Only lightly oxidised, White Tea derives its name from the white silvery hairs present on the un-opened buds of the tea plant. When brewed, the tea is actually a lovely pale golden yellow colour.
White Tea is often considered to be the premium tea of the world, and is not normally as commercially available as for example black tea or green tea.
Most of the worlds white tea is produced in China, and it is thought that what is today generally recognised as white tea, has only been in production over the last two centuries.
Some other tea growing regions are now producing White tea including India, Sri Lanka, Taiwan and parts of Africa.
The processing of White Tea usually only involves two stages. Only the finest, newest growth will be harvested (usually first thing in the morning). The picker is looking for beautiful un-opened buds/needles, and certainly no more than the top two leaves on the stem. The leaves undergo an element of natural withering and then drying – and that is all. There is no rolling or forced oxidation. The very finest white tea includes no leaves as such, but only the buds, or silver needles.
What is it that makes this tea so special though?…there are several good reasons!
The fact there is so little processing of the tea leaves, means they retain a lot of their natural goodness. Most white tea is considered to be very low in caffeine, and claimed to be very high in anti-oxidants. So the health conscious among us, often move to drinking white tea, due to the very positive press it receives as a healthy option!
However, there is no better reason to drink White Tea than the fact it is an absolute delight. As mentioned earlier, pure silver needle tea has the most wonderful light, slightly sweet and almost peachy aroma. Silver needle tea can be a bit more expensive though.
A white peony tea includes leaves and needles. It is usually less expensive than pure silver needle tea, but still displays the wonderful light, delicate flavours we associate with white tea.
One thing to watch out for with white tea, is the temperature of the water used to brew it. Because the leaves are so delicate, your water should only be about 70c . If you use boiling water, the flavours will be lost and the leaves will be scalded.
Some white teas sold in tea bag form are actually a blend of teas. If you really want a treat – spoil yourself to some real loose leaf white tea – and behold – a thing of real beauty!