Tuesday, April 7, 2009

REVIEW: Silver Needle White Tea, Green Hill Tea

Silver Needle White Tea
Green Hill Tea

Today I review Green Hill Tea's "Silver Needle White Tea." I have not drunk much white tea. This is a taste experiment, for which I can thank George Zhang (again) of Green Hill Tea.

Because I want to learn a bit more about what I'm getting into, I quote the company's Web site:

Silver Needle Tea

White tea is made from pure spring buds and harvested only a few days of the year. Once harvested, white tea is not oxidized or rolled, but simply withered and dried by steaming. Green Hill’s silver needle has exquisitely shaped buds and covered with white down. It has a slightly roasted and sweet taste. White teas are perfect to enjoy in the evening after a light dinner. Avoid drinking them after eating spiced foods, as much of the delicacy of their taste will be lost. .

Brew hint: Place one tea spoon into a cup; add boiling water for 3-7 minute.

And here is a little bit more background, this time from Adagio Tea's Web site.
White tea from China. Silver Needle is among the most revered of Chinese teas, produced in the Fuding and Zhenhe districts of its Fujian province. Gathered only in the few days of early spring, the preparation of this tea is governed by strict requirements to ensure a premium product. This dedication to perfection is evident in the cup, which is sweet and delicate with a clean, airy fragrance.

Almost all teas are handpicked-- at least, the good-quality teas are-- and this kind of tea is quite unusual. Instead of tea made from the leaves of the tea plant, these are made from the buds only. The buds themselves (how I would love to be in a tea garden during its budding, for the fragrance must be astounding) are pale silvery-green, with a white fuzz on the outside. They are perhaps a half-inch long, and are sharp points (hence the name). The aroma is sharp, like fresh-mown hay or grass. It rather tickles my nose to take a sharp sniff! It smells a bit like the feed they give cows on the nearby farm-- rich, with this almost vitamin-like sharpness.

3 cups water filtered through my Brita pot; 6 level teaspoons (because it's not dense at all). Bring water to boil, let cool to around 80F. Steep 3 minutes. Listening to J. S. Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 5, to get me into the proper tasting frame of mind. The music is light, effervescent, and airy, as I expect the tea to be.

This is a very clear cup, with a peach color, transparent to the bottom of the cup. It's very light, but it's still distinct. Very light astringency, but no bitterness at all. There is a very slight burn at the back of my throat. The flavor is reminiscent of cantaloupe, melon....

Ah, that all-important second up. As I always maintain, the second cup in a pot is always the best one, because the complex chemistry of the hot tea has had an opportunity to deepen the flavors, and add layers of complexity that are absent in the first cup. The color of the liquor has deepened a bit, to a richer brown-peach color, though still perfectly transparent. The flavor has become richer, with an almost pinelike overtone. Still a very restrained cup of tea.

I don't have enough basis for comparison (against other white teas), but I would say this tea would appeal to those who want an extremely lightly flavored tea, with no hint of bitterness, but with a very slight bite. The flavors are pretty straightforward, without lots of development on the palate over time (that I can discern), but they still remind one of fruit and pine.

As always, thanks to George Zhang of Green Hill Tea for the opportunity to experience his gift of tea.

(Cross-posted at Facebook.)