Friday, February 24, 2012

Two White Teas - Comparison Cupping

I've been meaning to do a comparison cupping (aka side-by-side cupping) of Canton Tea Company's Silver Needle (Yinzhen / 銀針) white tea and Royal Tea of Kenya's White Whisper for some time now. I've tasted them on their own quite a few times but today will be the first time I've ever cupped them up together.

These two teas are both teas that Cinnabar and I are proud to stock at Phoenix Tea, so please keep that in your mind as you're reading my (some might say glowing) reviews.

I chose two identical cupping sets each with 4 grams of dry leaf.

Silver Needle (SN) is on the left.
White Whisper (WW) is on the right.
(It'll be the same for all photos.)

The first thing I notice is how different they look. The SN leaves are much shorter, plumper and fuzzier, while the WW's are long and straight. The SN also has a more pungent earthy, smoky aroma while the WW's is sweeter, lighter and grassier.

A five minute steep with 170° F water yields two very different cups of tea.

I did 3 infusions using those parameters and the liquors were about the same colors each time.

SN was always several shades darker and more aromatic in a musky, brothy sort of way. It has wonderful body with foresty notes such as pine and cedar. This tea lingers beautifully in the throat.

The WW is markedly sweeter with a sparkly champagne-like tingle that I find so refreshing. The body, like the color, is quite a bit lighter than the SN. The aroma flits about playfully suggesting wild flowers, hay, and honey.

I don't drink white tea very often so after a session like this one my body feels electric. My eyes are wide open and my toes are tapping swiftly. I'll need some food and aged puer soon to help me mellow out.

Even so, I really adore both of these teas. They are complex and rewarding beverages. I couldn't choose a favorite because it would depend on my mood which tea I would pick to drink.


Alex Zorach said...

This comparison was interesting to me. I really liked the White Whisper tea, which is interesting to me because, among white teas, I tend to like ones that fit your written description of the silver needle in this case, than ones that fit the way you described the white whisper tea.

When I brewed this tea it came out darker than I expected, and I remember being surprised at viewing it on other sites. I used a very long steeping time (>5 min), although not a huge amount of lea.

teagirl400 said...

Fascinating comparison. I have yet to try silver needle, but the tea has been on my wishlist for a looong time..

White teas in general tend to complement food quite well, I find. This is probably because they are so light.. yet surprisingly flavorful.

Counting on you for more comparisons in the future! :)


-- OrientalTea