Tea: What Is White Tea?

Like all teas, white tea comes from the Camellia sinensis plant. The leaves are picked and harvested before the leaves open fully, when the buds are still covered by fine white hair. This gives the tea its name.. White tea is scarcer than the other traditional teas, but many tea drinkers prefer white tea over all others.

The leaves are steamed or fried to inactivate oxidation, and then dried. White tea therefore retains the high concentrations of catechins which are present in fresh tea leaves. The buds may also be shielded from sunlight during growth to reduce formation of chlorophyll. White tea is a specialty of the Chinese province Fujian in Southern China.

White tea is similar to green tea, in that it has undergone very little processing and no oxidation. But there is a very noticeable difference in taste. The flavor is described as light, sweet and sometimes smoky.

The best way to infuse white tea is to use a high quality tea pot or infuser and then steep white tea in purified water that is below the boiling point. Use of high quality purified, oxygenated water will add to the flavor of the tea.

White tea is excellent for your health. White tea is full of anti-oxidants that help ensure a healthy lifestyle. There is also much less caffeine in white tea than in other teas. (15mg per serving, compared to 40mg for black tea, and 20mg for green). Studies have also shown that white tea contains more active cancer-fighting antioxidants than even green tea.

A 2004 study at Pace University determined that white tea can help the body’s immune system fight off viruses and dangerous infection-causing bacteria. The same study concluded that fluoride-rich white tea helps prevent the growth of dental plaque, the chief cause of tooth decay.

There are many varieties of white tea, with beautiful and descriptive names such as: white Persian melon, white ginger, golden moon, silver needle and white cloud. White teas are produced mainly in China and Japan, but the Darjeeling region of India (noted for its high quality Black Teas) also produces fine white teas.

White tea has a long history in China. In hard or troubled times, very poor Chinese people would serve guests boiled water if they could not afford tea. Host and guest would refer to the water as "white tea" and act as if the tradition of serving guests tea had been carried out as usual. (This usage is related to plain boiled water being called "white boiled water" in Chinese.)

This was especially true in China during World War II and the Japanese Occupation as well as during the later Great Leap Forward (during which over 20 Million Chinese starved because of relocation) and the Cultural Revolution. But as soon as better times returned the Chinese saw real white tea reappear.

White tea is growing in popularity outside of Asia. Until recently white tea was virtually unknown in the United States. But recently the popularity of white tea has increased. Today, many tea drinkers from chefs to medical researchers are praising white tea’s delicate flavor and purported health benefits. Market researchers predict consumers will soon discover the tea, turning white tea into a very popular drink.

White tea has an exceptional taste that is smooth and silky with a hint of smokiness that has a remarkable effect on the tea drinker’s pallet.

One nice feature of white tea is its compatibility with other flavors and it is easily combined with memorable flavors like melon, licorice and ginger for truly exceptional drinks served hot or iced.

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About The Author, Jon M. Stout
Jon Stout is Chairman of the Golden Moon Tea Company. For more information about tea, white tea and wholesale tea go to the Golden Moon Tea website