Behind The Leaf: Silver Needles White Tea

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Dearies we’ve talked about white tea before. This is such a delicate, delicious, beautiful tea. I know we’ve mentioned that there are two main types of white tea, White Peony (Bai Mu Dan) and Silver Needles (Bai Hao Yin Zhen). Silver Needles is the more delicate tea with more fuzzy white buds. I thought it would be fun to focus a little bit more on this tea, since it’s so special.

Silver Needles is grown in the Fujian province of China. It is more costly than other white teas because only the young fuzzy buds are picked. The tea plant used is called Da  Bai, which means ‘large white’. Makes sense, right?

I like to drink Silver Needles in the wintertime, mostly because it’s quite soothing. Everything from the sweet and hay-like aroma to the fuzzy tactile experience of the dry leaves is pure comfort. This tea is comprised only of young, tender fuzzy tea buds. The buds are picked early in the spring, and still have that downy fuzz attached. This is what gives the tea the silvery appearance.

This tea is plucked, then withered and dried. There is a slight oxidation process happening since it’s not steamed immediately like green tea. This is why the leaves are silvery and not a more grassy appearance.

The taste of silver needles is going to be subtle, soothing, smooth and sweet. Notes of honey and slight vegetal notes can also be present. The hay-like aroma of the dry leaves can also be found in the brew.

This is quite a delightful tea that could be enjoyed in the morning or early afternoon. Kat prefers it in the late morning, as she likes a tea that’s a bit bolder first thing. But don’t be fooled by that mellow taste Dearies- there is still a good amount of caffeine in white tea.

To prepare this tea, make sure the water is below boiling. You don’t want to scald the delicate leaves, so using water around 167°F is appropriate. Steeped for about 5 minutes, your cup will be a light golden color, with a beautiful sheen to it if it’s fresh. You can steep this up in a small teapot or a gaiwan.

Dearies, I hope you’ve enjoyed learning more about Bai Hao Yin Zhen! Please feel free to ask me if you have any questions.

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Trying New Teas for the New Year

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Dearies, do you believe in New Year’s resolutions? Kat’s always making a few, and to be honest, she only ends up following through on a few of them. But this year I’ve decided to help her with one of her resolutions: Keeping an open mind to new teas! I think I could be quite helpful with this, especially since I’m the official tea steeper! Are there teas you haven’t tried, or perhaps teas you’ve been hesitant to try? Here are a few that may be new to you, or at least teas that are on your radar, but you haven’t actually tasted:

Gyokuro- Ok dearies, as far as Japanese teas go, I’m sure most of you have tried Sencha, matcha, and possibly genmaicha. But have you tried gyokuro? This tea is a little more expensive than the others, but it has a wonderful flavor that many call ‘umami’. A good gyokuro almost tastes like broth and has a pleasing sweetness. The tea is different from other Japanese greens because it is shaded before harvest. The shading causes the tea plants to reduce their rate of photosynthesis and the result is that special umami taste. Dearies, I’d love to know who discovered this method of cultivating tea, wouldn’t you? If you are interested, you can learn a little more about Japanese green teas in my post here.

White Tea- White teas are very versatile. Young tea buds and leaves are plucked in spring, then withered and dried. They are just barely oxidized as well. White teas have a range in quality, so it’s important to try a few different varities. The various types of white tea have different flavor profiles but they all have a nice freshness since the leaves are so young and fresh. Look for Silver Needles and White Peony white teas. They definitely are unlike any other kids of tea. Learn more about white teas and their flavors in my previous post here.

Puerh- If you’ve had a puerh, you’ll definitely remember it. This is a fermented type of tea from Yunnan that comes in two main categories: ‘sheng’ which is the raw puerh that ages slowly over time, and ‘shou’ which is aged through a more rapid human-controlled process. Since Puerh is an aged tea, you can keep it for years and if stored correctly it should get even better with age. In fact, Kat has a shou puerh that dear Char brought back from Yunnan many years ago. High quality sheng puerh can be very expensive, especially when it’s an older vintage. This is because the aging process is controlled, and requires a skilled artisan to get it just right. A good sheng can be sweet and grassy,if young, and woodsy and slightly leathery if older, and also a bit bitter. Shou puerh is created with just the right conditions of moisture and heat to rapidly ferment the tea. Because it is produced more quickly, it is more affordable. It has a much more pungent flavor with a dark, thick brew. Puerh can be a bit of an acquired taste, but Dearies there are many people that go crazy for it! They collect it, trade it, and drink it daily. Why not give it a try?

Finally, there are so many herbal blends out there that are far different from things like mint and chamomile. Try turmeric, lemon verbena, basil, and tulsi! Herbal teas are all very different, and can even be fun to blend. You can even try them iced, they are quite refreshing any time of year.

Dearies, this is a New Year’s resolution you can stick to! Just pick a few teas and get tasting. How simple is that? Happy steeping!

Tippy’s Tea of the Month: Longjing

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Dearies I know we’ve talked about Green Teas quite a bit, but there is one in particular that is a Chinese staple with an interesting story, Longjing. This tea’s name translates to ‘dragon well’, and is grown only in China’s Zhejiang province. Why is this well-loved tea called Dragon Well? It all goes back to the legend! There are actually a few different versions of the legend, but in my favorite version, a Taoist monk discovered a dragon hiding in an old well. The season had been in drought, and once the villagers learned of the Monk’s discovery they prayed to this dragon to bring the rain and fill the well to capacity. After the prayers, it started to rain! This water flowed from the well and nourished the surrounding tea is grown.

 The tea itself has a flat needle-like shape with a lovely jade green color. This tea is pan-fired which gives it a nutty taste (it often reminds me of chestnuts) with a fresh vegetal aroma. It also has a cooked veggie flavor which we often associate with green beans. The tea is nutty, vegetal and sweet.

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 The quality of longjing depends on when it was harvested. The earlier in the spring, the more expensive the tea will be. For the highest quality, one leaf and one bud is picked. These young leaves and buds create a very gentle, fresh and tender flavor for the tea.

The highest grade leaves are pan fried in small batches in a wok. They  needed to be heated as soon as possible to prevent oxidation. The pan-firing technique creates the lovely nutty flavor you taste in the tea. The leaves are pressed to the sides of the wok to make sure they are properly dried. This also creates the flat needle-like shape of the finished leaves. If your tea leaves have an even color to them, you know they were dried very well, to make sure the heat was even for the whole batch. Lower grades of longjing are also pan heated but usually in large revolving drums. The teas that are machine roasted are still quite delicious and more affordable.

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As with many coveted teas, longjing can be ‘faked’. You may not be getting spring harvested tea, or tea grown in Zhejiang. The best way to tell is use your eyes and mouth. Does it look like a vibrant green tea? Does it smell and taste like early spring? Veggies and chestnut? It is smooth and gentle or is it bitter? If you taste enough good quality longjing you will know what to look for. As always dearies, it’s about tasting, tasting, tasting!

To brew your longjing you can use a gaiwan, or a small teapot. My favorite way is to just add the leaves right in the water using either a bowl style cup or tall glass. Just keep filling up your vessel with hot water as you finish it, re-steeping those beautiful leaves. This is the way it’s commonly consumed in China.  Dearies no matter how you steep it, it’s a beautiful tea. If you try it you’ll understand why it’s so revered in China. Happy Steeping!