Much of the purpose with my White & Pu’erh Teas class is to introduce people to the variety of tastes and aromas (and price range) of the teas which helps further their personal empowerment in exploring these teas.
While preparing for my class the other day, I went back to my STI manual to refresh my memory on the origins of white tea and its evolution in popularity, and there in the margins I’d written “steep Silver Needle for 5 to 6 minutes for best results because bud is tight”. Huh…I’ve been steeping Silver Needle just the same as my other white teas: first steep 3-4 minutes, then subsequent steeps at the same or a little longer. (Yes, the first steep was always a little weak, but I just figured we had to wait till the 2nd steep to get real substance to this tea.) You typically don’t want to increase a first-steep time (beyond recommended) to get deeper flavor because you often get “bitter” instead of more flavor. Enjoying the multiple steeps and letting flavors unfold through shorter steep-times is a common practice.
I had apparently blanked on this note for a 5 to 6 minute first-steep. I don’t recall this recommendation in any of my other tea readings either, but to be fair, I tend to disregard any recommendations for steeping that aren’t from STI because there is so much misinformation out there.
Now that I’ve made a short story long, I shared the new information with the class and we patiently waited out our six minute steep with Silver Needle. Many of the people in this class had experience with the tea and so had perspective. Wow…the difference in taste was truly significant—being much deeper—yet very pleasant, with the liquor having heavier body and color. We all agreed that it was wonderful. Trying it on another occasion, I got great results with two 6 minute steeps.
This is a lovely tea and typically holds up to two or more steepings. I am delighted to find a new experience with it. Always learning with tea…and always loving it.