White tea is a type of tea that is known for its delicate flavour, light colour, and unique health benefits. It is made from the young buds and leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, the same plant used to make green, black, and oolong teas. The tea is made from carefully selected, young tea leaves that are hand-picked just before they fully open and are usually only harvested for a few days each year, making it a rare and highly sought-after tea. Harvesting usually occurs in late March to mid April. The leaves are plucked and then quickly dried, often without any further processing. This results in a tea that is lighter in flavour and colour than green, black, or oolong teas and has a subtle, slightly sweet taste.
Types of White Tea
White teas can be classified into five different types: Yin Zhen Bai Hao (Silver Needle), Bai Mu Dan (White Peony), Gongmei (Tribute Eyebrow), Shou Mei (Noble, Long-Life Eyebrow) and Fujian New Craft (DaBaiCha or DaHoaCha).
Silver needle white tea
History of White Tea
White tea originated in the Fujian province of China. For many years it was believed that white tea was discovered during the Song Dynasty (920-1269), however, even earlier references to white tea have been traced as far back as the Tang Dynasty (618-907). At that time in history, white tea preparation was a very different experience than it is today: early harvest white tea leaves appeared solely in compressed cakes and broken pieces were steeped in earthenware kettles.
Although white tea was popularized and widely revered in the Song Dynasty (960-1269), it was relatively unknown to the rest of the world until very recently. Only royals were allowed to consume white tea and it is rumoured that it could only be served as a “tribute” to the emperor by virgins with white gloves as a symbol of honour and respect. One emperor, Hui Zong, became so enamoured by white tea that it literally cost him most of his empire. During this time, ceremonial methods of preparing white tea were very similar to the traditional Japanese tea ceremony for matcha; typically, in powder form and whisked in wide ceramic bowls.
It wasn’t until the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), that the Ming court ruled that only loose-leaf white tea could be served as a tribute to the emperor, thus changing our understanding of white tea processing and its preparation forever.
Tea industry during the Song Dynasty
Delicate Flavours of White Tea
White tea is known for its delicate and subtle flavours, which can range from floral and fruity to nutty and earthy. These flavours are the result of the unique processing method used to make white tea, which allows the natural flavours of the tea leaves to shine through.
One of the most popular white teas is Silver Needle, which is made from the youngest and most delicate buds of the tea plant. This tea has a light and refreshing flavour, with notes of honey, melon, and cucumber.
Another popular white tea is White Peony, which is made from the first two leaves and the bud of the tea plant. This tea has a slightly stronger flavour than Silver Needle, with notes of apricot and honey.
How is White Tea Processed?
The delicate flavour of white tea is due in part to the fact that it is minimally processed, and the leaves are not exposed to high temperatures, which can cause the leaves to release their flavour and aroma. Instead, the leaves are gently dried in the sun or in low-heat dryers, preserving the delicate flavour and aroma of the tea. This results in a tea that is lighter in flavour and colour than other types of tea and has a slightly sweet taste that is perfect for drinking on its own or adding a touch of sweetness to a cup of tea. The absence of heat during processing ensures that the levels of polyphenols (antioxidants) remain high whilst keeping the caffeine content lower than other types of tea.
White tea being processed
How to Prepare White Tea
Preparing white tea is easy, but it is important to follow a few guidelines to get the best flavour and aroma from the tea.
- Use High-Quality Water - The quality of the water you use to brew your tea can have a big impact on the flavour of the tea. For the best results, use filtered or bottled water that is free of impurities.
- Use the Right Temperature Water - White tea is delicate and should be brewed at a lower temperature than some other types of tea. Water that is too hot can scorch the leaves and ruin the flavour of the tea. Heat the water to around 85-90°C before adding it to the tea.
- Use the Right Amount of Tea - Use 1-2 teaspoons of white tea per 240ml cup of water. You can adjust the amount of tea to suit your taste.
- Brew for the Right Amount of Time - White tea should be steeped for 2-3 minutes. Steeping the tea for too long can make it bitter, so be sure to set a timer and remove the tea leaves when the time is up.
Health Benefits of White Tea
Studies have also shown that white tea may have a range of other health benefits, including:
High in Antioxidants - The tea is rich in antioxidants, which can help to protect the body from damage caused by free radicals. These antioxidants can help to improve the health of the heart, skin, and brain, and may also help to reduce the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases. Additionally, white tea is high in polyphenols, which have been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects on the body, reducing the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and some forms of cancer.
Low in Caffeine - White tea is naturally low in caffeine (6-75g depending on origin and brew) which makes it a popular choice for those who are looking for a mild, relaxing drink. Caffeine can cause jitters, anxiety, and sleep disturbances, so choosing a low-caffeine option like white tea may be a good choice for those who are sensitive to caffeine.
May Improve Heart Health - There is some evidence to suggest that drinking white tea may have a positive impact on heart health. One study found that drinking white tea regularly may help to reduce the risk of heart disease by improving cholesterol levels and reducing blood pressure.
May Help with Weight Loss - Some studies have suggested that white tea may help to promote weight loss. One study found that white tea extract was able to increase the breakdown of fat in fat cells, which may help to reduce body weight and body fat.
May Boost the Immune System - White tea is also a great source of catechins, which are compounds that have been shown to have antibacterial and antiviral effects. This makes white tea an excellent choice for those who are looking to boost their immune system and reduce the risk of illness. Studies have also shown that 1 cup of white tea has as much Vitamin C as a kiwi fruit, another agent to help keep those colds and flu away.
White tea is a unique and flavourful tea that offers a range of health benefits. Whether you prefer the delicate flavours of Silver Needle or the slightly stronger taste of White Peony, white tea is a great choice for anyone looking for a light and refreshing beverage that also supports their health. So why not try a cup of our white tea today and see for yourself what all the fuss is about!