The White Tea low-down!
We quizzed our Tea Guy Dan on the what, why & where of White Tea.
What are the main health benefits of the white tea?
White tea is a great compliment to a healthy lifestyle. Like Green tea, White tea is known to be a good source of polyphenols, a phytochemical naturally found in tea which has antioxidant properties. White tea is not drunk with milk unlike how many people take their black tea and due to its light, fragrant and rounded flavour is less likely to be sweetened with sugar.
How does it compare to green tea?
All tea, including black, white & green tea comes from the same plant, Camellia sinensis, The two main differences between green tea and white tea is in processing and the types of tea bush varietals selected. Traditionally white tea comes from the mountainous regions of Fujian province in South China.
Now for the technical bit!! White tea is similar to green tea in that it does not undergo an oxidation process step, which is a controlled process that makes black tea out of the green tea leaves. However one of the key differences between white tea and green tea is the difference in process steps within the tea manufacture carried out in the producer country. Green tea undergoes a specific process step which can loosely be referred to as “fixation”. The idea is to fix the tea in its fresh green state as much as possible. This can be achieved through applying either dry heat (e.g. by pan roasting) or wet heat using steam in order to halt enzyme activity which would otherwise cause the leaf to start naturally oxidising and turning brown once the cells are damaged and exposed through handling and further processing.
Unlike green tea, white tea does not undergo a specific fixation process step, however the plucked leaves undergo a more pronounced withering step using either sun drying or temperature controlled rooms to gently remove moisture from the leaf. The more pronounced withering step combined with leaf plucked from selected tea bush varietals helps the white tea to develop its typical flavour and character. The reduced moisture content achieved through withering helps restrict the level of natural oxidation that occurs until the final drying step with removes the rest of the excess moisture and fixes it in its dry state.
The type of tea bush varietals selected to produce white tea have a higher amount of the small fine white silky hairs on the unopened buds and the underside of the young tender leaves. In fact this is how White tea came to obtain its name and not due to the colour of the brewed tea as many people wrongly assume. In China a famous varietal commonly used to produce white tea is known as “Da Bai” which means “Big White”!
What tips do you have to enjoy white tea?
White tea has a unique and very refined, fragrant, yet subtle and rounded taste. You should always use fresh water rather than what has been left in the kettle from the boil before when making any type of tea, and White tea should never be made with boiling water, ideally at 80-85 degrees centigrade. However, if you don’t have a temperature controlled kettle, wait at least five minutes after the water has boiled and all the bubbles have disappeared before pouring on your tea leaves or tea bag. To start with leave for up to 3 minutes and drink. However, you may wish to experiment with shorter or longer brewing times, to find the level of flavour you prefer. White tea should be served without milk, however by all means try adding some sugar or perhaps a slice of lemon or some honey to cater to your personal taste. And finally, find a quiet spot for pondering and relax with your cup. Sip every few minutes, enjoying the clarity and delicate flavour of White tea – maybe with a slice of cake!