May 12, 2021

Everything You Need To Know About White Tea

Everything You Need To Know About White Tea

Many people in the West and beyond are familiar with green (matcha especially), black, and oolong teas. While these types of tea are beloved and beneficial, two of their siblings hold similar status but are less popular: white and pu-erh teas.

Today, we want to give you a rundown of White Tea, why it's important to incorporate it into your tea life, and the ways in which it benefits your body.

How do you make White tea?

White tea’s appeal comes from its lightness, subtlety, and charming nature.

The manufacturing of White tea is one of the first in the ancient processes of tea making. To further add into its uniqueness, White tea mainly consists of tender, unopened buds of special tea plant varieties, cultivated in the Fujian province in China.

White tea comes from the Camellia Sinensis plant, the same plant that Green, Black, Oolong, and Pu-Erh teas come from. 

Fuding Silver Needle White Tea in a white cup on white mat

Farmers harvest the plant in the early spring, before the buds transform into leaves. According to tradition, the white tea buds are dried only in a shaded area with good air circulation, such as a pavilion. This comes at a cost - the withering process can take about 2 days. 

However, the effort is worthwhile - this treatment gives it a high status in the Chinese tea world. Moreover, the low processing brings out the best of the tea leaves, with antioxidant levels pretty high in White tea.

White tea is similar to champagne - the place of origin is very important. And, much like champagne, tea drinker’s should taste it at least once in their lifetime. White tea is commonly used for presentation teas (so-called blooming flowers) and premium jasmine-scented teas. 

As a standalone tea, there are 2 varieties you can purchase on the market: Silver Needle (Bai Hao Yin Zhen) and Spring Peony (Bai Mu Dan).

Fuding Silver Needle in Transparent cup - shot from above

Silver Needle

Because White tea is close to the natural state of the Camellia Sinensis plant, some buds have a fine white 'fuzz' on them. Such is the case with the Silver Needle variety. 

In order to obtain the downy hairs that make Silver Needle popular, the weather conditions during harvest are essential - rain, dew, or frost could prevent farmers from creating the perfect tea.

In her book "The Story of Tea", Mary Lou Heiss estimates that farmers must process more than 10,000 handpicked buds in order to produce just 1 kg of this tea. That's a whole lot of buds! 😮

This tea has around 5% oxidation and is air-dried. The Silver Needle infusion produces a soft floral liquor, with notes of vanilla and apricots.

Spring White Peony tea infusion in white teacup on wooden desk

Spring Peony

This White tea is slightly more modern, in the sense that its processing dates from more current, industrialised times. 

After outdoor withering in the shade and indoor withering with cool air, a final step is added: bake-drying to dry the high moisture content in the leaf, but not actually 'frying' it. Tea workers must do this very quickly, so as to not start the enzymatic changes within the leaf (as opposed to the case of Black tea, for example).

The Spring Peony has around 8% oxidation levels. Its infusion produces a smooth clean liquor, with notes of almonds and raisins.

Why is White tea healthy for you?

All tea varieties have special benefits. This is thanks to the unique chemical composition of the Camellia Sinensis plant. It is rich in “flavonoid polyphenols'', especially the natural antioxidant called “catechin”. These protect blood cells and give tea its medicinal properties. Tea also contains l-theanine, a special amino acid that boosts our mood and brings a sense of relaxation. 

Because White tea is close to the raw state of the tea plant, when brewed properly, you can reap the most out of the polyphenols and l-theanine present in the plant.

Liquid White tea in transparent mug on wooden tray


Here are 5 main health benefits of White tea:

  1. White tea may help prevent cancer - by hindering DNA mutations [1]
  2. White tea has a lower caffeine content than other teas - which makes it perfect for a relaxing bedtime drink.
  3. White tea helps calm you down - thanks to its high l-theanine levels, the chemical component that increases alpha activity in the brain, making you feel relaxed.
  4. White tea may help reduce risk of heart disease - this is due to the high level of polyphenols in white tea, which relax blood vessels.
  5. White tea improves your dental health - due to the high levels of catechins, tannins, and fluoride, which protect against bacteria and strengthen your enamel.

Brewing guide for White tea

Being so close to the raw state of the tea plant means that White tea is very sensitive to hot water. Don’t let this put you off though - the benefits of a cup of this tea will far outweigh the extra effort you have to put in getting the right water temperature for it.

Generally, you should use spring or filtered water when brewing tea. Put a teaspoon of White tea in an infuser and let it unfold into a cup of water boiled at a temperature between 75ºC and 80ºC (around 170F). 

If you do not have a thermometer and don’t want to wait for the water to cool down to the desired temperature, you may pour some into a cool cup. The contact with the cold surface will take the temperature a few degrees down.

You can steep this tea for a minimum of 2 minutes and for as long as 5 minutes, depending on the flavour profile you are looking for. 

Finally, to fully enjoy the flavour and beauty of White tea, you should serve it without any sweetner, cream, or milk. 



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