Silver Needle White Tea, or Bai Hao Yin Zhen, is one of the most popular types of White Tea! It has a unique appearance — fuzzy white tea tips, soft like bunny ears. The taste is elegant and alluring. One who has tried a quality Silver Needle will likely continue the quest of enjoying only the finest Bai Hao Yin Zhen there is. Read this article to find out what makes it so unique and how to choose only the best Silver Needle Tea!
What Is White Tea?
White tea is the least processed tea type. It is made exclusively from tender and fresh tea buds and leaves. White tea is hand-harvested in early spring when the weather is consistently cool and dry. The processing is relatively simple and doesn't require many steps, compared to other tea types. This is why the quality of the fresh tea leaves is crucial in determining an excellent final product. The result is a tea with delicate flavors, a smooth mouthfeel, and a subtly fruity or sweet finish. White teas usually are less bitter than other teas and tend to be more forgiving of water temperature and infusion times compared to green teas.
Is Silver Needle The Best White Tea?
That will depend on who you ask! There is no one best white tea. It all depends on personal taste and preferences. Silver Needle White Tea, however, is revered amongst tea enthusiasts worldwide.
What makes this white tea so unique is its picking standard. Only the tea buds are picked to make this tea. Teas comprised of only the buds are considered of the highest standard. This is because picking only the buds is a painstaking and time-consuming process. To make just one pound of Silver Needle White Tea, thousands of tea buds are required.
Moreover, it must be picked by experienced, caring hands. Picking it using any tools or machines or by rough hands may cause it to break and over-oxidize. The resulting product may no longer be worthy of being called a Silver Needle!
Compared to other white teas, Silver Needle has a more elegant flavor. It's not rich and robust, but it is complex in its own way.
Why Just The Buds?
The buds are the youngest part of the tea plant. They are the sweetest and purest. The tea plant puts forth the most effort to make these buds. The result is fresh new leaves with the highest amount of caffeine, theanine, and polyphenols — all the good stuff.
The older, bigger leaves begin to develop astringency. This is not to say that teas made from the bigger older leaves are bad. For example, most oolongs are made of older leaves. They are also delicious thanks to their particular processing method. In fact, they have some of the highest price points in the world! However, white tea, being in the least processed state, requires the youngest, sweetest tea leaves.
A good Silver Needle will taste exceptionally alive, giving you a burst of energy and inspiration.
White Tea Caffeine Content
Many people are led to believe that white teas have zero caffeine. This is, in fact, a myth. White teas don't have the least caffeine of all tea. Actually, they often have higher caffeine content. For example, since buds have the highest concentration of caffeine of the entire tea plant, white teas with a high bud ratio will naturally have more caffeine. This amount of caffeine will still be fairly low — about 10% or less of a cup of coffee. Read more.
How Is Silver Needle Tea Processed?
White teas, in general, are very pure and don't require that many steps when it comes to processing (unlike complex oolongs, for example). Silver Needle undergoes the following steps:
- Harvest — only the tea buds are harvested.
- Withering — the buds are withered to get rid of moisture.
- Drying — the buds are further dried and are ready for packaging!
The simple processing means that the original quality of the harvested tea is of exceptional importance. Tea farmers won't have the opportunity to hide any flaws with a complex processing method! What gets picked ends up in your gaiwan, in its purest form.
How To Choose A Quality Silver Needle White Tea?
Silver Needle White Tea originated in Fujian Province, China, in the 1800s. In fact, Fujian province is known as the birthplace of all white teas. To this day, Fujian province is known for its exceptional white teas.
First of all, make sure you know where your White Tea is coming from. Other regions of China produce decent Bai Hao Yin Zhen (Yunnan, for example). However, in recent years there have also been a lot of overseas farms. India, South East Asia, and Africa have also been exporting Silver Needle White Tea. If you happen to try one from these places and like it, that's great! However, a general rule of thumb is, go for the Chinese buds. Furthermore, here are some extra steps to look out for:
- Step One: Buds! The more buds — the higher the quality. And honestly, it should be nothing but buds if you're really going for the silver.
- Step Two: Whole! Meaning, avoid teas with scraps and broken tea leaves. It should consist of whole, sturdy buds.
- Step Three: Silver! Bai Hao Yin Zhen got its name for a reason. Bai Hao, meaning silver, refers to the tea buds' beautiful, lustrous, silver color. Poor quality Silver Needle will be unevenly colored. Some leaves may be much darker and not silver at all. Look for a tea that is evenly lustrous and silver.
- Step Four: Brew! A good Silver Needle produces a consistently delicious brew. The color of the tea liquor should be a clear, pale gold. While an inferior quality tea brew will be cloudy and dark.
How To Brew White Tea: Silver Needle
Water Temperature: 185℉ / 85℃
Western Style: 8g per 500ml; 5-7min infusion
Gong Fu Style: 7g per 110ml; 10sec + 5sec for each subsequent infusion
For optimal flavor, brew in glass or white porcelain teaware. Read more.
A good Silver Needle tastes sweet, fruity, and slightly creamy, with a subtle soy milk aroma.
Cold-Brewed White Tea: Silver Needle
15-20 g per 1 liter. Cover the tea leaves with pure, cold water and sit in the fridge for 12-48 hours. Tea buds take a longer time to infuse into cold water, so the longer, the better. The resulting cold brew will have less caffeine than a hot infusion, with a delightful and smooth taste.
A Special Tea Recipe
If you are not opposed to blending teas, try this special recipe of ours:
Equal parts of Bai Hao Yin Zhen & Moonlight Beauty Raw Pu-erh, brewed at 190°F.
You will get a very sweet, gentle brew. If you’ll get to try it – please report back to us with feedback. We would love to know your opinion!
For more information on Silver Needle White Tea, we recommend checking out this very comprehensive article by Tea Curious.