Silver Needle Tasting Session: Brewing, Caffeine & Health Benefits
The Silver Needle that we're evaluating here has a whitish look, because the green leaves/buds are covered by downy white hairs that you'll only see on young buds.
What White Tea Grade Is Silver Needle?
White tea is originated from China and this tea type can be divided in 4 grades: shou mei, gong mei, bai mu dan, and silver needle. This grading is mainly based on the quality of the raw material, with the silver needle being the highest grade due to the high amount of Spring buds. However, this doesn’t say anything about the freshness or processing quality of the end product.
Brewing Silver Needle Tea
We’re brewing this young tea in a glass gaiwan, so we’re better able to observe the leaves and the color of the tea liquor.
After boiling hot water, we poured it into a small pitcher first to let it cool down a bit before brewing. We applied a temperature around 85 C (185 F) and steeped it for 2 minutes. We kept these parameters the same until the third brew, and then increased the steeping time to 3 minutes for subsequent brews.
Brewing this tea with too hot water could result in a less optimal brew. It might turn slightly grassy and bitter, though we believe that this Silver Needle is still pretty forgiving. It's an easy steeper in our opinion.
Though we're using a gaiwan, Silver Needle can also be brewed in conventional teapots and even simple straight glasses. Don't use clay pots though. The flavour of a good white tea is often very delicate and clay pots can easily cover these subtle flavours and aroma's.
The leaves turns vibrant green after steeping, which is quite usual for fresh white tea leaves that are minimally processed. The buds look fatty and full of flavour. We can't wait to try!
Taste & Aroma
The tea taste was very fresh and flowery, but without the grassiness of a green tea. The tea liquor color is light green and the texture is very smooth.
It’s already delicious from the first steep, though the second and third steep are the best. Given our experience of the first brew, we think it could've have done a first quick rinse to awaken the leaves first. Though, white tea often times don't necessarily need a rinse. We don't really worry about impurities either, because the farmer we obtained this Silver Needle from keeps his processing room very neat. The processing steps are fairly simple and don't give much room for impurities either.
5 grams of leaves could last 6 steeps in a gaiwan, which equals about 700 ml (24 oz) of tea. It's a pity that the summer is already passed, otherwise we feel that this could also be a good candidate for a cold brewing session! We cold brewed a Dragon Well green tea before, as you can see in this video on our YouTube Channel.
We don't have the equipment to exactly measure the caffeine level, but judging from how we experienced the tea, we think the caffeine level is actually medium to high. This was especially the case for the 1st to 3rd brew. Most people we've looked into white tea caffeine levels, will read online or in books that white tea have relatively low caffeine levels. This is not necessarily true. There are many factors other than tea type that can affect caffeine levels.
The main factor contributing to the fact that caffeine levels tend to be lower for white tea is because they're often steeped at a lower temperature. This results in less extraction of caffeine. However, white teas that contain of high amount of young buds, such as the Silver Needle in this post, contain more caffeine. This cancels out the effect of a lower temperature brew, which is why we felt this white tea gave us quite a mental boost.
If you're sensitive to caffeine, but still want to enjoy this tea, simply let the water cool down a bit more before you steep. When you're enjoying this tea with friends, then skip the first brew, and let them enjoy it first. You won't miss anything since the second and third brew are the best.
White is generally considered to contain more antioxidants than other tea types. Yes, they're all made from the same tea plant, but because white tea is the least processed type of tea, more healthy components are maintained. Unlike black tea and pu erh, which are fully fermented teas, white tea is minimally oxidised, maintaining it's green/white color. Many believe that white teas aren't oxidised at all. This would take it too far though, as leaves start to oxidise the moment you pick the leaves.