A guide to white tea
White tea is named after its characteristically delicate silver-white hairs. It is made from young tea buds that are picked and slowly dried in the sun. White tea produces a sweet, light, delicate liquor that is increasingly popular among tea enthusiasts in the West.
growing and production
Varieties: Most white teas are produced from two Camellia sinensis varieties: Big White and Narcissus.
Major growing areas: Zhenhe and Fuding in China’s Fujian Province are the main production areas of white tea, although it is also produced in Yunnan and Guangxi Provinces.
Picking: Immature, unopened tea buds are hand-picked in early spring. The timing of the harvest is critical to the quality of the tea.
Processing: White tea undergoes the least processing of any tea – it is simply picked and traditionally, allowed to wither slowly in the sun. Today it is often dried at a low temperature.
The first references to white tea date back to the Tang Dynasty (618-907), although this was a compressed tea and the production method included steaming. White tea was served at tea ceremonies at the Imperial Court during China's Song Dynasty (960-1279). The leaves were crushed into powder and whisked in bowls, in a manner similar to the Japanese Matcha Tea Ceremony, which developed later. Song Emperor Hui Zong insisted that true white tea could only be picked in the wild and dried in the sun.
The tea varieties that produce the modern white teas we know today, Yin Zhen (Silver Needle) and Bai Mu Dan (White Peony), were introduced in 1891 and 1922 respectively.
white tea varieties
The two main white teas available are Silver Needle (Yin Zhen) and White Peony (Bai Mu Dan).
Silver Needle (Yin Zhen): The most famous white tea, Yin Zhen, is made exclusively from young tea buds. It produces a very pale yellow/green liquor that is light initially, then sweet and delicate. Our Silver Needle is one of our special editions and is often only available in limited batches.
White Peony (Bai Mu Dan): Bai Mu Dan is made from combining buds and young tea leaves. The liquor is darker and more full-bodied than the delicately flavoured Yin Zhen and is usually considered less desirable. However the best quality Bai Mu Dan can be superb with a complex floral aroma and a refreshing, robust, fruity flavour.
white tea health benefits
Because it is so lightly processed, white tea is one of the healthiest teas you can drink. Why?