Few white teas are as well-known as China’s Silver Needle. Consisting almost exclusively of silky, unopened buds, Silver Needle leaves are plucked by hand during a few select days in the spring harvest. This tea is so prized in China that locals often save their reserves for weddings, the New Year, and other special occasions. Teasenz graciously sent us a sample of their Fujian Silver Needle White Tea for review, and I’m happy to tell you more about this light-as-a-butterfly infusion today.
Teasenz’s Description: “Enjoyed exclusively by the imperial family in China for centuries, the Silky Silver Needle is a top-grade white tea with a soft, smooth, and silky-sweet taste experience. An ethereal cup with a lingering fragrance and refreshing aftertaste. Pure and refreshing.”
Ingredients: Silver Needle white tea leaves
Steeping Instructions: Use 1 tsp of tea for every 3 oz of water. Heat water to under boiling (175 degrees Fahrenheit / 80 degrees Celsius), and steep for 3 to 5 minutes.
Additional Brews?: N/A
Bagged or Loose Leaf?: Loose leaf
Caffeine Level: Low
Silver Needle differs from the Bai Mu Dan White Tea we reviewed in November, starting with the dry leaves. While Bai Mu Dan features both leaves and tips, Silver Needle (whose Chinese name is Bai Hao Yin Zhen) contains mostly tips and few (if any) leaves. The buds themselves are also more greyish-green in color, but they’re lined with a similar downy softness on the underside that you feel compelled to touch. Who knew experiencing tea could go well beyond smelling and tasting? 😉
Silver Needle has a subtle fragrance compared to most teas, including its white tea cousins. I don’t smell anything until I dip my nose closer to the open package. When I do, I find a hay-like scent with grass undertones. A little unusual, but not off-putting. It smells fresh and natural, just as a straight green or white tea should.
I tend not to brew white teas for too long because the leaves are so delicate. So, for my first brew of Teasenz’s Silver Needle, I steep ½ teaspoon of leaves in under-boiling water for 2 minutes. The liquid comes out hay-colored, a deep ivory that borders on yellow. The hay scent dissipates into faintly sweet floral notes. As for the taste… well, it doesn’t remind me of anything specific, but I can still describe it. Crisp, clean, and airy, with a silky smoothness that enhances the weightless mouthfeel. It’s like sipping a fresh breeze or cotton-puffs of clouds, and makes me feel lighter and purified.
Although Teasenz’s instructions don’t call for multiple brews, I thought it would be worth a try with Silver Needle. I ended up getting an additional three steeps after the first one, all of which I liked. With the second brew (3 minutes), the tea turns a pale golden-yellow color and develops a slight hay flavor that matches the aroma. It also maintains its refreshing, chiffon-like profile without a hint of astringency. That distinctive lightness is still afloat in the fourth and final steep (5 minutes), though the tea’s flavors have weakened considerably.
One word of caution: Be very careful about water temperature when brewing Silver Needle. I accidentally let the kettle heat up to boiling one time, and the resulting brew had an uncharacteristic sharpness to it. Not bad, but clearly not how this tea is meant to be enjoyed.
Teasenz’s Fujian Silver Needle White Tea is like liquid gossamer: dainty, fresh, and delicate, with a lingering silk texture that heightens the cup’s ethereality. It’s a wonderfully soothing choice for meditation, journaling, or relaxing after a long day at work. Some tea drinkers may not care for Silver Needle’s nuanced flavors, which are more subtle than most white teas. However, the emphasis with this famed (and fairly expensive) luxury from China is atmosphere, not full-fledged flavor – and it achieves that lofty purpose.
Grade: 8 / 10
- Tea Drinkers Who: Like white tea or teas with low amounts of caffeine
- Time of Day and Year: Evenings year-round, spring and summer afternoons, and anytime for meditation
- Possible Book Pairings: I’ve had a few cups of Silver Needle while reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion The tea’s ethereal quality suits the sprawling classic’s focus on Middle-Earth’s creators and Elves. Also try Silver Needle with Julie Kagawa’s Iron Fey series, C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, and other reads featuring whimsical or otherworldly creatures.
You can purchase Fujian Silver Needle White Tea directly from Teasenz here.
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In addition to being a tea enthusiast, Sara Letourneau is an avid reader and a writer who… well, enjoys writing! Currently she’s working on a novel, and she writes book reviews and articles on the craft of writing. She’s also a published poet with works available in various print and online publications. Visit Sara at her personal blog, Facebook, or Twitter.
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