Let’s talk white tea!
This tea category has been around as long as other tea from China, but the difference is, it used to be reserved for the emperors only due to its scarcity and absolute care in every step in making this tea – harvesting only the young buds from the top of the branches; drying carefully so the buds are not broken; brewing with cooler water to preserve the delicate taste.
White tea comes from the same tea plant as the rest of the “orthodox tea”, camellia sinensis. While black tea comprises of open leaves that has gone through the full fermentation process, white tea is typically buds that undergo very little processing and no fermentation. The result is a tea with delicate light taste, with a brew that is fairly colourless, hence the name white tea. An exemplary white tea is Silver Needle (aka Yin Zhen). It is also the most pricy as there are only nutrient-packed young buds in this tea. Folklore says only virgins can pick this tea before the sun comes out and upright buds in a cup of Silver Needle white tea brings good luck.
If you are concerned about the caffeine content, you will find tea with the least caffeine in this tea category. Make sure you are brewing your delicate tea in slightly cooler water (wait 1-2 minutes for the water to cool after it’s boiled).
In Chinese medicine, Silver Needle can be drunk to reduce internal bodily heat. Research suggests as it’s the least processed kind of tea, it has the highest amount of antioxidants.
As white tea is gaining more media attention for its nutritional value, there are more and more white tea available. Some has more leaves so the taste of the brew is stronger (such as Pai Mu Tan and Sow Mee) and cheaper. But if you like light tasting tea, there is simply no replacement for a cup of Silver Needle. Silver Needle originates from FuJian, China and is hairy in appearance. There is also a popular Jasmine scented variety which has been rolled into little beads called Jasmine Dragon Pearls. Indian suppliers are now also producing white tea, but we can’t say it tastes anyway the same to their Chinese counterparts.