Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Silver Needle - Bai Hao Yinzhen

Almost as a followup to my previous posting of the Japanese-like poem "The Rider", I would like to devote a post to the delicious tea called Silver Needle, or Bai Hao Yinzhen. This is a white tea, and one of my favourites - I guess I can even say the favourite tea of mine.

If you have tasted this tea, you will have no problems understanding why I would like to write a hymn to it. The taste is more delicate than the smell of dewy roses in the morning, the texture smooth and supple as silk, and both its colour, taste and textuality is of such subtlety that you could almost miss it, if you are looking for a strong green taste to hit your palate.

Let's start with the way this tea looks: Like water with a little sunlight in it. The colour is so pale that you could almost mistake it for water, but there is a golden glow to the water that is unmistakable and hints at what it contains.

Next, if you bend down to sniff the pale gold water, you notice how ringlets of floral notes hit your nostrils, so sweet and watery that you could suspect someone for having opened a phial of eau de cologne in the other side of the room. But no, it is the contents of your cup that is producing this mild, sweet nose-tickling odour.

And then, when your curiosity as well as your mouth and body is intensely tuned into this surprise of a fluid, you raise the cup to your lips, sniff, and take a sip. What now? If you are not sufficiently fine tuned, the taste might pass you by. And this is part of the wonder with this tea! It demands something from you in order for it to reveal its secrets. "Why would I reveal my hidden landscape of white petals and flowery minerals if you behave like a brute and expect me to thunder your tongue with rude, grass-like tones" it whispers with a wry smile. But if you do meet the whiteness with a wide and ready mind, palate and senses, this tea will tell you stories! (I know I sound a bit exalted and exaggerating but the beauty and subtleness of this tea is so appealing to me that I have started a bit of a love affair to it. And haven't people in love always been a bit loud about their objet du désir?)
So, yes, this tea will tell you stories. It will tell you stories of rolling hills and slopes covered with the bush of camellia sinensis, hill after hill of green and juicy vegetation in the Fujian province in China. This is another element of why Silver Needle is such a gem: it is only grown and picked in this province, between March 15 and April 10 - taking care to pick them when it is not raining. Solely the top buds are good enough for this tea, and they are also supposed to be undamaged to be able to call its brew a real cup of Silver Needle. Does this not meet your standards for something rare, pure and refined? It certainy does mine.

Another virtue of this tea is that it is relatively low in caffeine. To me this is really an advantage, as I find it hard to sleep if I drink something close to coffee later than 3-4 pm. This tea I will at least dare to drink up to 5 pm ;-).

Did this post make you feel like trying a cup, or a bowl, or a glass of Silver Needle? Nothing would make me happier.

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