 110 models are used for firing. The firing temperature is 130°C to 170°C. The firing degree is when the leaf edges are slightly dry and scorched, the stems are broken but not brittle, the leaves can be rolled into a ball but still have some elasticity, the aroma is faintly discernible, the color changes from fresh green to dark green, there are no red stems or leaves, the tea is tender but not raw, old but not burnt. Firing time is 1 to 4 minutes.

Kneading: The principle is "knead tender leaves cold, knead old leaves warm, apply pressure lightly before heavily, gradually increase pressure, alternate between light and heavy pressure, and finally knead without pressure. Tender leaves should be kneaded slowly, while old leaves should be kneaded quickly." The appropriate amount of leaves for kneading is about 4/5 of the kneading barrel. The moderate requirements for kneading are that leaves above the third grade should have a strip rate of over 80%, leaves below the third grade should have a strip rate of over 60%, and tea juice should adhere to the leaves, giving a sticky feeling.

Drying: It consists of two processes: initial drying and final drying. Initial drying: The inlet temperature is 120°C to 130°C, and the drying time is about 10 minutes. When the buds and leaves feel prickly, and the dryness is about seventy to eighty percent, they are removed from the dryer and spread out to cool. Final drying: The inlet temperature is 100°C to 110°C, and the drying time is 10 to 13 minutes. When thoroughly dry, they are removed from the dryer, spread out to cool, packaged, and stored.

The quality characteristics of Jinggu Dabaicha are long, robust strips with prominent silver hairs and a green luster. The inner quality is rich, fresh, and fragrant, with a mellow and refreshing taste, clear soup color, uniform and bright green leaves, and buds formed into clusters.


(Source: China Tea Book. Author:  Zhou Jiangjie, Jiang Yongwen )

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