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Review of Silver Needle White Tea: Amazing Green Tea 2012 Harvest

Updated on August 30, 2012

Candle and Tea

Photo © Redberry Sky 2012
Photo © Redberry Sky 2012

Amazing Green Tea, the small online tea merchant run by Julian Tai, is one of the first places I bought really high grade loose-leaf Chinese green and white teas, and it was Julian’s Dragon Well (Long Jing) that got me properly hooked on green tea.

As with all my reviews, I have no connection with the company or products I’m reviewing. I don’t sell green tea, and I don’t receive any incentive from any of the companies to write a review.

The Colour of the Infusion

Like all very high quality Silver Needle teas, this one is champagne coloured, and depends on steeping time and freshness for a lighter or darker hue. The photo on the right is of my freshly-brewed tea, a first infusion left to steep for about four minutes. It’s a very clear drink, and although my camera does not pick up fine details or colours very clearly, the tiny silky white hairs that are a characteristic of this variety are faintly visible on the surface in ‘real life’.

Silver Needle 2012 from Amazing Green Tea

3 stars for Silver Needle White Tea
Photo © Redberry Sky 2012.
Photo © Redberry Sky 2012.

Fragrance, Taste and Mouthfeel of Amazing Green Tea’s Silver Needle

The first time I made a cup of this, I was a little disappointed by its weakness. The fragrance wasn’t quite so heavy as I like, the mouthfeel was faint and the taste was very light. But I had been spoiled by the near-legendary perfection of the 2011 white tea harvest, which was not only my first foray into fine teas but also a long cold winter and late spring combined to bring out the best in certain varieties of China’s Teas, like Silver Needle and Anji Bai Cha. To compensate, I tried adding a little extra of the tea leaves the next time I made a cup, and found that this produced a much richer flavour and scent. It does mean that the tea works out a little more expensive because I’m using about four or five grams of leaves per first infusion whereas with last year’s harvest I was using perhaps three, but I’ve found that this holds across all of this year’s Silver Needles – it’s not a failing of Amazing Green Tea, it’s just a feature of the harvest, but if, like me, you prefer a deeper flavour to your white tea, it’s worth adding another pinch or two of the leaves than you normally would.

The Infusions

I got three nice infusions out of the leaves. The first is full-bodied in terms of mouthfeel and has a lovely warm scent and flavour; the second is extremely more-ish and has lighter, almost ‘sparkly’ notes to it; the third is very light, maybe a little too weak for my tastes, but still retains, if quite faintly, the characteristics of the tea and is a very pleasant cup.

Loose-Leaf White Tea

Amazing Green Tea's Silver Needle Loose-Leaf Tea.  Photo © Redberry Sky 2012.
Amazing Green Tea's Silver Needle Loose-Leaf Tea. Photo © Redberry Sky 2012.

Effect of the Tea

Silver Needle is one of my favourite teas because it gives me a very relaxed feel whilst still making me alert and focused. Whenever I have a lot of writing to do for university; when I have to analyse a lot of information and also be creative, I always head for either Silver Needle or Anji Bai Cha. I don’t drink it late afternoon or evening because although the amount of caffeine is quite low in comparison to coffee, it does still have enough to prevent me from sleeping, and I have been kept awake at night when I’ve drunk it too late in the day.

My brewing method

I’m fairly slap-dash when it comes to making loose-leaf tea. I’ve been known to boil the water and then let it cool for a minute (a big no-no amongst connoisseurs as boiling robs the water of oxygen). For the first infusion of this (the 2012 harvest of Amazing Green Tea’s Silver Needle) tea, I put about four or five grams in a glass jug, and poured on about 250ml of water that was just pre-boil – not at a rolling boil, but just with a few bubbles breaking the surface, so the water is roughly about 90-95C. For the second and third infusions I use water at about 80C – when there are tiny bubbles forming in the water, and the kettle’s just starting to build up a good hiss. I let the first infusion stand for about four or five minutes, and the subsequent ones for about two minutes each. There are much more precise ways of brewing, but I’ve always found that the high quality teas I buy are very forgiving and that my methods (if such a lofty term can even be applied to my ways!) give me a good cup of tea for a number of varieties of greens and whites, including Silver Needle.

A glass of Silver Needle; a beautiful champagne-hued liquid.  Photo © Redberry Sky 2012.
A glass of Silver Needle; a beautiful champagne-hued liquid. Photo © Redberry Sky 2012.

The Price

Amazing Green Tea’s Silver Needle is $15 (about £9) for 50g. This will make about 12-15 first infusions (if you use about four to five grams like I prefer to with this), and because the leaves are re-steeped another couple of times, 50g will make about 36-45 cups of tea, which works out to about 37¢ (about 23p GBP) per cup.

Oversteeping

I’ve always found white teas to be the most forgiving when it comes to oversteeping – when I’ve left a jug to brew and then forgotten about it and only ended up straining it about ten minutes later or more, the bitter astringent taste that comes with overlong brewing of black and some green teas has always seemed minimal and faint with white varieties. I have found with this particular Silver Needle, though, that it needs a little bit more attention than others I’ve had, and that if I don’t pour off the liquor as soon as it’s brewed (see ‘My Brewing Method’, above for the timings I use) it does get a bit bitter.

Overall

I like this Silver Needle very much. I don’t think it’s the most fantastic I’ve ever had, but as I said earlier, the 2012 harvest of white tea doesn’t seem to have the same exceptional qualities as the 2011 one, but this isn’t isolated to Amazing Green Tea; I’ve noticed it with quite a few suppliers. This is still a very lovely tea and one that I enjoy immensely

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      Ona 24 months ago

      Apparently, their 2015 crop is great, too. I look forward to trying Mr. Tai's recommendations!

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