In recent years, “White Tea” has gotten a great deal of press. White tea is a lightly oxidized tea grown and harvested primarily in China, mostly in the Fujian province.. More recently it is grown in both Taiwan and now in Northern Thailand. White tea comes from the buds and leaves of the Chinese Camellia sinensis plant. The leaves and buds are allowed to wither in natural sunlight before they are lightly processed to prevent oxidation or further tea processing. The name “white tea” derives from the fine silvery-white hairs on the unopened buds of the tea plant, which gives the plant a whitish appearance. The beverage itself is not white or colorless but pale yellow.
Alex Zorach, founder and editor-in-chief of Rate Tea shares his experience with silver needle white tea in the article below:
Silver Needle White Tea (Bai Hao Yinzhen) From Unusual Countries Of Origin
by Alex Zorach *
Silver needle white tea, called bai hao yinzhen in Chinese, is among the highest grades of white tea. This variety of tea is minimally processed, like other white teas, and is produced exclusively from leaf buds or tips of the tea plant, not including any fully developed leaves.
Historically, silver needle was produced exclusively in China, in Fujian province. However, due to an explosion of popularity of white teas in recent years, teas in this style have begun to be produced elsewhere in the world, including in some places that even the more experienced tea drinkers would probably think quite unusual. This article explores some of those places.
India and Nepal:
India and Nepal are no strangers to specialty tea culture, especially the northeastern part of India that is home to the Darjeeling district. Darjeeling tea is among the most famous and well-regarded teas in the world. Although this region historically produced only black teas, many gardens in the area have been exploring the production of other types of teas recently, including green tea and oolong. It will probably come as no surprise then that some gardens in Darjeeling, as well as other parts of India, have explored producing silver needle. Similarly, nearby Nepal has also begun producing this and other types of white tea.
I have only sampled one tea that resembled silver needle and was produced in India (in Darjeeling), and I have no idea whether or not it is typical, but I will say that it was quite exquisite.
Silver needle from Sri Lanka, and similar Ceylon white teas:
Teas similar to silver needle are produced in Sri Lanka, where they bear the label “Ceylon tea”, referring to an old name for Sri Lanka. One of the most well-known white teas from this region is Adam’s Peak white tea, a tea that resembles silver needle both in appearance of the dry leaf, and flavor and aroma of the brewed cup. I definitely see the resemblance of Adam’s Peak to the traditional Chinese teas, but it places a novel spin on things; I personally think I even prefer Adam’s Peak tea: it has nuances of orchid, autumn leaves, and pine, which I find absent in most similar Chinese teas.
African silver needle teas from Kenya, Malawi, and Tanzania:
African countries, particularly Kenya, but also Malawi and Tanzania, have begun producing teas in the style of silver needle as well. I have had the fortunate opportunity to sample two such teas from Kenya, and one from Tanzania, and I will say they were quite interesting. The two teas from Kenya that I sampled were like night and day: one had a more evident roast than is typical for silver needle, and produced a darker infusion with a toasty quality. The other was lighter and had a more melon-like aroma, but still darker and deeper than the Chinese varieties.
Try them for yourself:
If you are interested in learning about white teas produced in unusual, non-traditional regions, such as India, Sri Lanka, or Africa, no amount of reading can substitute for actually sampling these teas for yourself. Locate some sources of them and try them for yourself! If you are at all like me, you will not be disappointed!
*Alex Zorach is the founder and editor-in-chief of RateTea, an online community where anyone can rate and review teas, and an authoritative source for information about tea. RateTea has a searchable database of teas, classified by brand, style, and region. Visit RateTea’s page on silver needle white tea to locate sources of this white tea produced in unusual regions.
When choosing to high quality white tea be sure to follow the steps below:
#1 Always order loose leaf and brew the tea yourself.
#2 Choose a quality vendor like TeaSource.com or Rishi.com
#3 Buy a variety of samples first before purchasing a large amount.
#4 Store your tea in a moderate temperature in a air tight, no light, container.
#5 Use within 3-4 months.
Ask questions about the origin of the tea. If the vendor you are using cannot tell you about the origin or estate that the tea was grown at, consider another tea seller.