Silver needle white tea is produced from a tea bush varietal that was developed in 1885. It is one of the highest-quality white teas and is primarily from the Fuding and Zhenghe districts of Fujian province.
Silver needle white tea is selected from new shoots of the tea bush just before they open. These shoots are covered with tiny white hairs which are in greater abundance in the spring time. For this reason, early spring tea is the best quality of silver needle white tea.
Silver needle has to be harvested under very specific conditions. It can’t be raining and if there is early morning dew, it must first dry before the buds can be picked. Buds which have turned purple or are damaged in any way cannot be used for this type of white tea.
After picking, the tea buds are withered under controlled conditions. The withering process is affected by current weather conditions, and adjustments in withering time and techniques must be made according to the temperature and humidity.
Withering is done both inside and outdoors under the sun. Incorrect withering can lead to tea which has a dark or red tint. Silver needle white tea should be a light green color.
After withering, the white tea is baked to remove excess moisture. Once again, the exact temperature and length of baking time can affect the quality of the finished silver needle white tea.
There are several grades of silver needle white tea. The highest grades of finished tea are made up of uniformly-shaped leaves which are fleshy and covered with fine white hairs. There can be no stems and the tea should be a bright color. When brewed, the tiny hairs should float on the surface of the tea giving the impression of reflected light.
History of Silver Needle White Tea
The first white tea was produced in 1796 in Fuding county of Fujian province. It was made from a type of tea bush known as "vegetable white."
Approximately 50 years afterwards a new variety of tea known as "big white" was introduced into the Fuding area and this tea was first used to make silver needle white tea in 1885.
Production of silver needle white tea spread to the Shuijie district and finally to Zhenghe where it began to be produced in 1889. Exports to western countries began in 1891.