White tea is one of the most sophisticated and distinguished tea types. It has a fascinating production technique, boasts a unique taste and invaluable health benefits. But what is white tea?
Let us discover it together.
What is White Tea? History
White tea first appeared as a tea type in the late 19th century. As an experiment, Chinese tea specialists of that time decided to pluck top tea leaves before the traditional harvesting season, and leave the tea to dry in the sun. Thus a new tea type appeared.
White tea was mentioned for the first time in an English publication in 1876. Actually, it was mentioned as black tea in the publication, thanks to some similarities in the production techniques of both these tea types.
For example, just as it is the case with black tea, white tea doesn’t undergo steaming. However, later white tea was referred to as “China White” or “Fujian White”.
What is white tea production technique?
The production process of white tea is very interesting indeed. As a matter of fact, that is what makes this tea type so unique.
Most of the white tea is produced in the Fujian province of China.
First, tender leaf buds from the top of camellia sinensis are plucked. An interesting detail is that these buds need to be picked before the new buds open (that is why Silver Needle White Tea buds remain closed). Therefore, the harvesting process usually happens in early spring (mid-March to early April).
The next and most important stage in the production process of white tea is withering. Actually, almost no other tea types undergo this particular process.
So what is white tea withering process?
This includes spreading tea leaves on a tray and placing them in the sun to extract excessive humidity from the tea leaves. This usually takes about 2 or 3 days.
Interestingly enough, in spite of the reputation of white tea as the least processed of all teas (thanks to the fact that it does not undergo rolling, steaming (also referred to as “fixing”), oxidation, etc, its production process is the longest of all teas, due to the lengthy withering stage.
The next step in white tea production is the baking of it at a low heat, to make sure that all the excessive humidity is gone, then this tea type undergoes sorting into different types, and baking again.
What is white tea? Main types
There are two main types of white tea: Silver Needle White Tea and White Peony Tea.
Silver Needle White Tea
This tea type is the finest white tea type in the world. First of all, there is a particular step in its production technique that it shares with only one tea type, i.e. Gyokuro tea, which makes it so exquisite.
We refer to the fact that Silver Needle White Tea leaves are shaded about three weeks prior to harvesting. This step accounts for the fact that the tea leaves remain closed before brewing, and therefore look like needles.
Silver Needle White Tea is eccentric in every possible way. Its leaves have a very unusual shape, and its taste and liquor are quite extraordinary too. Sounds intriguing? Try some of our Silver Needle Tea!
White Peony Tea
This white tea type, often referred to by its Chinese name Pai Mu Tan (literally meaning “White Peony Tea”) is a very interesting white tea type too.
It may not be as sophisticated as Silver Needle White Tea, but it has its interesting qualities.
First, the production technique of White Peony Tea is the most classic for all white tea types, and the leaves of this tea type are not shaded prior to harvesting.
That is why, since the harvesting process begins early in the spring (just as it does for all white tea types), some of the leaves will still remain closed during harvesting. Therefore, this tea type contains both the silver buds (like those in Silver Needle White tea) and other white tea leaves.
Thanks to the fact that white tea does not undergo any rolling, these leaves will be wide open, and probably take up more space in your teacup.
What is White Tea? Taste and brewing guide
White tea is quite well known for its very delicate, nuanced and subtle taste. Incidentally, this tea type is called “white tea” because its liquor is of a very fair colour (very light golden), and its taste is most sophisticated.
As for the brewing techniques, the ideal brewing temperature for white tea would be 95 C. In order to let the tea brew, leave your white tea leaves in your cup / mug / teapot for 3 – 5 minutes and enjoy your delicate white tea!
Finally, not only does white tea boast a sophisticated taste, but it also contains a number of health benefits. Would you like to learn more about that ? Discover 10 White Tea Benefits !