What is White Tea?
Rare, delicate, and delicious, white tea has been compared in flavour to honey, apricots, peaches, and chestnuts. It is subtle and mellow yet still clean and refreshing . White tea is known to be one of the most delicate tea varieties in the world because it is so minimally processed. White tea is harvested before the tea plant’s leaves open fully, when the young buds are still covered by fine white hairs, hence the name “white” tea.
Like all true teas, white tea comes from a shrub called Camellia sinensis. Although white tea is the least processed variety of tea, it requires careful tending, picking, and selection. It is delicate in flavour and lacks the astringency and grassiness of black tea or green tea.
White tea is traditionally grown in the mountains of Fujian Province, China, and consists of the first tender buds, which are covered in soft, silvery-white hairs. Young leaves may also be included. Tea growers pluck the buds and leaves for a few weeks in early spring, then quickly wither and air- or oven-dry them with minimal oxidation. Unlike many green teas, white tea buds and leaves are dried naturally rather than rolled or twisted into different shapes, so they have a fluffier texture. When brewed, white tea ranges in colour from pale yellow to light orange.
White Tea: Green Bud → Withering (72 hrs) → Drying (110°C/65°C)
Many consider white tea to be a product of terroir and from this perspective, the name can only be given to tea from specific cultivars grown in three Fujian Province counties of Fuding, Jianyang, and Zhenghe. However, the label “white tea” is also given to tea produced in other regions of China as well as India, Nepal, Thailand, and Sri Lanka.
White tea varieties
- Bai Hao Yin Zhen (Silver Needle): The most rare and famous white tea, this tea consists only of spring buds and has a delicately sweet taste and floral aroma. True Silver Needle tea comes from Fujian Province.
- Bai Mu Dan (White Peony): This tea consists of the buds and first two leaves. It was originally developed for export to England and has a stronger flavour. It is also less expensive than Silver Needle.
- Gong Mei (Tribute Eyebrow): Consisting of larger leaves plucked after Silver Needle and White Peony have been harvested, this tea has an earthier flavour. “Eyebrow” refers to the curved shape of the leaf.
- Shou Mai (Long Life Eyebrow): Consisting of larger leaves plucked after Silver Needle and White Peony have been harvested, this tea is more oxidized. It is popular in Hong Kong and dim sum houses.
- Darjeeling White: Grown in India, this tea is less expensive and more widely available than many Fujian white teas.
Caffeine In White Tea
Although white tea typically has less caffeine than other teas, this is not always the case. Caffeine content may vary depending on the plant varietal, processing, and brewing methods.
Buying And Storing White Tea
To ensure you’re getting the freshest black tea you can sip, be sure and buy it from a reputable company such as ourselves here at Redber.co.uk
While it won’t really go “bad”, tea can get stale if it sits around too long. Oxidised white tea is more shelf stable than its delicate green tea cousin. Many white teas can last up to one to two years if stored properly in a cool, dark place and in an opaque, airtight container away from light, moisture and pantry items like coffee and spices that can leach flavour into the tea leaves.
Preparing White Tea
To brew the perfect cup of white tea, check out our Redber brew tips below, but always check for brewing instructions specific to the tea you purchased, because many white teas have different ideal brewing temperatures and steeping times. Here are a few general black tea brewing tips to keep in mind:
- Use fresh, pure, cold filtered water.
- White teas are typically brewed for longer periods of time and in hotter temperatures than green teas. Generally, this is somewhere between 90 and 100 degrees Celsius for 3 to 5 minutes.
- If your White tea came with specific recommendations for brewing, use those. But using about 2 grams of loose-leaf tea per 8 oz. cup of water is a safe bet.
- Cover your tea while it steeps to keep all the heat in the steeping vessel.
- Don’t over steep your tea! The longer your tea steeps, the more quickly it will release any bitterness and astringency. Taste your tea after the recommended steeping time and then decide if you’d like it to steep a little longer.
- Most high-quality loose leaf White teas can be steeped multiple times.
- Most white teas, If brewed correctly, are perfect on their own without any additives.
- TeaClass by Adagio – Camellia Sinensis http://www.teaclass.com/lesson_0111.html
The Story of Tea: A Cultural History and Drinking Guide by Mary Louw Heiss and Robert J. Heiss, 2007
New Tea Lover’s Treasury by James Norwood Pratt, 1999
Specialty Tea Institute, com, Teabox.com