FUDING NEEDLES is a baihao yinzhen—"silver needle"—white tea from Fuding county, Fujian province, China. Made exclusively with tea buds (the newest furled leaf of a tea shoot), this tea commands a high price and is considered "Grade 1" among the four grades of Fuding white tea (the others being bai mudan (1 bud : 1/2 leaves), gong mei (1/0:3/4), and shou mei (few buds, mostly older leaves)). This grading is mostly arbitrary. It has nothing to do with objective quality markers, but scarcity—there is only 1 tea bud per shoot, but an abundance of increasingly mature leaves down the branch. Zhen Chen, our man in Fuding, can only make so much yinzhen each season. This is the last of his 2018 lot.
Grown at 900 meters, Chen's plot at San Yu tea farm ("3 left"—named so because he doesn't produce gong mei, leaving only the other three grades) is classic Fuding. 15 years running, his white teas have been hand-plucked and air-dried indoors on bamboo racks. This lot was plucked from Chen's younger da bai ("big white") cultivar trees (30 years). After nearly three years of storage, those sugars have developed into tart fruit, and will continue to ease into raw honey and "cooked" flavors.
Our friendship with Chen fulfills a desire to present a classic Fujian white tea production as a foil to our annual Yunnan white tea. The 2018 lots of silver needle and bai mudan are naturally limited, though. Steep Chen's yinzhen at gongfu grammage with hot (not boiling) water briefly for pure sugar, longer and cooler for honey and dried grasses.