Silver needle tea, or Bai Hao Yinzhen tea, is a top quality tea produced in the Fujian Province of China. It is among the most expensive and highly regarded of the white teas, which are already a pretty exclusive bunch. Its high quality comes from the fact that it is made from only the top buds of the tea plant, which are picked before they have opened into leaves, giving the tea it’s needle-like appearance. This tea is so exclusive, it doesn’t even contain leaves!
It should only be picked from the end of March to the beginning of April on sunny morning after the dew has been dried from the buds. It is then left to air-dry in baskets with the most traditional producers trusting this process entirely to the elements and the more cautious ones bringing the buds inside, away from the treacherous wind and rain.
Originally an exclusive drink of the imperial family, today silver needle tea is gaining popularity. Although, while strict regulations regarding its production maintain its quality, they also add to it’s scarcity. It’s a sweet, nutty, delicate tasting tea, prized for it’s wonderful flavour as well as for all of the health benefits associated with white teas.
Two varieties of the tea exist; Fuding, grown in the north of Fujian, and Zhenghe, which is grown in the south. Fuding may be baked in the oven to finish the drying process instead of relying on the sun. The southern Zhenghe variety has a stronger, toasty flavour and has a greyer colour whereas the northern variety is lighter both in flavour and appearance. Either is well worth hunting for if you fancy treating yourself. These are the most exclusive of teas, fit only for emperors and those who appreciate their beauty. Certainly worth bringing out the fancy china for.
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