What is white tea?
White tea is about as natural and delicate as tea can get. This unique, minimally processed type of tea is made from the fresh, half-closed leaves and young buds of the tea plant Camellia Sinensis. Loose-leaf white tea is primarily produced in China, where its history of consumption dates back to the Tang Dynasty. It is also grown in the mountainous regions of India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. Cool, misty weather conditions in these high-elevation growing areas favor the cultivation of white tea.
Why is it “white”?
White tea gets its name from the fine silvery-white hairs covering its young tea buds when they are harvested. But the ‘color’ of your tea is also an indicator of the level of oxidation it has gone through. Though all tea types originate from the same plant, Camellia Sinensis, their production methods (and, by extension, their flavors) are quite different from each other. The longer the tea is oxidized, the darker it gets. Black teas, the darkest of them all, represent one end of the oxidation spectrum. Green teas and oolongs have low to moderate oxidation levels and are lighter as a result. White tea, on the other hand, goes through very little processing, if at all. For loose leaf white tea production, the tea leaves are just naturally dried in the sun.
Types of white tea
There are two traditional types of white tea – Silver Needle and White Peony.
- Silver Needle (Baihao Yinzhen), the finest variety of white tea out there, is native to China’s Fujian Province. It gets its name from the fine ‘silver’ hairs that cover its young buds. Silver Needle is made solely of delicate tea buds, which are generally handpicked. The first flush (the early spring harvest) yields the most delicate and sought-after Silver Needle white tea.
- White Peony (Bai Mudan), a relatively newer variety of white tea, consists of a mix of young tea buds and half-closed tea leaves. It produces a slightly fuller body and stronger flavor as compared to Silver Needle white tea.
New exotic and very special white teas from high altitude regions of Darjeeling in India are just starting to make their appearance.
Tasting notes in reviews
High-quality white tea is usually “sweet and floral.” By comparison, lower grades can be “darker” and have a “smoky and woody flavor.” Regular white tea drinkers describe its taste as “lovely, lingering, delicate and floral” and often find it “lighter, milder and more refreshing than green tea.” It can be brewed into a hot cuppa if you’re looking to “wind down after a long day” or whipped up into a tall glass of iced tea for a “quick energy boost” in summer.
What do you put in white tea?
Because of its uniquely subtle and delicate flavor, white tea is best consumed as is. White tea purists avoid adding milk, spices, lemon, or even sugar to their tea. Not adding anything to your cup of white tea will allow you to experience the bouquet of aromas and flavors that it presents. White tea even has a slightly sweet taste, which means you can avoid sweetening it altogether. However, you can add a bit of sugar or honey and even a slice of lemon if your personal taste asks for it. Or you can go for a white tea blend featuring herbal add-ons that enhance its depth and complexity. As a general rule of thumb, it’s best not to pair white tea and milk.
So little processing, so many health benefits
According to holistic medicine, all teas are rich in antioxidants. However, not all antioxidants are alike; each type has its own set of potential benefits. Antioxidants in Silver Needle white tea (catechins, particularly) are believed to have the ability to metabolize fat and regulate blood sugar. This makes the tea detoxing, slimming, and cleansing in nature. In other words, it’ll serve you well if you’re looking for the health benefits of green tea but dislike its strong flavor. Many tea drinkers consider White Peony to be as rich in antioxidants as Silver Needle. In the holistic medicine community, it is believed to improve circulation by reducing unhealthy cholesterol levels and preventing the formation of blood clots.
The caffeine content in white tea
There are quite a few misconceptions surrounding the caffeine content of tea. The relation between the ‘color’ of your tea and its caffeine levels is one of them. Contrary to popular belief, the caffeine levels in a specific type of tea have nothing to do with its color. Being made of young tea leaves, white tea actually has a fairly high caffeine content. Like other teas sourced from the Camellia Sinensis plant, it also contains L-theanine. Together, caffeine and L-theanine are believed to boost alertness and learning capabilities. Just what you need to get through those dreaded pre-test study sessions!
The role of caffeine in nature was unclear to science until studies determined that caffeine is a natural insect killer. Now we know that for some plants, caffeine acts to protect young leaves from being eaten by insects. This explains why the youngest tea leaves and buds usually contain the highest quantities of caffeine.
- If you’re new to white tea and have a preference for strong teas or coffee, white tea might initially strike you as ‘bland’ or lacking in taste. However, there are countless varieties out there, many of them featuring floral infusions, fruit extracts, or spices to add depth to the flavor and complement its basic notes. Try them out!
- When correctly brewed, white tea should have a warm, pale golden color. Re-steeping the tea usually takes away its delicate flavor and is thus not recommended.
- Enjoy your white tea as a soothing hot brew or a refreshing iced drink; it works well in both cases!
Please note: We don’t give any medical recommendations. All information related to tea’s health benefits in this article is for your reference only and requires further verification. Always do your own research and talk to your doctor if you have questions.
Top 10 best white teas to buy online
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White tea from the Darjeeling region of India. A rare treat from the Rohini estate, nestled along the picturesque slopes of the Himalayas. Similar in appearance to the White Peony tea of China, the Darjeeling version is equally sublime. This early spring tea offers young leaves and delicate unopened buds. Dry leaf aroma is crisp with hints of fruit and floral. The cup offers hypnotic honeysuckle and apricot blossom notes.
Silver Needle Tea
Creamy, spice, sweet. Organic Silver needle is the most sought after white tea and is only harvested for a few days each year in the northern district of Fujian, China. This Chinese Silver Needle tea has a light golden flush with a unique savory aroma and a woodsy body, perfect for any time of day.
Chamomile Rose Silver Needle White Tea
Refreshing, chamomile and rose fragrance. This tea is a combination of Fuding silver needle white tea, and rose and chamomile flowers: the first fragrance you notice is that of the rose, while the first taste is the chamomile. The refreshing flavor of the white tea serves as an excellent accompaniment to the floral scent, and with such a rich flavor, this tea will definitely satisfy your thirst.This tea has many health benefits too, mainly during the summer due to white tea's ability to relieve heat, and chamomile's calming properties to cool you down from the inside out. It is believed in traditional Chinese medicine that white tea, rose, and chamomile all have beneficial medicinal properties.
Moonlight Dragon Ball White Tea
Honey, red dates fragrance. Yue Guang Bai, also known as Moonlight Beauty, is a special type of pu-erh. This tea is made through the same processes of Fuding white tea, which is why it is also considered a white tea. This tea is made entirely from ancient trees in Jinggu, one of the largest growing areas in Pu-er City known for its high-quality white tea; as a result, the fresh leaves are rich in nutrients and have a strong fragrance when dry and a rich, remarkable taste when brewed that lasts through many infusions.This tea is made with material from the Jinggu Dabai variety of tea push, with the plucking standard of one leaf to one bud. It is entirely handmade, and each dragon ball is individually wrapped in white paper that serves well for collection, storage, and transportation. When brewed this tea gives a crystal-clear and bright liquid, with a light honey fragrance accompanied by a hint of an aroma of dried dates.
Organic Silver Needle
High Society' Organic White Tea. Organic Silver Needle white tea is the High Society organic white tea from the Fuding and Zhenhe districts of the Fujian province of China, also known as Bai Hao Yinzhen. California Tea House only carries the top buds available of its kind. This premier loose leaf white tea is picked between March 15 and April 10 when it is not raining, only using undamaged and unopened buds and governed by strict requirements to ensure you are receiving only the finest tea available. Buy Organic Silver Needle tea with our 100% satisfaction guarantee.Organic Silver Needle has a sweet, clean taste and is the Pinot Noir of teas as it is appreciated by the sophisticated pallet of seasoned tea connoisseurs. This tea is best prepared with 1 teaspoon per cup of below boiling water as it is a delicate tea, but you may use a longer steep time than most white teas; up to 3-5 minutes, or to preference.
Pomegranate Preserves, Rosehips And Gourmet White Tea. The gift of a pomegranate is the gift of grace. As the receiver of a pomegranate, you must forgive the gracious giver of anything and everything they may have done wrong in the past. That's the promise of White Peony and Pomegranate tea.Start anew with this truly one of a kind white tea blend of pomegranate preserves, rose-hips and stevia blended with the finest grade of white peony tea. This is very fresh tasting blend that can be enjoyed all day. Buy loose leaf Pomegranate tea with our 100% satisfaction guarantee.Use one teaspoon of Pomegranate Peony per cup of filtered water at just under boiling (170o F) for no more than 3 minutes.
More tea, please!
Isabelle is a freelance writer, self-taught tea nerd, and tea blending enthusiast. She is a herbalist with a strong interest in Ayurveda. Each year Isabelle travels extensively, returning with tea samples from around the world. She is a big fan of handmade teaware and Japanese green teas.