White tea belongs to the category of slightly fermented tea and is chiefly produced in Fujian province. It is characterised
by the high content of succulent, whitish, and hairy leaf-buds with a slight greenish tinge. White tea is a unique product of China. The bright yellowish green infusion is characterised by mild and mellow favour.
White tea is the least processed form of tea, made of beautiful silver buds and select leaves which have been steamed and dried.
Because of its minimal processing, white tea contains more nutrients than its black or green cousins, making it the mightiest of the teas, the ultimate Health Tea.
Rare, striking in appearance, and pleasant tasting, white tea gets its name from the fine silvery white hairs on the unopened buds of the tea plant. The highest quality white tea, Silver Needle, consists only of these buds and is beautiful to behold.
The brew has a light, delicate, slightly sweet flavor that sharpens the senses without overwhelming the tongue.
It has less caffeine than black or green tea, and far less than coffee, making it an excellent choice for those wishing to reduce caffeine.
According to Chinese legend, some 5,000 years ago the emperor Shen Nung was traveling the countryside. The water was foul and unfit for drinking, so he ordered it to be boiled. Suddenly the wind blew a tea leaf into his cup of hot water. The curious emperor let the leaf steep, then drank the brew. Tea was born.
White tea became revered during China’s Song Dynasty (960-1279). It was the choice of the royal court and was given as tribute to the emperor. White tea leaves and buds were ground into a silvery powder, which was then whisked in bowls during the Song Tea Ceremony. This was the inspiration for the famous Japanese Tea Ceremony.
One Song Emperor was renowned for his love of white tea. Hui Zong (1101-1125) became so obsessed with finding the perfect tea that he lost much of his empire.
In 1885, select varieties of the tea plant were developed for white tea.
White tea has come a long way in its long history. It was largely unknown outside China and the Orient until recently. Now, with a renewed interest in fine tea and remarkable discoveries about its health benefits, white tea is being discovered and enjoyed around the world.
Production of White Tea
The production process is generally divided into 3 steps:
Picked leaves are spread out (inside and/or outside in the sun) to soften the cell walls of leaves. This draws the moisture to the surface for evaporation, softens the leaves, begins natural enzymatic fermentation and sets up the next stage of processing. This also reduces the grassy taste of tea leaves. The key to making excellent White Tea lies in the withering which is further divided into outdoor and indoor steps. The best combination seems to be outdoor withering of the leaves on a mild summer day, followed by further withering done inside. The stems are then removed from the leaves, the natural waxy film coating is removed and they are slow-fire baked until dry. When the moisture content is reduced to about 4% to 5% , the leaves are then packaged.
“Kill-Green” (also known as Fixing”)
Stops the natural fermentation and growing processes within the leaves without damaging them. Steaming the leaves, hand pressing in a hot pan and baking techniques are used. This also sets up the next step for Rolling/Forming the leaves.
Leaves are passed through hot and/or cold rollers to slightly break down the leaves, which establishes the shape of the leaves and intensifies the tea flavour.
Establishes the final moisture content of the leaves, stops fermentation, prevents mold growth, removes any grassy leaf taste and develops the tea’s aroma. Sun drying, pan heating and hot air methods are used.
Storing White Tea
Because White Tea is exposed to only a small amount of processing, the leaves are subject to natural enzymatic breakdown by oxidation just like any other organic material. White Tea is best kept in a cool , dry place in an airtight container or even in a refrigerator. We recommend refrigeration which actually improves the taste of the tea, as well as making it last much longer. However, if refrigerated storage is used, the tea should be kept refrigerated at all times as successive warming and cooling will degrade the tea.