Delicate Differences: Silver Needle and Bai Mu Dan White Tea
White tea is prized for its delicate flavor profile, and two Chinese white teas are the most revered of all: Silver Needle and Bai Mu Dan. Both of these teas are light bodied and full of subtly sweet flavors. The main difference between these two teas is which leaves are selected during plucking.
When thinking of white tea, words like ethereal, light, floral and muscatel come to mind. This special tea derives its name from the white fuzz on some of the buds and youngest leaves.
White teas are harvested early in the season, typically springtime, when the plants carry the most buds. These teas undergo the least amount of processing of all tea types. When brewed, the liquor is light gold in color with a lovely floral fragrance.
Silver Needle White Tea
The name Silver Needle White Tea describes the soft, silvery down that covers the long, thin buds. This premium white tea is considered the “grandfather of white teas” where only the longest and largest buds are harvested. Buds are withered only and may only be 5% oxidized. The flavors are extremely delicate; sweet honeyed hay and vegetal notes coming forward.
The pale-yellow infusion yields a light, melon aroma with an earthy sweetness and smooth, clean finish. This tea has no astringency whatsoever. The soft, creamy mouthfeel lingers with delicately warmed sugared notes in the finish. Silver Needle’s pure character and sophisticated flavor offer a complex experience unlike any you’ve had before.
Bai Mu Dan White Tea
Bai Mu Dan, also called White Peony, is harvested by selecting the bud and first two leaves of the tea plant. This is a pretty tea as the leaves are bright green on one side and brown on the other, and a mix of buds that are a little thicker than those in Silver Needle. Because fewer buds are included, Bai Mu Dan is often considered an everyday white tea since it is less expensive. But it is every bit as special, with notes of honeysuckle and mild herbs.
The rich gold infusion smells sweet, peachy and slightly floral. Flavors are nutty, with notes of fresh wildflowers. A green, herbaceous flavor hints at thyme, while the overall character is a perfect balance of sweet and savory. Savor pure Organic Bai Mudan, or try one of our flavored blends like Golden Pear or Blueberry White.
Brewing White Tea
Both brews have a subtle sweetness, while the Silver Needle is a bit vegetal, the Bai Mu Dan is more herbaceous. The liquor of Bai Mu Dan is slightly more robust because of the inclusion of extra leaves, and the flavor is a little bolder as well.
Brew both of these delicate teas with care. Water should be at 170°- 185°, well below boiling. Steep for about 3 minutes. For more about water temperatures and steep times see our Tea 101 Page, and visit our Tea Types Page to learn more about white tea.
White teas need to be kept fresh and stored properly. Check out our tea storage tins; they’re both attractive and functional.