Today's tea comes from Thailand, Tea Side's Bai Hao Yin Zhen (Silver Needle) #AAA, a Silver Needle that I swear could fool me it was something else entirely. It looks like a Jun Shan Yin Zhen, it smells and tastes a LOT like a Jun Shan Yin Zhen, pretty sure you could tell me I was drinking a yellow tea and I would say 'ok' and not think twice about it. I am not really sure why, this tea is made from the Assamica leaves, and while white tea made from Assamica has its own distinct taste profile (I find it is similar in a lot of ways to a very young sheng) but I have never had one that so resembled a yellow. Perhaps it is because of the region, this is my first Silver Needle from Thailand, maybe they all are like this? Starting with the aroma of the surprisingly golden needles, there are notes of crisp tomatoes, okra, straw, camphor, mushrooms (specifically straw mushrooms) a bit meaty (like a mushroom soup broth) and a finish of distant peony. It is like a cross between a yellow, a sheng, and a white and it boggles the mind!
After steeping, the aroma is a peculiar blend of tomato, hay, okra, corn, hay, menthol, and honey, when I first tried this tea I ended up texting my mom raving about how unexpected and exciting it was, I geeked out hardcore. The liquid is a blend of okra, tomato, hay, sugar cane, peony, camphor, and cedar. That combination of camphor and cedar gives the aroma a very cooling crisp quality.
The first steep is really thick in the mouth, with a strong cooling sensation, it feels like I just breathed in a gust of winter air, filling my lungs with a frigid burst, which I found enjoyable. I first drank this tea when I was recovering from that stupid flu last month, so the cooling felt great on my lungs. The taste is quite sweet, strong notes of starchy sweet corn and peony with undertones of fresh tomato, okra, and hay. There is a very strong lingering menthol notes as the finish and aftertaste, it is a potent first steep.
The second steep does not change much from the first, except for one very distinct way, it is not as sweet. Stronger notes of tomato and okra, with a potent camphor and hay note that lingers. The finish is where the sweetness is, nectar like with hints of peony blossoms and distant sweet corn.
I was able to go a lot of steeps with this golden nectar, even pushing it pretty hard with hot water and long steeps (like I do with my white teas, none of this steeping at 175 nonsense, 195 is the coolest temperature I will go with!) this tea just would not quit. Later steeps were sweeter and starchy, with a mellow corn and okra taste and less of the cooling camphor. Here is where things get really fun though, brewing this in my porcelain (antique if that matters) gaiwan and cup gave me this result...let me tell you what happened when I brewed it in my clay teapot for silver needles...it tastes exactly like a young sheng, strong camphor, hay, honey, apricots, wildflowers, wet straw, and straw mushrooms. This is the strongest example I have seen of tea brewing equipment vastly changing the taste! I think I like the gaiwan version better since it is so similar to a yellow tea, and sadly the clay pot version gave me some of the 'sheng gut rot' so I won't be drinking it that way again. This definitely was one of the most fascinating teas I have run into in a while!
This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.