What is White Tea?
Elegant & Esteemed for Noble Sweetness
White teas are a pure and noble expression of Camellia sinensis sometimes refered to as “Scholars Tea”. Unlike the other types of tea, white teas are neither fired nor rolled. They are picked early in the spring season and allowed to simply air dry, or wither, on racks in a special room with controlled airflow, temperature and humidity. The moisture con- tent inside white tea leaves evaporates slowly over the course of 1-2 days of withering, curing the leaves in their own juices and concentrating the present sweetness. White teas undergo gentle enzymatic oxidation during this withering period.
The First Harvest
White tea is picked only during the first weeks of the spring harvest when the tender leaves contain the energy and sugars of new growth. These young leaves are coated in a soft downy hair known to botanists as trichomes, which protect the tender shoots from pests and bright UV rays. They also lend a soft mouth feeling and cotton candy-like sweetness to the brewed tea. Known in Chinese as bai hao (“white hair”), trichomes give the young buds a silvery-white appearance. This is why they are called “white teas.”
The absence of shaping presents two main styles of white tea, depending on the plucking standard used. Silver Needles consists of “single buds,” which are new tea leaves that have not yet opened. White Peony, on the other hand, is made with “one leaf and a bud” or “two leaves and a bud” plucking standards. For that reason, it is “leafier” in appearance when compared to Silver Needles.
Origins of White Tea
White tea originated in the eastern Chinese province of Fujian, north of the Min River in a town called Zhenghe. Tea bush cultivar selection in white tea growing regions favors moderate caffeine, high amino acid content and mild tannin. This creates a refined, gently stimulating energy that feels natural at any time of day. In fact, white tea is popular as a “scholar’s tea,” and has a history of promoting wakefulness and focus among the literati of ancient China.
Notable White Tea
With its natural sweetness white tea is a favorite category for many tea lovers.