Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Bai Hao Yinzhen

Its another cloudy day, I like clouds. We re-arranged some of the rooms in our house, and now I have a place to make tea in the back that provides me with a view of our back yard. The back yard is one of my favorite things living here. It helps me forget that the Interstate is 100 yards away, and some of the busiest shopping areas in West Ft. Worth are less than a mile in either direction. Sitting back here in the mornings on my days off, drinking tea, forgetting I live in Texas, has become a highlight of my day.

Since receiving my shipment of wuyi oolongs from Tea Spring, I've been itching to write about them; wuyi cha and I seem to be made for each other. But I was distracted by Mary's blog, so I find myself drinking some bai hao yinzhen from Rishi instead.

I'm sure by now most people are familiar with white tea, or bai cha (白茶), but for those of you who don't, I happen to have a whole folder of POS material from Rishi, so I'll fill you in.

Production of 'authentic' white tea is limited to Northern Fujian, in Fuding, Zhenghe, and Jianyang Counties. The leaves are picked from specific bush varietals including Da Bai (大白) and Da Hao (大毫). The leaves are picked, withered, and dried, and that's about it, making it the least processed of all teas.

Brief History of White Tea:

  • 618 - 907: Compressed cake tea is listed in ancient Tang Dynasty tribute tax records as white tea.
  • 960 - 1279: Song Dynasty records list a type of imperial tribute tea as white tea.
  • 1796: The unique withering process of loose leaf white tea is developed.
  • 1889 - 1891: Original production and and export of bai hao yinzhen.
  • 1922: Original Production and export of bai mu dan.

Tea: Bai Hao Yinzhen (白毫银针), White Hair Silver Needle
Origin: Fuding, Fujian, China
Year: ?, Spring (I wish they'd post harvest dates).
Vendor: Rishi-Tea
Price: $66/lb, $9.99/Retail Tin (C.M. price)

Rishi's Silver Needle is hand harvested from Fuding Da Hao bushes, and like other silver needles, uses only first flush buds picked for just a few weeks in spring. This is also the first certified Organic white tea imported to the US.

I've had numerous white teas from Fujian, Yunnan, and in various places in India, but in my opinion, nothing can compare to Fujian silver needle. My palate is not refined enough to pick out individual nuances of fruit or what not. It has an extraordinary cooling effect with a wonderful mouth feel. More often than not, I start to sip this tea and end up gulping the whole cup. Its very refreshing.

Notice the fine white hairs:
You want to be sure to use enough leaves, about 3.5 - 4 grams or a heaping tablespoon for 8 oz.. I use water between 180 - 185 F. I start off with 5 minutes and add a minute and a half for each subsequent brew. White tea tends to be very forgiving, so even if you fudge the brewing parameters you will get an enjoyable cup regardless. Indeed there is a wide variety of opinions on things such as steeping time, so experiment and find what works for you.

In terms of white tea, I don't think it gets better than this. I give it a 5 out of 5.


ankitlochan said...


would like to send you some real nice white teas. please can you mail me your adress.


Unknown said...

Thanks for posting this. I'm a new tea drinker - started for the health benefits and to cut off my coffee habit - but now I'm hooked. I just bought tin of this online and can't wait to try! Keep it up, great blog.