About White Tea

Prized by the Chinese since the Song Dynasty, white tea has recently been discovered by tea lovers around the world. Produced mainly in China and primarily in Fujian province, white tea is made usually from a particular type of tea plant known as the Da Bai Hao tea bush. The technique of white tea production is relatively new, dating to the late 18th century. It was developed by the Xiao family in northern Fujian province - their goal was to create a more economical tea making process that eliminated pan frying and shaping and minimized roasting. 

The new bud and leaf are plucked in early spring and separated into four different grades: Yin Zhen (Silver Needle), Bai Mu Dan (White Peony), Shou Mei and Gong Mei. White tea contains a higher proportion of buds than other teas. The best quality white tea is made entirely from leaf buds that are covered with downy, white hairs. Unlike green tea which is heated at high temperatures, white tea is dried naturally (this step is known as "withering") -- either in the sun or at low temperatures indoors. This helps to preserve the tea polyphenols. The natural drying process also causes the tea to oxidize very slightly. After natural drying, the white tea is very lightly roasted. The result of this processing is a tea with a savoury and fresh flavor, natural sweetness and notes of melon, honey and chestnut. 

White tea types

During the late 19th century, specific types of China tea plants were selected to make white tea. The buds and leaves from two strains, Shui Xian (Narcissus) and Da Bai (Big White), are typically used for white teas. The highest quality white teas are Silver Needle (Yin Zhen) and White Peony (Bai Mu Dan). Silver Needles is made only from the largest buds; smaller buds, along with the top two leaves, are used to make White Peony.

White tea health benefits

A research study, published in June 2000 by the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, found that white tea contains a higher concentration of anti-oxidants than green tea. In test tube and animal studies, researchers found that white tea was effective in blocking DNA damage from some cancer-causing chemicals. Further tests are planned to confirm if these preliminary findings can be extrapolated to human cancer prevention and treatment.

White tea brewing tips

White tea tastes best when prepared like green tea. Filtered water or spring water will produce the best cup. The ideal water temperature is well below boiling, about 170-180 degrees Fahrenheit. The best white tea, such as Silver Needle, will benefit from even cooler water. Since white tea is generally lightweight, be sure to add a generous amount of leaf -- usually about 1 tablespoon per cup. For the most flavorful cup, we recommend a first steeping time of 4 – 5 minutes. White tea can be steeped several times.