Almost entirely unprocessed, white tea is made from the Camellia sinensis tea plant and is beloved for its light, soothing flavors, not to mention its plethora of health benefits. But what makes white tea, white tea? Read on to learn find out.
Where is white tea grown?
White there are a number of regions that produce white tea (Sri Lanka, India, Kenya and Colombia to name a few), many in the tea world feel that “genuine” white tea must be produced in China’s Fujian province. It should be noted, however, that other tea producing regions have taken the Chinese white tea making process and made it their own to produce some really lovely – and interesting – white teas.
How is white tea made?
The tea bushes in Fujian province are a particular cultivar of Camellia sinensis called Dai Bai, also known as “the great white cultivar.”
The tea bushes lie dormant through the winter months until mid-March and mid-April. As soon as the first signs of spring arrive, the tips of the tea plants are picked. These shoots are coated in tiny, downy white hairs, which gives white tea its name. (If you see that your white tea is “hairy,” nothing is wrong with it! In fact, this fuzz is a mark of high quality!)
The first two weeks of production are the most important, but also the most delicate. The leaves are not cut or left to oxidize. Rather, they are simply dried in the sun, or, in poor weather, may be lightly dried in an oven-like device. Rain is certainly a danger to the tea, as just a bit of moisture can completely ruin the delicate leaf at the time of plucking. Therefore, tea leaves are typically picked in warm sunshine.
An old Chinese tale claims that white tea was once reserved specifically for royalty, and because of that, it was only picked by young virgins in white gloves!
What are the types of white tea?
The most popular types of white tea are known as Silver Needles and White Peony.
The highest grade (and most expensive) of white tea is Bai Hao Yin Zhen, or Silver Needles. This special tea takes its name from its needle-like appearance; the tea is made exclusively from the delicate buds of the tea plant, which are long and slender. This tea has a beautiful, light flavor, a full bodied mouthfeel and is easily the clearest liquor of any tea.
Next is Bai Mu Dan, or White Peony. Hundreds of years ago, many teas would be named for various types of flowers, symbols of the aristocratic classes.
White Peony tea is made from the bud of the tea plant, as well as the top two leaves. These leaves give the tea a stronger, more complex flavor than that of Silver Needles but is still quite light in character. This tea is often boasts a characteristic melon-like (or melon rind-like) flavor.
Is white tea good for me?
Boasting the highest concentration of antioxidants among the teas, white tea has been consumed for its medicinal benefits for centuries. More recently, it has been shown to have countless positive effects on our health and wellbeing, from promoting skin health to preventing cancer and other illnesses.
Learn more about white tea’s health benefits here.
Where can I buy white tea?
Looking to try white tea, or add new varieties into your daily tea ritual? Check out our all-organic, premium-grade White Peony and Aquarius Tea Stars here.