Let's talk about the most famous White Tea...Silver Needle!
Silver Needle has a seemingly legendary status among tea drinkers. For those just getting into White Tea and premium loose leaf tea, it's usually that mysterious tea in the tea shop, tucked away on the top shelf with the extraordinary price tag dangling from its dusty container. But what exactly is it? And why is it always so dang expensive?
The secret is in the leaf, or more correctly, the bud. Obviously, right? I mean this tea is called "Silver Needle" because it literally looks like silver needles. But that really is precisely the key to everything special about this tea. It's what makes it so healthy, expensive and what gives it that unique flavor.
In general, the teas most widely consumed are a "leaf set". They usually contain 1-3 leaves and sometimes a bud. Depending on the type of tea, they could be withered and dried (White Tea), or pan fired (Chinese Green Tea), or steamed (Japanese Sencha) etc. But the point is that they are more than just a bud.
On the left- "Bud Only" Silver needle On the right- "leaf set" White Peony
Silver Needle on the other hand is ONLY the bud. These buds are picked only during a certain time of year, when the plant begins to flush and push out new buds after a dormant winter season. These fresh little buds are nutrient packed, tender shoots, full of delicate flavors. They are highly prized for their flavor and quality by growers and drinkers alike because they make the best tea, and because of this, they are sold for more money. They are small too, which is problematic for growers. If you are growing silver needle, you need skilled pluckers to carefully pop off each little bud, which is nestled among the other little leaves, and since you can't have any leaves in your silver needle, this needs to be done right. You can probably see why these teas fetch a premium price, right?
In Silver Needle you get this super rare combination of a bud only, antioxidant powerhouse, sublimely flavored, minimally processed tea that is totally unique in the tea world. There is literally nothing quite like it. Traditionally, Silver Needle is the specialty tea of Fujian Province in China. Growers in Fujian have perfected their technique for processing the leaves and have actually bred tea cultivars specifically for use in White Tea. The famous Da Bai (large white) cultivar is frequently used for top shelf Silver Needle and White Peony.
Since we are White Tea specialists, of course we sell a top grade Fujian sourced Silver Needle with handpicked buds of the Da Bai cultivar! But we also sell a Silver Needle from Yunnan province, where a totally different climate, soil, and cultivar produce a completely different Silver Needle. So which one is better? That is personal preference. Fujian sourced Silver Needles seem to be better balanced, more refined, and more mellow. Yunnan sourced buds tend to produce white teas that are super fruity, very floral, and more robust in flavor. Either way, you can't go wrong. My advice is to try both!
As always, if you have any questions about Silver Needle or White Tea, don't hesitate to email me.
Cheers! Now go drink some tea.