White tea, like all other teas, comes from the Camellia sinensis plant as explained in the previous article Organic Tea . White tea requires great care and effort to produce and the picking can be a tedious process. The tea can not be picked on rainy days or when there is frost on the ground and can only be picked for a short time each year usually in early Spring, making the tea itself rare, precious and a bit more expensive than the other varieties.
The leaves used in white tea are picked and harvested before the leaves are fully opened, when the buds are still covered by silver fuzz, which turns white when the tea is dried (Hence where white tea gets it name). It undergoes very minimal processing and is not fermented and therefore has a noticeably different taste. The flavor of white tea is described as light, and sweet compared to green tea, which is processed similarly to white teas and has a distinctive grassy taste. This is due to white tea undergoing even less processing than green tea leaves, where the unwithered leaves are merely steamed not rolled, and only slightly oxidised. It is suggested that white tea is better for you than green tea, as the white tea leaves are closest to their natural state, which means white tea contains more polyphenols, the antioxidant that fights and kills cancer causing cells.
Types of White Tea
There are four main varieties of Chinese white tea
- Silver Needle
- White Peony
- Long Life Eyebrow
- Tribute Eyebrow
Silver Needle (Bai Hao Yinzhen)
It is the most famous white tea, with a delicate, light and sweet flavour. Silver Needle is the finest white tea, it is only made from the silvery white buds which are ready to open. These buds are plucked one by one using only the undamaged and unopened ones for making the actual tea.
The highest quality silver needle teas should look fleshy, bright coloured with tiny white hairs. The shape of the tea should be very uniformed - there should be no stems or leaves. When infused every bud should stand upright in the cup.
White Peony (Bai Mu Dan)
Is a sweet, mild, and still very full bodied tea that tends to have a stronger taste, bolder aroma and darker colour than Silver Needle. White Peony is a grade down from Silver Needle tea and incorporates the bud and two leaves which are covered with a fine, silvery-white down.
Tribute Eyebrow (Gong Mei)
Tribute Eyebrow is considered to be the third grade of white tea. It is made from a special tea bush and is processed slightly differently to other white teas. The leaves that are used are from the Xiao Bai or â€œsmall Whiteâ€ tea trees.
Long Life Eyebrow (Shou Mei)
Long Life Eyebrow is similar to Oolong tea and has a fruity, strong flavour. It is considered to be a fourth grade white tea. The tea is plucked later and therefore has a slightly darker colour.
Both the Tribute Eyebrow (Gong Mei) and the Long Life Eyebrow (Shou Mei) are considered lesser forms of white tea compared to Silver Needle (Bai Hao yinzhen) and the White Peony (Bai Mu Dan).
There are other varieties of white tea including Ceylon, Darjeeling, Assam and White Puerh tea, to name just a few. Every variety has something to offer and may include the addition of fruits to add extra sweetness to the flavour.
Why Drink White Tea
It is a well known fact that green tea is one of the healthiest teas around, it contains loads of antioxidant and is the first choice when it comes to your health and wellbeing, but what about white tea? New research is finding out that white tea contains more active cancer fighting antioxidants than green tea.
Other reasons to drink White Tea -
- White tea has considerably less caffeinea than other varieties (about 15mg per serve, compared to Black tea with 40mg and Green tea with 20mg per serve).
- White tea can help the body's immune system fight off viruses and dangerous infections which cause bacteria.
- White tea helps prevent the growth of dental plaque, as it contains small amounts of fluoride and other nutrients, the primary reason for tooth decay.
- White tea may assist in some types of cancer prevention, including colon, prostate, and stomach cancer. This is due to a class of antioxidants called flavonoids which inhibit the growth of cancer cells and prevent the development of new ones.
- White tea has the ability to thin the blood and improve artery function and therefore can help in lowering blood pressure. As white tea promotes strong and healthy blood vessels, it can also guard against strokes.
- White tea can help in lowering cholesterol as it contains catechins, another type of antioxidants. White tea encourages good cholesterol and lowers bad cholesterol, which prevents hardening of the arteries and blockage of blood flow.
- Research has been carried out and it has been found that people who drink 2 or more cups of white tea a day have a 50% less chance of dying after suffering a heart attack, as white tea protects the heart and the circulatory system.
- Tea can increase your bone density and may have beneficial effects for sufferers of arthritis and osteoporosis.
How to Brew White Tea
White tea leaves are less dense and compact than other varieties, so be generous when distributing the white tea leaves. This means you will probably want to increase the amount of tea leaves that you would normally use. The exact amount of leaves used is up to you, depending on your taste, as a good indication you can start with two teaspoons of white tea leaves for every cup and add more leaves or water depending on your taste.
Don't use boiling water, as this can ruin the flavor of white tea. Remember these are the most delicate leaves used to make any variety of tea. The ideal temperature is about 76 to 85 degrees Celsius. So boil the water and let it sit for about one minute and then pour the water over the leaves. Let the steeping time be between 5 to 8 minutes or as instructed with the particular brand of tea you are using.
White tea is rare, striking in appearance and pleasant tasting so if you are looking for something special then try a cup of white tea. It is the least processed, handpicked and it is in it's most natural state. It contains more nutrients and has an abundance of health properties; it is truly the ultimate health tea!