Don Mei : Hey teaheads! This is Don from Mei
Leaf. In this video, it’s the battle of the provinces, as we do a head-to-head between
the Silver Needle from Yunnan and the Silver Needle from Fu Jian [province]. We’re going
to be doing a comparative tasting to see if we can work out the differences, and whether
or not this Fu Jian Silver Needle is worth the premium price tag. If at any point in
time you enjoy this video then make sure you hit it with a “like”, and if you’re not following
us on all of our socials then go click those buttons. For those of you who don’t know,
“Silver Needle” is any white tea which is made only with the buds of the tea plant.
It is the most ubiquitous white tea out there. Every self-respecting tea seller sells it.
But as always, in the world of tea, there is a chasm of difference between the low-grade
commodity stuff and the top-shelf material. I have done a video already talking about
some tips and tricks in how you can visually identify high-quality “Silver Needle”. A lot
of those rules apply. However, we’re going to now dive into the differences that province
makes in the tea. “Silver Needle” is not protected by origin. It’s not like Long Jing, which
has to grow in Zhe Jiang province. “Silver Needle” can be produced anywhere, as long
as it is a white tea made only with the buds of the tea plant. Therefore, it is being produced
all over China, and in other countries in the world. However, Fu Jian [province] – and,
specifically, Fu Ding in Fu Jian – is renowned and revered as producing the highest quality
white tea. A lot of that is due to the history of white tea being invented in that part of
China. But for the past couple of years we have been sourcing our Mei Leaf “Silver Needle”
from other provinces in China, and I have been receiving a few comments saying, “Why
are you not sourcing Fu Jian – specifically Fu Ding “Silver Needle? Isn’t that meant to
be the best?” Right. Whenever an area is renowned and revered as producing the best of any one
tea a couple of things happen. The first is, obviously, that the price goes up. Demand
for that area increases and increases, and therefore the price can go up. So therefore,
you’re paying an artificial inflation due to the name tag of the location and area.
The other thing that happens is as demand increases in an area there’s more kind of
motivation for producing more and more tea in that area, and therefore you can get a
lot more lower-quality commodity tea being produced in these highly-revered areas, simply
because they’re trying to max out the yield of an area. Now, of course, there are some
incredible “Silver Needle” and white teas being produced in Fu Ding in Fu Jian. I am
not saying anything to the contrary. However, I have felt for the past couple of years,
that your price-to-quality point is much better in other provinces. However, as always, every
year we taste from all the provinces, and this year I found a Fu Ding “Silver Needle”
that I really, really fell in love with, and I had to get a small amount in. So what we’re
going to do today is we’re going to be tasting our “Silver Needle” – which comes from Yunnan
this year – and we’re going to be tasting it against a small-batch Fu Ding “Silver Needle”
to see if we can taste the differences, and if the Fu Ding is worth the extra price tag.
I will tell you right now that this Fu Jian “Silver Needle” is going to be more than double
the price of the Yunnan “Silver Needle”. You can take a little look at the leaves. This
is the Yunnan “Silver Needle”, and here we have the Fu Jian “Silver Needle”. You can
see quite a difference in the look of the leaves. Let’s quickly SCOPE them. [For the]
Season, they’re both spring pickings – both March pickings – however, this one here is
two-year aged, just to give it a little extra body on there. This is 2016 versus 2018. Now,
with Fu Jian, Fu Ding “Silver Needle” [teas] I always find that giving them a couple of
years just increases the intensity of the taste, and really brings out the flavor. [As
for] the Cultivar, this is a Da Bai cultivar, which is the most classic cultivar for white
tea. This is Da Bai Hao, which is a natural variety that grows in Yunnan province. [For]
Origin, this comes from Fu Ding, Fu Jian, and this one here comes from Jing Gu – a very
famous area in Yunnan province to produce white teas. [The] Picking and Processing [is]
very, very similar. They’re going to be bud picking only. There will be some differences
in the way that they’re withered and dried, but essentially, it’s buds that are dried.
And [for] the Elevation – this one here being a Yunnan “Silver Needle” it’s going to be
high elevation – about 1,600 [meters] – versus 800 [to] 850 meters. So [it’s] about half
the height, yet double the price. Right. ‘Let’s take a little look at these leaves. You can
see here that there’s [quite a clear] difference with the Yunnan “Silver Needle”. The cultivare
here is much bigger, fatter buds than these here, which look a lot more delicate, a lot
more whispey, and a lot more kind of fluffy. The color is different as well. This has got
more of that beige, antique silver look to it, whereas this has silver and greens – more
like sage greens – going on in the color palate of these leaves. I am excited to taste. I’m
going to boost this up to 90 degrees [Celsius] – that’s 196 Fahrenheit – and we are going
to taste the difference. As I said, I did get some comments over the years, [like] “Why
are you not sourcing Fu Jian “Silver Needle”?” I think that you’ve always got to watch out,
when you’ve got famous areas for tea, that you’re not getting suckered into spending
more just for the origin. We’re going to heat these pots up just to warm them up, so we
get a nice hit of aroma when we throw these dry leaves in. We might as well warm up all
the teaware. [I’m] very, very excited. I did fall in love with both of these “Silver Needle”
[selections]. But when I tasted that Fu Jian Silver Needle, I remember. I thought, ‘Well,
yup. This is the year we’re definitely going to have to get a Fu Ding in.’ And as I said,
this is two years aged. Now, in my impression, I like it when Fu Jian “Silver Needle” [teas]
are a little bit older. For some reason, Fu Jian – as we’ll see – produces more fresh,
fresh, fresh noted teas, and we want those grassy notes to be amplified, and be complemented,
by the aging process. All right, Yunnan first. Let’s see what we smell. [SMELLS TEA] [It
has] a really interesting aroma. [SMELLS TEA] [It’s] kind of peppery [and] savory. [SMELLS
TEA] I’m getting a bit of hay [and] a bit of meadow air, but [there’s] a distinct salty
kind of cured meats – cured salami – smell to it, which is really, really intriguing.
[It’s a] very, very interesting smell. The Fu Jian [is] totally different. [SMELLS TEA]
I’m getting more marzipans. [SMELLS TEA] I’m getting more nuts, [and] a lot more minerality
coming through the nose, and a slightly fermented tang. That’s not just the fact that it’s two
years old. That’s also related to the cultivar and the terroir in there. You’re going to
get more of a tang with the Fu Jian tea. All right, we’re going to give these a rinse.
As I said, [we have] 90 degree [Celsius] water here, but with white teas you can really,
really experiment. [It] really is one of those teas that you brew to your personal preference.
Some people like to brew it colder and longer, which will bring out more of the texture and
keep things light. Some people like to brew very, very hot, which means you’re going to
get a stronger extraction, obviously, and you’re going to be bringing out more of the
mineral notes of the tea. Right, let’s smell the wet leaves. [SMELLS TEA] [There’s a] big,
big difference. [SMELLS TEA] Ooh! [There’s a] fascinating aroma, definitely different
to your average “Silver Needle”. [SMELLS TEA] Again, I’m getting these wild notes coming
through. Yunnan province – for those of you who don’t know – is the province which produces
more of those wild, tribal teas – specifically [Sheng] Puerh tea – and you’re picking up
that terroir. [SMELLS TEA] It’s definitely got a lot more complex, wild notes coming
through. [SMELLS TEA] What do I mean by that? I’m smelling kind of apples, but apples that
have kind of fallen to the ground and are fermenting on the earth. You’re getting the
sweetness of some honey notes coming through. [SMELLS TEA] Melon comes through, but very,
very, very ripe honeydew melon. [SMELLS TEA] [The] Fu Ding, Fu Jian, again, [is] so, so
different. [SMELLS TEA] I’m getting more floral notes here. [SMELLS TEA] I’m getting some
fresh notes. So the fruits are more like starfruits – more fresh [and] juicy. This has got more
of that wild, forest note to it, whereas this just feels more elegant. [SMELLS TEA] I’m
getting some green tea notes coming through. [There’s] a little bit of milkiness. Again,
[there’s] marzipan [and] nuts. [It’s a] very, very strong aroma – definitely a very, very
strong aroma. This one here [is] just totally different. [It’s] more very ripe – very ripe
[and] more fresh. [That] would be the key difference here. All right, it’s still 90
degrees [Celsius] here. Now, with “Silver Needle” we brew longer than your average for
Gong Fu brewing. We’re going to be brewing about 45 seconds. The reason for that is that
these buds are practically waterproof, so you need time for the water to penetrate those
buds. I would recommend brewing with glass just so you get to see that lovely up-down
bobbing that happens with those fine buds. [It’s] very, very nice. [They’re] definitely
fatter and heavier buds on the Yunnan side, and definitely you can see [that] the color
of the liquor, already, is very different. This one [has] a little bit more browns and
greys in there, [while] this one [is] very, very much verdant and green. Okay. I reckon
that’s about 45 seconds. You can [go] longer. You can brew up to a minute – maybe even a
minute-and-a-half – depending, as I said, with white teas – especially “Silver Needle”
– there’s so much scope for you to play around. What are we using as our tea pet? We’re using
a peanut, for no particular reason other than it was given to me. So the peanut – this is
very weird – but it gets doused with some water – some tea. All right, so let’s pour
these in, and then I’ll show you the difference in the color. You can see here the Yunnan
“Silver Needle” compared to the Fu Jian “Silver Needle”, which is definitely more bright and
green. This one has a little bit more brown in it. You can see the color difference here
as well, very clearly, in the cups. All right. So let’s focus on texture. Now, with “Silver
Needle” you’re looking for soft, syrupy, and thick. [SIPS TEA] [It’s] extremely thick [and]
extremely syrupy. [It’s] very, very soft. That’s exactly what I’m looking for with the
initial mouthfeel when you drink “Silver Needle”. [For the] Fu jian, [SIPS TEA] it’s very hard
not to focus on taste. Just focusing on texture I would say they are similar. [They’re] soft,
syrupy, [SIPS TEA] and very, very thick. All right. All important [is] taste. Now, there
is such a difference between these teas that they almost should be called different teas.
You shouldn’t call them both “Silver Needle”. [SIPS TEA] [With] this one here I’m getting
some juicy fruits. I’m getting a little bit of orange. I’m getting [SIPS TEA] — Mmm!
Surprisingly, [there’s a] very, very clear orange note coming through. [There’s] a little
bit of cream coming through. [It’s] a little bit like if you have those orange, chewy sweets
– slightly creamy sweets; those candies. So [it’s] very, very ripe oranges, [and some
other] ripe fruits. Like I said, [cantaloupe melon], orange melons. [It’s] very, very nice.
It has that wild note to it though – definitely this kind of wild forest note coming through.
[SIPS TEA] [This is] totally different. [It’s] much more in the fresh zones. You’re talking
about green nuts – like acorns [and] chestnuts. You’re talking flowers. [SIPS TEA] [There’s]
much more green tea notes to them – those kinds of milky nuts [and] grassy notes. [SIPS
TEA] The fruits are there, but they’re much fresher. They’re like starfruit, or Asian
pear. Starfruit, I think, is [the closest] that I can come to in describing it. [SIPS
TEA] There’s a distinct vanilla note to it as well, just underneath. [It’s] really, really
delicious, [with a] very, very interesting interplay of milky, nutty, grassy, and slightly
fermented, versus the Yunnan, which is [SIPS TEA] much wilder tasting, [with] much more
of those foresty — but I don’t mean woodsy. I mean, humid and verdant forest notes, compared
to the Fu Jian, [SIPS TEA] which is pretty spectacular tea. Because it has all of the
notes that you’re looking for in a Fu Jian tea. You’re looking for those marzipan notes.
You’re looking for those vanilla notes. You’re looking for those green, sappy notes to the
tea, and it’s all perfectly represented. Take a look at these wet leaves. You can see the
difference in color. And I have taken it upon myself beforehand to just brew up a couple
of buds beforehand so you can see the difference once they’ve been opened up. You can see that
the Fu Jian “Silver Needle” is smaller buds compared to the Yunnan. The hairs are longer
on the Fu Jian, compared to the very short, more kind of creamy, antique silver-beige
color of the Yunnan. You can see that it’s definitely a little bit more green on the
Fu Jian “Silver Needle”. But you can see, very importantly, [that] once I’ve opened
them up they have similar amounts of layers within. It’s very important – if you’ve watched
the previous video I did about “Silver Needle” – that you know that you’re looking for buds
that have multiple layers inside. Because if they don’t, and they only have like a shell,
it usually means that the buds were picked too late, or were coming from a second flush.
Right, let’s brew these up again. All right. I’m not going filtered here, because I like
the texture that the hairs on those buds provide to the tea, so I like to kind of strip them
off and drink them. Right, so [for the] second infusion the thickness looks nice. You can
see the bubbles on here persisting. [SIPS TEA] Okay, so more of the cream is coming
through now. [SIPS TEA] I’m getting the those orange notes, but I’m also getting cream.
But again, it’s sweet and ripe – [like] overripe bananas. [It’s] very, very much this kind
of hot environment that feels like the fruits are just maturing and ripening much faster.
[SIPS TEA] [There’s] definitely honey notes coming through, [and] very much that wild
honey, wild fruits. summer forests taste. [SIPS TEA] This is springtime. Oh! [SIPS TEA]
Mmm! I’m getting some flowers. I’m getting some like blossoms – [like] meadow flowers
[and] orange blossoms. [SIPS TEA] The creaminess is there, [but it’s] a different kind of creaminess.
If this is overripe banana creaminess here — [SIPS TEA] yeah, and oranges… [SIPS TEA]
That one is more like a flowery, nutty creaminess to it. It’s like chestnut flowers, [and] marzipans
– those kinds of creamy notes. [For the] texture difference, [it’s] very difficult when you’re
doing this A/B, but you can start to kind of feel a difference. [SIPS TEA] This one’s
evolving and changing. This one has a softer finish, I would say. It’s softer and smoother,
whereas this one here [SIPS TEA] [starts] off the same. [There’s a] nice thick, syrupy
texture, but once you swallow you get more physicality in the mouth with this one. Certainly,
I feel that this one would go for longer infusions. It has that physical sensation – that drying
to juicy sensation – that’s much more pronounced than in the Yunnan tea. I could do this all
day; the A/B between the wild, the juicy, the orangey, the overripe papayas, the honeydew
melons, the slightly kind of overripe banana creaminess, and then follow it [SIPS TEA]
with ultra-springtime, ultra-sappy… [SIPS TEA] It really reminds [me] of those bud green
teas, like Naked Spring, that have those very, very clear, sappy, spring-like qualities,
but then offset with that age, with that nuttiness, [and] with that slightly [SIPS TEA] Mmm!…
Yeah, just nutty, marzipan and vanilla notes to it. Okay, let’s smell the empty Gong Dao
Bei. [I’m] going to quickly pour these out [to] give [it] a little chance to evaporate
some of the water so I’m not getting a nose full of steam. [It’s] light on the empty Gong
Dao Bei. [SMELLS TEA] Those juicy fruits are coming through. Again, I’m getting things
like honeydew melon, papaya, [and] a little bit of forest honey, but light. The smell
on the Fu Jian [SMELLS TEA] [is] much, much heavier, [and] much richer. [SMELLS TEA] [It’s]
very similar to the flavor profile. I’m getting those nuts – acorns [and] chestnuts. [SMELLS
TEA] I’m getting a slight sourness coming through, [with] a little bit of fermented
fruits, [like] starfruit. [There’s] definitely [a] starfruit sourness. Okay, so which is
better? Well, with the Fu Jian being over double the price of the Yunnan you would expect
the Fu Jian to be a better tea. If you forced me to pick one tea over the other, and I could
only pick one tea, there would be elements of the other tea that I would miss. If I had
picked the Fu Jian tea I would miss that wild, forest Yunnan taste of the Yunnan tea, and
if I picked the Yunnan tea I would miss that really rich, nutty marzipan and creamy notes
of the Fu Jian. However, I think I would miss the Fu Jian more than the Yunnan, and I do
think it is a higher quality tea, in general. But it’s like [when] you have those kind of
single-malt whiskeys, right? If you drink whiskey, you might have one single-malt whiskey
which is your ultra-special, small batch, and you save it for special occasions when
you really, really want to treat yourself. Then you’ll have a single-malt that you’ll
buy, which is a very good quality single-malt, but you can afford to drink it every day,
or as often as you want. [SIPS TEA] It’s the same here. If you had to pick only one – or
if somebody said, “I’m going to give you one as a gift.” – I would pick the Fu Jian “Silver
Needle” every time. But the two of them kind of have different purposes in your cupboard.
This one you can certainly drink more often, and it is a great, great, very interesting
“Silver Needle”. [It] certainly demonstrates what the terroirs in Yunnan can produce, which
is very, very different from that of Fu Jian. The soil, the history of Puerh-making, [and]
the cultivar. All of those differences mean that you get a very, very different-tasting
tea [which is] wild and juicy, [SIPS TEA] nutty, creamy, and sappy. So those are the
differences. The smart person would be picking up this one and potentially aging it further
themselves. Because this one here – [and] probably this one as well – but this one;
after two years, is doing great things. What’s it going to be like after five years? They
both are high, high-grade “Silver Needle” [teas]. I encourage you to check them out,
and you can certainly do this horizontal tasting yourself to see the difference that province
makes. That’s it teaheads. If you made it to the end of this video then make sure you
hit it with a “like”. Follow us on all of our socials, so that you don’t miss out on
any news and videos from Mei Leaf HQ. If you’re ever in London then come visit us in Camden
to say “Hi.” and taste our wares. If you have any questions, comments, or video ideas, then
please fire them over. Other than that, I’m Don from Mei Leaf. Thank you for being a part
of the revelation of true tea. Stay away from those tea bags, keep drinking the good stuff,
and spread the word, because nobody deserves bad tea. Bye [WAVING]

29 thoughts on “Silver Needle White Tea Tasting – FUDING vs JINGGU”

  1. Sounds like a good pairing as opposed to a winner and loser. Or personal preference, I guess, given the differences.

  2. I think that this would definitely be worth a purchase. I don't recall ever trying a silver needle and look forward to the experience. Also, thanks for providing such a great level of detail in your videos. It helped me to discern what to look for and really enhanced my tastings at home.

  3. I had a really great Fujian spring 2018 early summer this year, it is all gone but my notes say it was full of cane sugar, elderflower cordial, lemon biscuits, really buttery. It left honey taste in my mouth and created juiciness. Later infusions got grassier and were less sweet, with bit of soupiness but finish stayed sweet. I wonder what it would taste like now, settled…I did not give it a change to wait in the cupboard. Might get some more together with both Mei Leaf whites and compare all three…well, that would be a session 🙂 right now drinking Wuyishan Da Hong Pao 2008, a very special tea (for a very special price, too)

  4. Was drinking my 2017 batch, newly arrived last month from you. Although it’s from Zhejiang, it tasted more in the direction you describe the Jinggu than the 2016 Batch that ran out a month or so ago. The 2017 is more ripe fruits and honey, whereas the 2016 is indeed more like the Fuding you describe. But as you know, my favorite is White peony over Silver Needle- I find it more rounded and ample. But interesting to have tasted 2 years, and looking forward to trying 2018 soon. 😉 ❤️❤️❤️

  5. A question, another source said that Da Bai (the famous storied cultivar) almost never grows in Fuding any longer. That the climate proved unsuitable there, though it is common in other provinces. They said 90+ percent of the whites from Fuding come from Da Fu, a related but different cultivar but it is still often called Da Bai. Could you comment on different cultivars and whether this is relevant to tea choice. Thanks

  6. I've actually been on board with Jinggu white teas since years before I tried yours (which was excellent), and your description explained a number of things I noticed but couldn't put my finger on, in particular how the "wildness" reminded me a bit of a raw pu erh or even a lighter black tea at times. Tried several from a few vendors and found a rich malty quality in comparison to the supremely bright, flowery Fujian white. In fact, this is similar to my approach with a lot of things. For example, why keep up with the latest fashions and pay premiums when I can buy a sexy outfit off last year's shelf that gets looked over and matches my features and complexion? If anything, I generally try teas from famous regions LAST unless I know I'm buying from a vendor whom I trust to sell quality and not to overcharge me (*waves at you*).

    With that said, I thought I was in a cozy lil niche which my preference for Jinguu teas, but…apparently I'm not alone, and they seem to be growing in popularity. I hope the prices don't surge as a result! :/

    as I'm a fan of voice analogies: Fujian whites are basically the highest, brightest, 20 year old soprano you can find (at times they're so sweet they taste almost gaudy). Jinguu whites are more like an early 30s soprano. Still very bright and pleasant, but more 3-dimensional, more texture, like the top has been mellowed out in exchange for more complexity in the middle.

  7. I haven't checked the channel for a couple of months and I must say, writing the SCOPE on the screen and showing the map of the regions is great!!!
    Also, small suggestions here… make short, monthly videos with the tea/blend/herb of the month. I tend to stick to the few varieties I know and having monthly suggestions would help me expand and discover new things! f
    Cheers!

  8. Hi Don! I know you said you have a lot of videos you already want to make, but I would really like it if at some point in the future, you made a video about the effects of the water you use on the resulting tea brewed from it. I recently tried using some cheap brand of bottled water and the tea tasted TERRIBLE! I had to stop after a couple of infusions and go back to the tap water I normally use, it was that bad. Why might this be?

  9. There's a word Don tends to over-use.
    He likes to say "really really", and really, in most of his really interesting video he really really says he really likes that really really great tea!
    Just an observation, neither criticism nor complaint. Most content creators out there have a quirk of their own.

  10. I could not have dreamt about a better video subject from Don 😀 Trying Silver Needle for the first time was among the most mind blowing moments of my tea learning experience. I do prefer the Fujian over the Yunnan one anytime, though recently I've started to appreciate some of the different notes of the Yunnan one (just at the same time as I've been starting to appreciate more raw Puer!). Anyway I must repeat this tea comparison myself ASAP!

  11. You bring up an interesting subject here about aging tea.
    What other teas do you suggest get better with time (besides pu erh?) What other teas do you suggest be bought and kept to age? How long should they be aged?

  12. Is there a best way to age silver needle tea? Air tight container or allow some air to penetrate – e.g., wrapping in paper…?

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