Palace Needle, or Ocean Green Needle, is a beautiful variety of green tea! Pour out a handful and admire the shimmering greens and yellow-greens—quite truly an “ocean” of greens.
And notice how the leaves have been meticulously rolled into needle shape. When brewed, the needles slowly unfurl, revealing large pieces of intact leaves.
This tea is grown in Hubei—a province in south-central China that has a subtropical monsoon climate and is known as the “Province of a Thousand Lakes.”
The first leaves and buds are plucked in mid-April.
As part of the production process, the leaves are rolled into needle shape, which allows the leaves to oxidate. In other words, you lightly damage the leaf by rolling it. This mechanical rolling breaks the cell walls and allows oxygen to react with the leaf’s oils and enzymes.
Drying the leaf ends this oxidation process, and in the case of Palace Needle, a rather moderate (as opposed to hot steam) temperature is used.
So what gives Palace Needle its mildly sweet flavor?
Well, like about anything, tea is complicated and a plethora of factors contribute (think terrain, climate, plant, growing conditions—just as a start!).
But rolling these tea leaves into needle shape and using a moderate drying temperature give this tea its unique flavor.
(See also my earlier post about why intact tea leaves are desirable and contribute to flavor.)
So in the end, it is not only a beautiful thing to watch the transformation from tight needle into open leaf, but it yields a delightful brew!
Like many green teas, this tea may be re-infused, especially because the leaves continue to yield flavor as they fully unroll. The Palace Needle available from TeaHaus is best brewed at a temperature of 176°F for 2 minutes (1 heaping tsp per 8 oz water).