In this deep dive we head to the ancient tea terroir of south west China to explore our current batch of Jasmine Silver Needle, a sweet and floral white tea. These silvery buds are infused with the true flavour of jasmine blossom, which at its best, is a taste that’s both supremely delicate and intense.
In this piece we’ll be discovering the unique, authentic process that is used to craft our Jasmine Silver Needle and how, with patience and precision, this tea is brought to life over two distinct seasons. You’ll also find out how it tastes and get our tips on how to make it at home so you can really explore and enjoy this tea for yourself.
Origin: Yinpan Garden, Yunnan, China
Cultivar: Camellia sinensis var. sinensis ‘Yunkang’
Name: The name refers to the silvery needle like buds that have been scented with jasmine blossoms.
Style: Hand-scented white tea
Terroir: Rich soil and high mountains.
Picking Season: Spring 2019
Leaf: Fine, pale and silver downy buds.
Infusion: A soft silvery-yellow colour.
What kind of tea does Yinpan garden produce?
The ancient tea gardens of Yunnan have produced tea for millennia and it’s one of the most celebrated terroirs in China. Yinpan garden sits among these and is known for producing refreshing, sweet and complex white tea and silver needle, a style of white tea comprised of just the freshest buds of the tea plant. The particular Yunkang cultivar of tea plants that grow in the garden were actually developed by the Tea Research Institute of Yunnan in the late 70s. They wanted to grow hardy and resilient tea bushes that produces large, flavourful buds which are perfect for silver needle tea.
At over 1,000m the garden also benefits from plenty of hydrating, high mountain mist and cooler temperatures – the perfect environment for slow growing, nutrient packed tea bushes. The best season for making white tea in Yinpan garden is the spring, right after the winter dormancy when the plants begin sprouting fresh and tasty buds. These are considered the most prized part of the plant as there is only a relatively small yield of buds on each tea bush before they open into full leaves. These are carefully picked in early March to April and really capture the best of that pure spring character.
How did we source this batch of tea and who made it?
The process for creating our jasmine scented teas occurs over two distinct seasons in two distinct provinces. That makes finding Jasmine Silver Needle one of the hardest sourcing challenges that we face annually - between the two step process and the journey between the provinces, there are many opportunities for the tea to spoil. We arr very fortunate to have met Guo Ronglong, tea maker of Yinpan garden, who's care and precision in his production has meant that for the last ten years, his has been the best Jasmine Silver Needle we've tasted every season.
Guo Ronglong begins his process in very early spring with the picking of the freshest buds from his tea garden. These buds then go through a simple, but very precise process to create the delicately sweet and refreshing Silver Needle white tea, which form the perfect base to compliment the floral intensity of the jasmine scent. Creating the Silver Needle tea is done by withering the buds, sometimes just by laying them out on a bamboo tray in the sun. The buds will lie out and wither for around four days before a final drying with heat is done, this ensure the tea is fully dehydrated. During the withering Ronglong stays very close to the tea, checking that the buds are drying evenly, this is where his care and precision is key. Being too heavy handed can result in bruising or breaking of the tea buds, which leads to oxidation and this taints the final flavour. When Ronglong is happy with his dried Silver Needle, the tea is placed into airtight cool storage to await the arrival of the jasmine season when scenting can begin.
Once the summer sun of early June begins to shine, the jasmine plants of neighbouring Guangxi province begin to blossom. Guangxi is considered the true home of the jasmine flower in China and it produces 60% of the world’s jasmine. With the bushes coming into bloom Ronglong's Silver Needle buds are carefully transported to begin the traditional and intensive scenting process. As with the tea buds, the jasmine buds are picked early in the day and with great care to avoid disrupting their natural scent, which only lasts for 24 hours once picked. The flower buds are then layered and gently mixed with the tea buds where, overnight, they are left to open and impart the intense and wonderful scent directly into the tea. By morning, the jasmine flowers are fully open and the process must be started all over again. The flowers are removed by hand and replaced with fresh pickings. In the case of our Jasmine Silver Needle, this occurs for five consecutive nights and is a real labour of love, but well worth it for the final result – an intensely sweet and completely naturally scented jasmine tea.
Find out more how Tom, our head of Tea, sourced this year’s jasmine teas here.
What is this batch like to drink?
You may have tried cheaper jasmine teas, usually served over-infused in restaurants to cut through savoury food. These can be sickly sweet, oily and in some cases very bitter, having been infused with an essential oil that smells fantastic but tastes inauthentic. By comparison, our Jasmine Silver Needle is much more authentic and gives a fuller jasmine experience. It’s wonderfully delicate but also richly intense with genuine jasmine fragrance and a sweetness that lasts into the finish. The white tea does a great job of adding a syrupy thick structure to the infusion, as well as some hints of leafy freshness and fruity melon. But ultimately, it lets the jasmine take centre stage for a sweet and deeply fragrant infusion that does not disappoint.
Where and when is this tea for?
As this tea is fairly delicate, I find it can be enjoyed at most times of the day. It’s perfect to get you going and lift your spirits in the early morning, or as an indulgent treat in the afternoon. I would say though it is best suited for warmer days when you need something that’s easy, sweet and refreshing to keep you cool. If you want our tips on how to maximise your refreshment, then see below for how to cold-infuse your jasmine tea.
What is it like to make and how easy is it to get a good taste?
Single Serve, using a 250ml pot and cup
Jasmine Silver Needle is very easy to make well - the jasmine fragrance is so sweet and it doesn’t tend to go bitter. To make sure you get the best of the jasmine in your infusion, we like to use water that’s cooler than boiling, around 80˚C. This helps make sure the infusion is soft, with plenty of space for the Jasmine aromas.
This is our go to method: 4g; 250ml; 80˚C; 3-minute infusion
As well as the drink being refreshingly cold, infusing your Jasmine Silver Needle with cold water will give you a different concentration of flavour compared to when you make it hot. This is because cold water brings out less of the structure and potential bitterness from the tea. Less structure means more space in your drink for the sweetness and floral notes to show themselves, making this is a great way to explore some of the more subtle flavours in your tea.
It’s also really easy to make, just simply add your tea to a bottle or jug of cold water and leave it to infuse. This works best if you leave it overnight in the fridge to fully extract the fully sweet flavour, then pour over some ice for maximum refreshment. We like to make it in litre batches to have enough for a long, hot day or as perfect summer party serve.
Method: 1litre of cold water; 18g of tea; infuse for 4-12 hours in the fridge.
Who is this tea for?
Being sweet and accessible, this tea is a great one to start with if you’re looking to get into loose leaf tea. Especially if you’re used to cheaper supermarket teabags, the authentic fragrance and unparalleled sweet flavour of Jasmine Silver Needle is a sure way to begin exploring a whole new world of tea. This tea is also perfect for those who love their herbal infusions like rose and chamomile but are looking for a tea with similar authentic floral character.