A specialty of China's Fujian Province, white tea is the most minimally processed of all the tea types. White teas were once reserved exclusively as imperial tribute teas and are divided into two types: 1) those made entirely from leaf buds that are covered with whitish hairs such as Silver Needle and 2) those made from a mixture of both buds and leaves such as White Peony.
White tea is made usually from particular types of tea plants - Da Bai (Big White) and Shui Xian (Narcissus) - and is picked in early spring. Unlike green tea which is heated at high temperatures after picking, white tea is air-dried, either in the sun or at low temperatures indoors. This helps to preserve the tea polyphenols. The natural drying process also causes the tea to oxidize very slightly. After natural drying, the leaves are sorted so that only the whole buds and leaves are preserved. The result of this processing is a tea with a delicate aroma, natural sweetness and refreshing, savory taste.
White tea health benefits
A research study, published in June 2000 by the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, found that white tea contains a higher concentration of anti-oxidants than green tea. In test tube and animal studies, researchers found that white tea was effective in blocking DNA damage from some cancer-causing chemicals. Further tests are planned to confirm if these preliminary findings can be extrapolated to human cancer prevention and treatment.
White tea brewing tips
White tea tastes best when prepared like green tea. Filtered water or spring water will produce the best cup. The ideal water temperature is well below boiling, about 170-180 degrees Fahrenheit. The best white tea, such as Silver Needle, will benefit from even cooler water. Since white tea is lightweight, be sure to add a generous amount of leaf. White tea can be steeped several times.