White Hair Silver Needle Tea is the most famous Chinese white tea. Pronounced “Baihao Yinzhen,” Silver Needle Tea is the most expensive and most prized variety of white tea and is generally included among the “China Famous Teas.” The flavor is unlike any other tea: very mellow, delicate and sweet with a slight flowery note.
Where to buy
This tea can be found in most specialty tea shops or through a number of online vendors. If you are unsure where to begin, you can check out some of my recommendations below.
How to Prepare White Hair Silver Needle Tea
The preparation instructions given here are for loose leaf teas. For tea bags, you can just follow the instructions given on the box.
Like all white teas, Baihao Yinzhen should be steeped in cooler water than black or oolong teas.
A temperature of 75-80°C (167-176°F) is a good starting point. To get this temperature, you can just use a simple stove-top kettle to bring the water to a boil and then let it cool down for about five minutes. If you would like to be more accurate in judging the water temperature, you can simply use a thermometer.
If you plan on trying a lot of varieties of tea and/or coffee it might be worth it to invest in a water boiler/warmer or an electric kettle with a variable temperature setting. Personally, I recommend this Cuisinart kettle, because it has presets for every type of tea, so you always get the perfect temperature:
You can brew White Hair Silver Needle Tea in any regular teapot, although I would recommend using one made from glass or ceramic. Many connoisseurs use a traditional lidded brew cup known as a gaiwan.
The gaiwan can be used for Chinese green teas, oolong teas and some black teas as well.
- Fill both your brew cup and tasting bowl about halfway with hot water to preheat them. Tilt them a bit so that the water creeps up the side and then rotate them so the insides get wet all the way around. Then pour the water out. If you are using a teapot and tea cups, warm those up in a similar fashion.
- Put 1 very full teaspoon of tea leaves in the brew cup. If you are using a teapot, use 1 teaspoon for each cup of tea.
- Pour hot water onto the leaves in the brew cup (or the teapot). The water temperature should be below boiling; around 75-80°C (167-176°F) is ideal.
- Place the lid on the brew cup and let the tea steep for 3 minutes.
- After 3 minutes, pour the tea into the tasting bowl, using the lid of the brew cup to hold back the leaves. Enjoy your tea!
- You can get 3-6 infusions out of most Baihao Yinzhen teas. Increase the steeping time 30 seconds to one minute for each infusion. How many infusions you do depends entirely on your taste. Experiment.
Use the amounts given in these instructions as a rough guide. If you find the resulting tea too weak, add more tea leaves; if it is too strong, reduce the amount of leaves used. Similarly, try increasing or decreasing the steeping times.
Many people already have an account with Amazon.com so it is probably the easiest place to buy tea online. Unfortunately, their selection of White Hair Silver Needle Teas is lacking; they have a few decent choices, but nothing exceptional. The best option is the Organic Silver Needle White Tea from Tealux.
My personal favorite online buy is the Organic Silver Needle from Art of Tea. It’s a great tea and isn’t too expensive.
The 2014 Yunnan Baihao Yinzhen from Generation Tea is also a good buy. This company specializes in the highest quality Chinese teas and this Silver Needle is a good tea, but it’s not as good as the one above. It’s quite a bit cheaper, though. The main drawback is having to deal with Generation Tea’s website. It’s not pretty.
If you really want to treat yourself, try Teavivre’s Organic Nonpareil Silver Needle; it’s as high a quality as you’ll find outside of China. Naturally, it has the price tag to match.