White Tea

AAll tea is made from the Camellia sinensis plant, and one of it's two principal variants: Camellia sinensis var. sinensis and Camellia sinensis var. assamica. These two plants are also known as Chinese tea and Indian tea, respectively. White, yellow, green and oolong tea all come from the Camellia sinensis var. sinensis plant.

Overview.

The first section of this article discusses the flavour of white tea, preparation and health benefits. The second section covers my thoughts and recommendations regarding white tea. The third section provides comprehensive coverage of how white tea is produced, the different grades, and specific health benefits of drinking white tea. The fourth and final part of this article is a summary of the key points discussed.

Flavour, Preparation, and Health Benefits of White Tea.

Flavour Profile of White Tea.

White tea is the finest and most fragile of all teas. In its pure loose-leaf form, white tea offers a delicious, delicate flavour with the faintest hint of floral notes.

Tea experts often drink white tea from glassware; this opens up the flavour and allows you to experience more of the taste. If you don't own a glass teapot and a set of glass teacups, it is a worthwhile investment for drinking white tea. 

How To Brew White Tea.

Brew loose-leaf white tea with water that is 185 °F (85 °C) and steep for four to five minutes. Because white tea is made with only the youngest and most delicate tea buds, using boiling water ruins the leaves and results in a highly bitter flavour.

 Health Benefits of White Tea.

White tea has a wide range of health benefits attributed to it. Because white tea is minimally processed, it is rich in antioxidants which help reduce the effects of ageing. Studies have shown that white tea can help protect against some forms of lung disease as well as liver damage caused by alcohol. Consuming white tea has also been shown to help prevent Alzheimer's disease. Importantly, white tea may help fight cancer and minimize some of the adverse side effects of chemotherapy. 

Tea Recommendations and Personal Thoughts.

Mackenzie Bailey

Founder of The Tea Tribe

White tea tends to be appreciated more by discerning tea drinkers, rather than those just beginning their journey into premium loose leaf tea. I believe the reason is that white tea has a much milder flavour profile, and may attract those with a refined palate.

Personally, my favourite white tea is a premium Silver Needle white tea, which I purchase from Tao Leaf Tea. I appreciate the subtle, sweet, crisp and delicate flavour of high-grade white tea in its pure state.

For those looking to enjoy white tea but want to avoid purchasing the pricey Silver Needle tea, I would highly recommend Nearly Nirvana by Bird & Blend Tea. Of all the white tea blends I have tried, this one stands out. I believe Nearly Nirvana showcases the high-quality taste of white tea while pairing it with complementary floral flavours, like jasmine and soft orange blossoms.

A Comprehensive Discussion of White Tea.

White tea is grown predominantly within the Fujian province of China. In that single region, only three counties produce substantial quantities of white tea. This limited and small geographical area of production is the main reason why white tea is considered one of the rarest teas. The criteria behind the classification of white tea further influences the price of the product.

Production of White Tea. 

White tea is produced using the unopened buds of the tea plant. Harvest begins in early spring, and the buds must be handled with great care to avoid bruising. Traditionally, the buds are air-dried, which results in slight oxidation. Now, however, white tea is steamed and dried directly after harvesting. Steaming inactivates oxidation and preserves the delicate taste and colour associated with white tea, as well as its significant health benefits. 

Grades of White Tea.

White tea is classified into four different grades of tea. From highest to lowest quality, the four classes are: Silver Needle (Bai Hao Yin Zhen), White Peony (Bai Mu Dan), Tribute Eyebrow (Gong Mei), and Long Life Eyebrow (Shou Mei).

Silver Needle (Bai Hao Yin Zhen).

Silver Needle (Bai Hao Yin Zhen) is the highest grade of white tea produced. Made from only the most delicate unopened buds, Silver Needle tea earns its name from the fine silvery-white hairs on the buds.

This expensive and exclusive grade of white tea is harvested within a very narrow time frame, before the tea buds turn into leaves. The window for harvesting Silver Needle tea is typically between mid-March and mid-April. Silver Needle tea also requires certain climate conditions, further limiting the harvesting window.

White Peony (Bai Mu Dan).

White Peony (Bai Mu Dan) is second in quality to Silver Needle and is harvested when the plant has only a bud and a couple of leaves. During this time, the tea plant remains covered with white hair. Silver Needle and White Peony tea are similar, although White Peony has a slightly stronger colour and taste.

Long Life Eyebrow (Shou Mei).

Long Life Eyebrow (Shou Mei) and Tribute Eyebrow (Gong Mei) are similar in that they deviate somewhat from the taste generally associated with white tea. Long Life Eyebrow gets harvested after the two higher-grade white teas, Silver Needle and White Peony, have been collected. Long Life Eyebrow has a richer flavour and darker appearance because the leaves have more time to develop. Because of this, some tea drinkers have compared the taste of Long Life Eyebrow to oolong tea.

Tribute Eyebrow (Gong Mei).

Tribute Eyebrow white tea consists of young leaves without buds, resulting in a darker colour when steeped, and a fuller taste with a comparatively bold finish. Tribute Eyebrow tea is similar in taste and quality to Long Life Eyebrow tea.

Health Benefits of White Tea.

Due to white tea's minimal processing, many people refer to white tea as "raw." Because of its raw state, white tea's impressive health benefits diminish with time (Xu, 2019). 

Contains Antioxidants And Helps Fight Aging.

White tea is rich in antioxidants and helps eliminate free radicals that can lead to signs of premature ageing (Kim, 2004)(Oneda, 2003)(Camouse, 2009), including pigmentation and wrinkles. Researchers and tea drinkers believe the minimal processing of white tea results in a higher concentration of beneficial properties than other, more processed teas (Zhang, 2019).

Protects Against Some Forms of Lung Damage. 

An exciting and unique benefit of white tea is its potential ability to protect against some forms of lung damage (Dhatwalia, 2019). One study found that white tea killed lung cancer cells (Mao, 2010), although more research is needed before definitive conclusions can be made. However, for those who live in areas of high air pollution, or with a smoking history, drinking white tea may be beneficial.

Helps Prevent Alcohol Damage.

White tea demonstrates an ability to help prevent alcohol gastric injury (Liu, 2019), as well as help prevent damage to the liver (Wang, 2019), which may be of particular value to those who drink regularly.

Helps Protect Against Alzheimer's Disease.

Recent research suggests that white tea's anti-aggregative and neuroprotective properties may help protect against dementia. One study examined the relationship between white tea and Alzheimer's disease, and the results showed that white tea had a protective effect against Aβ, the hallmark toxic Alzheimer's protein (Li, 2019).

Helps Fight Cancer.

White tea may be particularly beneficial in fighting cancer. White tea has a high concentration of antioxidants that can prevent cancers. And, while other teas also claim a similar benefit, what differentiates white tea is that studies have shown white tea can kill cancer cells (Mao, 2010), and prevent it from spreading (Carter, 2007)(Hajiaghaalipour, 2015).

Helps Minimize Chemotherapy's Negative Side Effects.

It has also been shown that white tea can benefit those who are undergoing chemotherapy. Cisplatin is a chemotherapy medication used to treat many cancers (Cancer Research UK, 2018). However, a significant negative side effect of cisplatin is nephrotoxicity - toxicity in the kidneys and renal damage (Saral, 2019), along with nausea and vomiting. It has been shown that white tea infusions can significantly decrease the nephrotoxicity caused by cisplatin (Saral, 2019). 

Summary.

White tea comes from the Camellia sinensis var. sinensis plant, like green, yellow and oolong tea.

White tea is the finest and most fragile of all teas. Using water that is too hot destroys the taste of the tea. Therefore, it is essential to use boiled water that is 185 °F (85 °C), and steep the tea for four to five minutes.

White tea has a light refined flavour because only the young, delicate, unopened buds are used. To experience the full taste, drink white tea out of glass teaware to enhance flavour.

In order of highest to lowest quality, the four classes of white tea are: Silver Needle (Bai Hao Yin Zhen), White Peony (Bai Mu Dan), Tribute Eyebrow (Gong Mei), and Long Life Eyebrow (Shou Mei).

In the comments below, share what your favourite white tea is and whether you notice an improvement in taste when drinking white tea from glass rather than ceramic!