White tea is a type of tea that features delicate flavors and unique processing methods.
It is made from the youngest and most tender leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, which are carefully handpicked and minimally processed to preserve their natural flavor and aroma.
Unlike other types of tea, white tea is not oxidized or rolled, but instead dried and withered in the sun or indoors to produce a subtle and nuanced taste that is highly prized by tea connoisseurs around the world.
In the article, we will explore what white tea is, its history, production, types, and health benefits, and discover why it is one of the most extraordinary and revered teas in the world.
White tea is a type of tea that is made from the leaves and buds of the Camellia sinensis plant (the tea plant) that is minimally oxidized.
Only the youngest, tender parts of the plant are used, which have fine white hairs growing on them giving white tea its name. They are always handpicked before new growth even has time to fully open.
The young leaves and buds are allowed to naturally wither in natural sunlight or in a cool, dry indoor environment for a short period of time. After withering, the leaves are gently dried to prevent oxidation, which is the process that causes tea leaves to turn brown and change their flavor.
The minimal processing involved in the creation of white teas preserves the natural taste and delicate aroma of the tea, resulting in a light and refreshing taste that is highly sought after by tea lovers. It’s the least oxidized true tea, followed by green tea, oolong tea, and black tea from least to most oxidized.
White tea is primarily produced in China within the Fujian province, which is known for producing some of the finest white teas in the world. Within Fujian, the most famous tea growing regions include Fuding, Zhenghe, and Jianyang.
In recent years, other countries have started to cultivate, process, and export white tea. Countries such as India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Taiwan all offer varieties but these regions are less well-known for their white tea production.
The growing conditions for the young tea leaves of white tea are very specific, and the tea plants require a cool, misty climate with high altitude, nutrient-rich soil, and abundant rainfall to produce the delicate, tender leaves that are used to make this highly prized tea.
White tea as we know it today is a relatively new tea. It dates back to 1857 when the first Da Bai tea tree was discovered. This new varietal is also known as the Fuding white tea tree.
By the late 1800s during Emperor Guangxu's rule, silver needle white tea started to become popularized and exported to the West.
However, something like white tea already existed during the Song Dynasty (960 to 1279). Significantly, Chinese Emperor Huizong wrote The Treatise on Tea in 1107, where stated he liked to drink "Bai Cha", which translates to white tea. The tea he was referring to was a type of unprocessed green tea that looked white.
Traveling further back into the past to the Tang Dynasty (618-907), young first flush tea leaves were picked, steamed, dried, and compressed to make tea cakes. The tea cake was then finely ground to a powder, like matcha. The teas were then mixed with water and whisked - again, like matcha.
To me, this matcha-like white tea is extremely intriguing; I'll try one day to replicate it and report back!
Traditionally, white tea was produced from the Da Bai and Da Hao tea varieties in Fujian China, due to their large and beautiful buds.
Nowadays white tea production has expanded to encompass more varietals and regions. This has resulted in different types of white tea emerging from regions outside China. For example, the Darjeeling region in India, famous for its Darjeeling black teas, or the Uva region in Sri Lanka produce their own white tea.
So when shopping for white tea, don’t be surprised to notice that there are many white tea types, each with its own unique flavor profile and processing methods.
Let's explore the most popular types:
Silver Needle is considered the most prized and expensive type of white tea. Originating from the Fujian Province in China, it is made only from large unopened buds of the tea plant, which are covered in white hairs giving the tea its “silver” look. These are gathered in early spring.
Silver Needle tea is known for its delicate, floral smoothness and aroma. Only the youngest buds from the Da Bai tea variety are carefully handpicked and processed with minimal handling to preserve their natural flavor and aroma.
The brewed tea has a pale yellow color and features delicate floral notes with hints of sweetness.
White Peony is the second most expensive white tea. Originally cultivated in Fujian, China, its production has now expanded outside of China. This tea is made from a combination of the youngest leaves and unopened buds of the tea plant.
It has a slightly stronger flavor than Silver Needle, with a floral aroma. When brewed, it takes on a beautiful medium-golden hue.
The Longevity Eyebrow tea, also known as Shou Mei, is made from the mature leaves of the tea plant, which gives it a slightly stronger taste and darker color than other types of white tea.
When brewed, the tea features a pale brown color. It has a nutty and slightly sweet flavor with a floral aroma - a flavor profile that is similar to an oolong tea.
Gong Mei is made from a mix of young leaves and mature leaves of the Da Bai variety of the tea plant. It has a slightly stronger flavor than Silver Needle and White Peony, with a fruity and slightly sweet taste.
Gon Mei is often confused with Shou Mei (above tea). However, despite the similarities, Gon Mei tea is of higher quality. It is considered a third grade tea, whereas Shou Mei is considered a fourth grade tea.
Moonlight White tea is one of the most unique-looking teas. It features large tea leaves from the Jinggu tea cultivar that are covered in white hairs. The back side of the leaves is dark - a color resulting from wilting. The contrast of dark and white colors likely gives this tea its name.
Moonlight white tea has good aging potential so it’s often compressed into cakes - think of it as a white tea pu’erh cake.
Moonlight white tea is mildly fermented and features a smooth floral flavor with hints of sweetness and earthiness.
White Darjeeling tea is a relatively new tea grown in the Darjeeling district of India. It is made using the fuzzy white tips of the tea plant.
The perfect cup has a deep color (despite being a white tea). It is highly aromatic with hints of muscatel grape flavor, a taste note that is typical of the region.
White Rhino white tea is produced in the Nandi Hills region of Kenya, Africa, and is made from the leaves of the tea plant that have been allowed to wither and dry in the sun.
It has a slightly floral flavor with mossy notes and with hints of sweet corn.
Ceylon white tea originates from the Uva region in Sri Lanka. There are two types of Ceylon White: Ceylon Silver Tips and Ceylon Golden Tips.
The Ceylon Silver Tips tea is made from small unopened leaves and buds harvested early in the morning. These are white in color thanks to the hairs that grow on them.
The Ceylon Golden Tips tea is very similar to the Ceylon Silver Tips. The main difference is that the former is cultivated at higher altitudes. As its name suggests, this tea has a pale white-golden color.
Ceylon white features a floral taste with hints of Jasmine.
At 6 to 75 mg of caffeine per cup, white tea generally contains slightly lower levels of caffeine compared to other types of tea such as black tea, green tea, and oolong tea. For reference, the FDA recommends a daily caffeine intake of no more than 400 mg.
However, as you can see, the caffeine content range is quite wide. This is because many factors dictate the amount of caffeine that makes it into your brew.
As such, white tea could have higher caffeine levels than other teas. When it comes to caffeine, it's all about understanding which factors impact the caffeine content of your white tea:
Like all other true teas, white tea contains a unique amino acid called L-theanine. L-theanine is believed to have a calming effect on the body, which helps reduce anxiety and stress. This can create a sense of alertness and focus without the jitters or crash commonly associated with caffeine from coffee.
Undoubtedly, white tea can be a great choice for those who are sensitive to caffeine or looking for a more gentle energy boost.
As we noted though, not all white teas are created equal. So make sure you follow these tips for a low-caffeine white tea.
There you have it! Selecting a low-caffeine white tea is easy peasy.
White tea is considered one of the least processed teas, as the leaves are simply withered and dried in the sun or in a low-temperature oven. This makes it extremely appealing for people who are seeking a healthy beverage.
Some potential health white tea benefits include:
Brewing white tea is a simple process, but there are a few things you should keep in mind to ensure that you get the best flavor and experience.
Here are the steps to follow to ensure you can appreciate the delicate flavors of white tea:
Remember, white tea has a delicate flavor, so it's important to not use boiling water and not to over-steep it. Enjoy the subtle flavors and aromas of your white tea!
Let the battle lines be drawn!
You are going to find people who are diehard green tea enthusiasts and those who prefer white tea. Luckily, you can actually enjoy both distinct tea types and reap double the benefits!
It's true, white tea and green tea come from the same plant, Camellia sinensis. The differences between white tea and green tea lie in the processing method and the parts of the plant that are used.
As already mentioned white tea is usually made from the young leaves and buds, which are harvested before they are fully open. Also, white tea is the least processed of all teas, which means that it retains the most antioxidants and nutrients.
Green teas, on the other hand, are usually made from more mature leaves that are fully open. The leaves are first rolled, crushed, or shaped, to speed up oxidation. This is a key step that does not happen with white tea. The leaves are then withered and then heated, either by pan-frying or steaming, to stop the oxidation process. This helps to retain the natural green color and the delicate flavor of the tea.
So as you can see, green tea is more processed than white tea, but it still retains many of the antioxidants and nutrients that are found in the plant.
White teas and green teas might come from the same plant, but they are processed differently and come from different parts of the plant.
Okay, now you are probably scratching your head and wondering why green tea is more popular than white tea because it sure sounds like white tea is better (some of you gyokuro green tea drinkers might be shaking your head).
Green tea is more popular than white tea for several reasons, including:
Green tea's availability, taste, health benefits, and affordability have contributed to its popularity over white tea. However, white tea is also gaining popularity in many parts of the world, as people are becoming more interested in the health benefits of tea and are seeking out different flavors.
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White tea is different from other types of tea because it is made from the young leaves and buds of the tea plant and undergoes very little processing; it is the least processed tea. This means that it retains more of its natural flavor and nutrients compared to other types of tea.
White tea has a subtle, delicate flavor with floral and fruity notes. It is less bitter than green tea and has a slightly sweet aftertaste.
Yes, white tea is often more expensive than other types of tea because it is made from young leaves and buds that are more delicate and are often handpicked.
It is not recommended to add milk to white tea as it can overpower the flavor of the tea. I also don't recommend adding sugar or sweeteners White tea is one of the most delicate teas and should be enjoyed on its own.
Store white tea in an airtight container in a cool place away from light, heat, and moisture. Do not store it in the refrigerator.
Why not try something a little different, like white tea?
Although it is less well-known than other types of tea, such as green or black tea, white tea is gaining popularity due to its health benefits and unique taste.
If you are looking for a refreshing and healthy beverage that is both delicious and good for you then you'll want to brew up a cup of white tea.
This article is intended for informational purposes only. It is not meant to replace professional medical advice, treatment or diagnosis. Do not consume any type of coffee, tea or herbal infusion if you are allergic to it. The information in this article is not intended to treat serious medical conditions. Please seek professional medical advice before using home remedies.