White tea is recognized as one of the gentle tea varieties because it goes through minimal processing. In order to produce white tea, the tea plant’s leaves should be harvested before it opens fully. The buds should still be covered with fine white hairs, that’s why it’s called white tea. The buds and the unfolded leaves of the tea plant are harvested then swiftly and accurately dried. This is because the leaves are not allowed to oxidize as long as black tea and green tea leaves do. This low oxidation and slight processing of the white tea gives it a delicate and fresh flavor.
Origins of White Tea
Sometime between 600 to 1300, a tea custom was developed during the early Chinese imperial dynasties and tea drinking as well as tea culture became popular in the country. This custom obligated the citizens to pay a yearly tax to the Emperors to form rare and beautiful teas. This created the imperial tea tribute, which is made from the newest, youngest, and most subtle buds from the premium tea plants.
As the imperial tea was created, imperial tea gardens were also developed to cultivate these rare and honoring teas. During the rule of Emperor Huizong of the Song Dynasty, new tea buds were harvested in spring then steamed, stripped off their outer leaf then they are carefully washed with spring water, cautiously air dried, and then crushed and grounded until they turn into a silvery white powder. They mix the white powder into hot water to create the most delicate tea that only one person in China could afford to consume, and that’s the Emperor.
Types of White Tea
The white tea was first commercially produced in the 1700s from the white tea plant that was discovered in China’s Fujian province, and these are the Da Bai and Da Hao tea plants. Because white tea is made from minimally processed young tea buds, it is difficult to store and transport them without spoiling. That’s why back then, white tea was rarely available outside of Fujian province. Over the years, the production of the white tea improved, which enabled the white tea to be brought outside Fujian province and into other parts of the world as well. Today, several countries outside China are producing their own versions of white tea. These are some of the most popular white tea in the world:
- Bai Mudan or White Peony – This is a new variety of white tea that is produced in China and other countries around the world. This type of white tea can be cultivated from an original Chinese white tea plant or from another tea plant variety. The Bai Mudan or White Peony usually includes some buds that are mixed with barely opened young tea leaves.
- Darjeeling White Tea – This white tea variety is not grown from the original Chinese white tea plant. This is from the tea plants that are native to the Darjeeling province of India. The processing method of the Darjeeling white tea is like how Fujian white teas are produced, but they tend to have different flavor profiles.
- Bai Hao Yin Zhen or Silver Needle – An authentic Silver Needle comes from the Fujian province in China, and it is made from the original variations of China’s white tea. The Bai Hao Yin Zhen is made from full, large buds that are covered with white hairs, which gives the tea a silver color.
- Monkey Picked white tea – This type of white tea is said to be picked by Buddhist-trained monkeys that live on the highest tea treetops in the upper regions of China. It is called “monkey-picked” because it signifies high-quality Chinese tea that is made from young leaves and buds of the tea plant.
Benefits of White Tea
- White tea is rich in antioxidants – White tea is rich catechins and polyphenols, which helps protect cells from damage that is done by free radicals.
- White tea reduces the risk of heart disease – Polyphenols also helps in lowering bad cholesterol and preventing from being oxidized. Bad cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease.
- White tea can help you lose weight – White tea is just as effective as green tea when it comes t burning fat. Both of them have the same levels of catechins and caffeine that is known for burning fat effectively.
- White tea helps protect teeth from bacteria – Aside from catechins and polyphenols, white tea is also packed with fluoride that can help strengthen your teeth by fighting off sugar and bacteria.
- White tea reduces risk of osteoporosis – Research shows that catechins that are found in white tea can fight off free radicals and chronic inflammation that may accelerate osteoporosis. Catechins are thought to defeat cells that break down bones.