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Tea Review: Organic Silverback White

February 23, 2009

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The thing that initially caught my attention about DAVIDsTEA’s Reserve Collection Organic Silverback White was that part of its name referenced the top member of a gorilla troup, which led inescapably to my curiosity to try it. On a less conceptual level, I was also quite intrigued by a white tea grown and processed in Kenya. Small yield, high labor tea production is the antithesis of what the Kenya plantations are most widely known for, so a white tea is certainly unexpected. This particular tea is grown on one of George Williamson’s estates, at a very high elevation approximately 6500 feet above sea level in the Nandi region. Only 600 kilograms of this white silvertip are produced each year, which makes it quite special.

The Silverback White is, in essence, very similar to the white teas grown in China, but as I had anticipated, the differences in environmental conditions between China and Kenya result in a significantly different character of tea. DAVIDsTEA’s description:

“Kenya has done a magnificent job of growing Asian tea plants and producing traditional teas with flavours all their own. This organic white is a prime example. It has a luxurious, oolong-style flavour, and a rare, haunting finish that evokes the vast African landscape. The nutrient-rich soil, heavy mists and bright sun have all contributed to create an exciting tea worthy of our reserve collection.”

The liquor of the Silverback White is aromatic and sweet, with a faint and pleasant hint of clove. But its most distinctive aspect is the incredible silken feel of the tea in the mouth. In general I would say that compared to other white teas that I have tasted this tea is more fully flavored and slicker. The taste is also a little less grassy. The mouthfeel and scent are quite reminiscent of honey, brought out most prominently in the second infusion.

Like any white tea it should be brewed gently, at around 185 degrees and with the best quality water available. I would recommend brewing it in glass or porcelain. A gaiwan works nicely, but a glass teapot is also appropriate. It exhibited the best of its qualities when I brewed it in a small glass gongfu teapot using lots of leaf and short infusions. This tea can yield four infusions without losing its flavor, although the second is notably the best of the four.

Silverback White is a very lovely and exceptional tea. It is interesting to compare it to Chinese white teas, but it stands admirably on its own merits and is well worth a try. I have tasted it several times and have found it startlingly good each time.

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