"I hope you enjoy this," says tea master Barry Cooper, "because 900 years ago, in the Song Dynasty, it would have cost you your head if you messed with the emperor's tea."
No longer the imperial private stash, silver-tipped white tea remains rare and costly. Called yinzhen (silver needles) in Chinese, it comes only from the topmost shoot on each sprig of the tea bush that has yet to unfurl. For a brief few spring days, this tightly wound shoot is covered with a silvery down. "It has been found to contain," says Cooper, "up to three times the antioxidants of green tea." The apricot-tinted elixir also has a surge of pent-up flavor that is as sweet and lively as a meadow in bloom.
Heretofore almost impossible to find, yinzhen is being introduced in Origins' 115 shops. No need to pay with your head, a one-and-a-quarter-ounce packet will set you back $18. 800-674-4467 for more information.