Guest post by: William Bailey
If you ever tried Silver Needle white tea and didn’t understand why there is so much fuss about it, there might be a logical explanation. Maybe you have bought the wrong tea. Silver Needle is probably the most popular of all white teas, with only Bai Mu Dan or White Peony being able to compete with its popularity and availability. As this tea is found in almost all tea shops around the world, buying it might not always be the easiest task.
Authentic or Non-Authentic?
To understand why, we must first look into the name and origin of Silver Needle white tea. Silver Needle is originally grown in Fujian, but nowadays there are dozens of other places producing Silver Needle – from Chinese Yunnan to Vietnam and Darjeeling, only to count a few. Tea grown in other regions has a very different price and flavor profile. It also undergoes a different processing method and can be made from a different tea variety.
The low percentage of westerners speaking Chinese allowed many name speculations. Some state that Bai Hao is the special type of Chinese Silver Needle white tea, the one that is the most expensive of all, and includes only buds, while the regular Silver Needle can contain leaves as well. This gives the opportunity to set a higher price of all Silver Needle teas and offer tea with a very poor flavor.
Another very often misinterpreted fact is the one on a very low production of Silver Needle. If Silver Needle is often described as rare and precious tea, why can it be found in so many tea shops? Especially if the production takes up only less than 1% of all Chinese teas? The answer lies in its popularity among tea drinkers – they found other types of tea much more desirable, so the need for a white tea production is much lower.
Individually Sourced or Bought From a Wholesaler?
Most of the tea found in western shops comes from specialized tea wholesalers. That tea is specifically aimed at western market, having all certificates needed for a carefree import. The best is, of course, sold out much sooner to prominent tea connoisseurs or vendors with the right knowledge and connections. If the tea has not been individually sourced, there is a higher chance it is not the best in its category and might not have the premium flavor.
With many factors to be taken into consideration, vendors have a huge space for juggling the price of tea and adjusting details to make it more desirable. Very high-quality Silver Needle tea will always come from Fujian, will have a very delicate color and superb flavor even after a few steeps, with lots of fluffy hairs floating on the surface.
Image provided by author.
About the author:
Will Bailey is the co-owner of the boutique tea company known as California Tea House located in Southern California, where you can find an amazing collection of fine, organic loose leaf tea and small batch tea blends.