Silver Needle is China’s most famous white tea. It is composed solely of plump, juicy buds picked during the first growth of a new spring season.
It is renowned for its delicate, mellow flavour, with hints of malt, honey, cucumber and melon. It is extremely easy to infuse without becoming bitter, and because it is sweet and easy-going, it is a great introduction to fine loose leaf tea.
Our selection is produced in Fuding, Fujian province, China from the Fuding Da Bai cultivar of tea tree. This cultivar is renowned for its ability to produce the full, large buds, so important to this tea.
Fuding is a beautiful and serene place, often shrouded in clouds and interspersed with icy waterfalls and crystal clear lakes. It’s has rich, red soil and biodiversity, perfect for tea production.
Picking is of buds only: each bud is individually picked by hand and it takes around 70,000 pickings to make 1kg of finished tea. The picked buds are carefully spread over bamboo mats or trays in a single layer and left to wither naturally.
Withering is a crucial stage in all tea production. It allows the moisture in the fresh leaf to slowly and naturally reduce and the natural flavours and aromas to come out through the molecular changes that take place. The tea can’t be withered too quickly otherwise the aroma in the tea doesn’t come out and pockets of water are stuck in the leaves, leading to bitterness.
Traditionally-produced white tea is allowed to wither for four days. This process takes up a lot of time and space (the leaves have to be thinly spread and not piled up). Unfortunately it is now rare that these methods will be used. Usually, the tea will be withered for just a couple of days, then assisted with machine drying.
During the withering process, care is taken not to bruise or damage the leaves as this can cause oxidation. A very low level of oxidation is inevitable though, and is very much part of the correct finished product. This oxidation gives the tea an extra dimension of richness and complexity. You can see small patches of red on the leaves after infusing, where the leaf has oxidised.
After withering on trays like those shown above, the tea is then very gently dried at 40-50 °C until the tea’s moisture content is reduced to around 10%. The tea is then packed as soon as possible after production, to ensure that it remains fresh for as long as possible.
We have to pay more for our tea to be made with these methods. This traditional process brings out much more depth, flavour and aroma in the tea and preserves the fresh notes reminiscent of melon and cucumber. The resulting cup is soft, sweet and full, unlike many fast-produced white tea, in which you will find some harshness and ‘greenness’ to the taste.