Semi Wild Silver Needle
This Semi Wild Silver Needle comes to us from one of our well-respected tea foragers, Mr. Fan, also aptly known as “Hunter.”
Many years ago Mr. Fan had taken a position in the forestry department of his local government, in his hometown Zhenge, and was tasked with managing a population of wild boars that were wreaking havoc for local farmers. In 2009, while he was tracking boars in the mountains, he stumbled into an area dense with wild, abandoned tea trees. He was taken aback by the beauty of this discovery: to see so many tea trees, thriving on their own, at home in the ancient forest. And so began his path as a tea forager and producer.
For many reasons, Mr. Fan is a unique tea artisan. Firstly, he does not own any land himself, and he does not have a tea farm. He focuses on crafting tea from wild and semi-wild abandoned tea trees in the mountains, and his wealth is only his understanding of their location and their rhythms.
This tea is made from tea trees that were planted by tea farmers in the 1970’s, and then abandoned as people left the villages for coastal cities. They are of the traditional Zhenghe Dabai (Big White) 政和大白 varietal, situated within thousands of acres of old growth forest, more than 3600 feet above sea level. They grew from seeds that were washed downstream from a river that runs through the middle of the forest. In these vast, old growth forests, the wild tea trees compete with a variety of other types of trees, all seeking precious, diffused sunlight. Thus, the roots of the tea trees extend deep into the earth to draw nutrients, and they grow slowly, accumulating these rich nutrients and compounds in their leaves. We feel this richness in the tea they yield.
Mr. Fan crafts his white teas traditionally: the leaves are naturally withered and dried by sunlight, a slow and delicate process that takes between 48 and 60 hours. However simple it may sound, this method requires painstaking care and attention, along with a great deal of experience to do well.
The leaves must be picked early in the morning and carefully carried down the mountain in bamboo baskets to ensure that the leaves stay intact and are not damaged as they are handled. The fresh leaves are swiftly and carefully spread out on bamboo mats, starting the process of withering. They are first withered in the sun, and their moisture level is monitored closely. When the moisture level is at 40-50% the leaves are moved indoors. Finally, when the moisture level reaches 10-20%, the leaves are gently roasted over charcoal at a very low temperature.
Silver Needle is considered the most precious of all white teas as it is made entirely of the fresh, single buds of the trees. Approximately 30,000 buds are needed to make 500 grams of finished tea. It takes a great relationship with the trees themselves to harvest these fresh buds before they sprout leaves. A very good harvest will depend on an unforeseeable cooperation between the budding trees and the weather.
This Silver Needle has notes of wet bark and oud that point to its wild origin. Its mouthfeel is like suede – soft, creamy, laced with notes of fresh soy milk. By the fourth infusion it has collected a dense sweetness. To drink it is a highly pleasurable experience, and one that refreshes many senses.
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|Steep time||10 - 90 sec|
|No. of infusions||10+|