Chinese Silver Needle, also known as Yin Zhen, is an exquisite white tea grown in China’s Fujian province. Considered to be the most prized white tea on the market (and priced accordingly), this tea is produced from the Camellia Sinensis Da Bai (“big white”) cultivar, which is known for it’s large buds. The first flush leaf buds are picked by hand in the morning after the dew has evaporated off the leaves and laid out to dry before being baked at a low temperature.
A good quality selection, such as the Harney & Sons I am tasting and writing about today, will consist of slender silver colored leaf buds, about an inch long, that are covered with tiny fuzzy hairs.
Being a white tea, you’ll want to steep the leaves for about 3 minutes at 170 – 175 degrees Fahrenheit.
The resulting liquor is a pale yellow / green with a rose colored hint. The aroma of the damp buds is a light floral with a sweet, earthy tone. Some have described the sweetness as a floral jasmine and the earth tones as a sweet hay. Light in body, the Yin Zhen’s taste has floral hint with a sugary flavor builds on the finish. If you hold the brew in your mouth for a few moments with a little swish a subtle vegetal flavor will build.
I do enjoy a good white tea for the natural sweetness it brings to my tongue. The Yin Zhen is by far is my favorite among pure white teas for the subtle nuances that it holds. You’ll want to try it in a quiet place with a clean palate to focus on the hints that linger on your tongue. Otherwise you may only taste “warm water”, as a friend of mine once said as she tried a white tea after drinking a stout black.
The balance of the sugar with the earthy undertone – a lightness, yet grounded – brings to mind the imagery of cairns; to being firmly rooted and stable, yet remaining delicate and sensitive in the same moment; peace and stability in amongst a chaotic world. To me it is a reminder to just breathe.