Most people are familiar with black, green and oolong teas, but their milder cousin – white tea – doesn't get quite as much attention. Known for its pleasant flavor, light aroma and health benefits, this rare tea should be at the top of your must-try list.
What is White Tea?
Pure, delicate and highly sought after, white tea is the least processed of tea types. It’s harvested early, before the leaves open and the buds are still covered in white hairs. These hairs are what give this tea its name.
Once harvested, the buds and leaves are quickly and carefully dried to minimize oxidation. It’s the minimal processing and low oxidation that gives white tea its light, fresh flavor.
Oxidation plays an important role in the type of tea that fills your cup. The variety of the tea plant is important, but it’s how the leaves are processed that really matters. All types of tea – white, green, black and oolong – come from the same plant: Camelia sinensis. Oxidation, or how long the leaves have been exposed to oxygen, is what differentiates black from green tea, or white from oolong.
Because white tea is minimally processed, less oxidation occurs, and more antioxidants are preserved.
White tea is believed to be lower in caffeine than black or green tea, but that’s not always the case. Most varieties are lower in caffeine, but some have just as much black tea.
A number of factors determine the caffeine content of any caffeinated tea, including:
- How the tea is processed
- Where it is grown
- Your brewing method
What does White Tea taste like?
Light, mildly sweet, fruity and floral. These are just some of the words used to describe the taste of white tea. Because the flavor isn’t as bold as black tea or as earthy as green tea, you’ll find a variety of flavored white tea blends. Citrus, berry and lavender are common additions to white tea varieties.
Benefits of White Tea
- Rich in antioxidants – specifically, catechins – that fight free radicals.
- May slow the signs of aging.
- Can lower the risk of heart disease.
- May have cancer-fighting
Types of White Tea
- Baihao Yinzhen (Silver Needle White Tea): One of the most prized white teas, Silver Needle is made only from the tender buds of the tea plant. Because of their delicate nature, buds can only be harvested for a few days in early spring. Silver Needle tea has a light flavor with a gentle, sweet aroma.
- Bai Mudan (White Peony): Sweet and mild, White Peony is made from unopened buds and the two newest leaves to sprout. After harvest, the leaves are left to dry and wither in the sun. This natural oxidation process gives White Peony a stronger flavor compared to Silver Needle tea.
- Shou Mei (Eyebrow White Tea): Harvested later in the season, Shou Mei is made from the withered upper leaf and tips of the tea plant. The stronger flavor of this white tea is comparable to a light oolong.
How to Drink White Tea
To preserve its fresh characteristics, white tea should be brewed at a lower temperature (175° F-190° F) using purified water.
Steeping times vary, but generally should be no more than five minutes.
Even today, white teas are generally hand-picked and hand processed. Although white tea comes at a higher price, its beautiful aroma and exquisite taste make it worth the expense.
If you’re new to the world of white tea, our blends are a great starting point.