White Tea

White teas are gaining popularity in the United States due in part to the numerous health benefits however, the real excitement is the taste of these rare and special teas. The difference between white tea and green, oolong or black tea is the processing of the picked leaves. White tea is still tea and therefore produced from the tea bush camellia sinensis.

(Click here for our current selection of White Teas)

Production and Quality

Once grown only in China, these teas are now produced in other countries as well. Some of the finest are grown in the Darjeeling region of northern India. White teas vary in taste characteristics according regional nuances.

The white teas produced today are not steamed, a common misconception, but are withered and then carefully hand selected to be baked dry. The unique shape, color and fragrance of these teas are due to the withering process and the tea masters ability to balance outdoor and indoor withering. When buying white teas, price should be only one consideration.

Look for quality in the number of buds present. The buds should have the appearance of tiny white hairs and will be silver and white in color. Teas labeled "needle" should be 99% bud. Non needle white teas will be bulky with a bright, crisp leaf color.


White tea dates back as far as the T'ang Dynasty (618-907 AD) and soon became the choice of royal courts. White tea did not undergo much change until 1885 when specific varietals of tea bushes were selected to make Silver Needle and other specialty white teas. Chinese exportation of these fine teas began in 1891.

Health Benefits and Caffeine

Research indicates that white teas oxidize during the withering process resulting in higher levels of caffeine. Recent studies reveal that white teas also have more antioxidant or cancer fighting benefits (polyphenols) than green tea. The increase in polyphenol content, some researchers feel, is due to the increase in caffeine content. Many animal studies have confirmed these findings and human trials are currently being conducted.

Brewing the Perfect Cup

White tea requires a certain amount of experimentation while following some simple rules of thumb:

  • Use water that is not too hot or hard - some prefer bottled or spring water.
  • Be generous with tea leaves, unlike black teas, whites are bulky.
Prepare your water to about 185-190 degrees, the same temperatures used for most oolongs.White teas vary in steeping time. Chinese whites tend to need more brewing time while Darjeelings need less. White Pekoe Supreme (Chinese) is best steeped 4-6 minutes, bringing out the earthy overtone of the tea, an announcement of the region.

Darjeeling whites will require about 3-5 minutes depending on personal preference. "Silver Needle" teas are another story all together. Darjeeling again requiring less time, 2- 3 minutes, revealing the delicate, sweet aroma and natural fruit overtones of this most remarkable tea. Yin Zhen Silver Needle (Chinese) requires anywhere from 5-10 minutes, allowing the unique characteristics of this superb rare leaf.

All white tea leaves can be used more than once with each subsequent infusion delivering a completely new taste profile.

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Beth Johnston, a tea importer and noted tea expert, publishes an informative monthly newsletter on tea, tea history, health and lifestyle enhancements. To learn more about the world of tea, join her free newsletter at http://www.TeasEtc.com/Newsletter.asp or visit http://www.TeasEtc.com.


This article, including the copyright and "About the Author" section, may be freely reprinted online in its complete and unaltered form provided you send a copy or link of the reprint to us.


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