Silver Needle: A Chinese White Tea

Picture of silver needle tea and tea leaves
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The delectable beverage known as tea, which is produced from the leaves and buds of the Camellia sinensis plant, is regarded for its aromatic qualities, various flavors, and potential benefits. Since 2700 BCE, this beverage has made its way around the globe and become the second most enjoyed drink on the plant, coming in second only to water.

White tea, one of the basic types of tea, is distinct and highly sought after by tea enthusiasts. Known for being of a high quality, the leaves are delicate and the range of flavor is broad. One variety of white tea that is both expensive and prized is Silver Needle tea, also referred to by its Chinese name Baihao Yinzhen.

Harvesting & Production

Originating in the Chinese province of Fujian, Silver Needle tea was first produced in the late 1700s. The plant that produces this white tea flourishes in a warm climate that gets a moderate amount of rain. More recently, this type of tea has been produced in Kenya, India, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam. 

The most exquisite and highest grade of Silver Needle are harvested somewhere between late March to early April. Other harvests also take place during the late spring, summer, and fall, but the quality is not as good as this initial early spring harvest. 

The only part of the plant that is plucked for this type of tea are the leaf buds, commonly referred to as leaf shoots. Hand-picked to keep the fragile buds safe, the harvest takes place in the morning hours on sunny days. This allows any dew that is on the shoots to dissipate. 

Once harvested, the buds are left in a single layer in the harvesting baskets to dry and wilt for no more than three days. Once this has taken place, the buds are gathered together and baked at a low temperature to finish the drying process. Since the shoots are only lightly oxidized, it offers a distinct taste when compared to other types of tea.

Loose-Leaf Appearance & Fragrance

Before they are brewed into a flavorful cup of tea, the beauty of the gray-green buds should be appreciated. Since the shoots are harvested early in the season, the tips are covered with small white hairs. This gives them a silvery appearance. They are also long and slender, similar to that of a needle.

Not only do the dried buds look attractive, but they smell divine too. Often described as giving off a sweet scent like that of wild honey mixed with a hint of roasted chestnuts, the shoots are alluring to both experienced and inexperienced tea drinkers.

Brewing Loose Silver Needle Tea

In Chinese culture, tea is traditionally brewed in a gaiwan. This three-piece porcelain vessel includes a bowl, lid, and saucer. In order to make a cup of this special white tea, there are four steps that should be followed. 

  1. Pre-heat an 8 oz glass (that will be used to drink out of) and gaiwan by filling both with warm water. Swirl the water around until both have been sufficiently warmed. Then, empty out both vessels.
  2. Refill the gaiwan with 6 oz of hot water. The temperature of the water should be somewhere between 175°F to 190°F. 
  3. Place 2.5 g of Silver Needle tea leaves into the gaiwan and place the lid on top, allowing the leaves to steep for up to three minutes. 
  4. Once the time is up, pour the freshly brewed tea into the preheated cup, straining out the tea leaves, and enjoy! (Don’t discard the tea leaves as they can be used again for two more infusions.)

Appearance, Aroma, and Flavor

Once you have brewed a fresh cup of Silver Needle tea, it looks just as beautiful (if not more so) than it did when it was just dried leaves. Little white hairs can be seen floating around in this clear, pale-yellow beverage, giving almost a sparkling appearance. The strong and fresh aroma complements the smooth and mellow flavor. It has also been described as leaving a subtly sweet and floral aftertaste in your mouth. 


There are a few varieties of Silver Needle tea available today. The two most common types are Fujian Silver Needle and Yunnan Silver Needle. Both have their own distinct taste and are grown and produced in the two different provinces that they are named after.

  • Fujian Silver Needle tea – described as being more on the sweet side, it is considered to the more of the traditional Silver Needle tea
  • Yunnan Silver Needle Tea – with flavors described as malt and woody, it is considered to be bolder than the Fujian Silver Needle tea

Nutrition & Caffeine

One serving of this white tea contains zero calories, fats, carbs, and proteins. As a result, it is considered to be low in nutritional value. Being a white tea, the caffeine content can range anywhere from 6 to 75 mg per serving depending on the variety and how the tea is brewed. It has been calculated that Silver Needle tea contains a higher amount of caffeine than that of other white teas.

Potential Health Benefits

Although it has not been studied, many regard Silver Needle tea as highly beneficial. People have often consumed this beverage to help with boosting the immune system, for promoting heart health, to regulate digestion, and for relaxation.

Silver Needle Tea

This decadent and highly sought-after tea was first produced in China. Made from early spring harvested buds that have been slightly oxidized, Silver Needle tea has a unique taste and appearance. 

From the olive-green buds covered in tiny white hairs and the clear pale-yellow brew, to intense fresh aroma and smooth flavor with a pleasant aftertaste, this white tea is hard to come by and only produced in small quantities. In fact, thousands of buds are needed to produce just one kilo of tea. With those odds, if you are interested in sampling this delicacy, you better get on the hunt now before they’re unavailable!