Introducing White Tea - the True Treasure out of All Teas
Many of us had a cup of green tea or black tea, but I will introduce you to white tea - the most subtle and premium tea there is.
What is white tea?
White tea is the most delicate and valuable type of tea globally, mainly because plantation workers handpick those tea leaves from the top of the plant and the young leaves next to the buds. They are plucked in early spring from mid-March to early April by hand. One of the symbols of high quality is the tiny white fuzz on the leaves.
The plucking process is tricky and requires a lot of attention as the leaves are very vulnerable, and the fuzz of the buds should not be damaged. Then the buds and leaves are quickly withered for a maximum of 72 hours and dried in the sun.¹ Hence, they don’t oxidise as much as the leaves of different types of tea except green tea - green tea is non-oxidised tea. During this step, they get a unique floral fragrance that is very delicate and graceful. This whole process requires a high level of care, as if you are handling something precious. Thus, white tea is called the treasure of all teas.
What Kinds of White Tea Are There?
When you brew a cup of white tea for the first time, you might be surprised to see a very light creamy yellow coloured liquid. Hence, where does the ‘white’ come from?
Now, If you look at the fuzz closely, you will notice the soft white hair of the buds and young leaves. It serves to protect the buds, and the tea is named after them. Many people misunderstand the fuzz as dust. However, it is just the hair of tea shoots, so you do not need to worry about drinking them.
Most of the white tea is cultivated in Fujian province of China. Basically, white tea has four grades - Bai Hao Yinzhen, Bai Mudan, Gong Mei, and Shou Mei from high to low order.²
Bai Hao Yin Zhen(Silver needle white tea) only consists of the best and the youngest shoots - you can see lots of white hair on the leaf’s surface. Hence, the hair floats on the surface of the tea when you brew the tea. They have a subtle and fresh grassy flavour.
Bai Mudan consists of the shoots and the first neighbouring two leaves. You can observe less white hair between the mixtures. The name of Bai Mudan (白牡丹) means that the white fuzz looks like white peonies blooming in the bushes. They are sweeter than Bai Hao Yin Zhen and more floral. Moreover, they are smooth, and the aftertaste is clean.
Gong Mei is made up of big and mature leaves and twigs. Due to different stages of oxidation, this tea has both green and brown tea leaves. They have a delicate fruity flavour and sweetness compared to the previous two teas.
Shou Mei(Long Life Eyebrow) for the products to give to a king was called Gong Mei, and the tea made with the remaining tea leaves was called Shou mei. So, Gong Mei had a better quality than Shou Mei. But, these days, we can consider them the same.
These days, white tea is grown in other countries besides China - Ceylon white tea, Darjeeling white tea, Assam white tea, and African white tea.
How to Brew and Enjoy
The proper temperature for white tea is almost the same when you brew green tea, which is 75-85℃ for 3-7 minutes.³ The critical aspect is to brew in low-temperature water for a relatively long time. There are two reasons for doing this.
- First, white tea contains more amino acids than other kinds of tea. By brewing them at low temperatures, you can prevent the amino acids from denaturing. This way, you can bring the aroma chemicals out more effectively.
- Second, given the nature of the white tea processing, it does not go through rolling leaves. As a result, the cell wall of the tea leaves and buds can stay intact. Hence, it takes more time to brew.
Depending on which cups you are using, you can enjoy the tea differently. If you put the buds in a long and deep glass cup to brew them, you will get the impression that buds are floating as if they are dancing. If you use a broad and thin teacup, the aroma will be softer, and you can enjoy tea more smoothly.
The Health Benefits of White Tea
There is a saying in China, “One-year-old white tea is tea, three-year-old white tea is medicine, and seven-year-old white tea is a treasure.” As you can see from this sentence, white tea is particularly effective for health. I will introduce some of the health benefits below.
1) Reducing Fever and Inflammation
White tea can help relieve fever. In particular, aged white tea was used to reduce inflammation in infants with measles. The catechins (a chemical compound) of white tea play a powerful role. The EGCG(a type of catechins) found in white teas has outstanding anti-inflammatory properties. It also helps treat ailments like cold and flu, plus kills various bacteria and viruses, including the virus that causes influenza.⁴ EGCG also fights atherosclerosis caused by inflammation due to environmental pollutants.⁵
2) Protecting a Liver and Helping to Control Blood Sugar
Flavonoids in white tea can protect your liver by accelerating the decomposition of acetaldehyde. Also, white tea balances blood sugar. On top of the standard tea nutrients, it also contains essential active enzymes for the human body. These materials improve lipoprotein lipase activity and promote lipolysis to control the secretion of insulin effectively.⁶
3) Making Skin and Hair Stronger
As mentioned above, white tea has EGCG. According to one Korean study, EGCG in green tea can improve hair growth.⁷ White tea has more EGCG than green tea because leaves for white tea are less damaged than green tea because of the simple process. Another research conducted at Konkuk University in Korea shows EGCG in white tea contains a potent antioxidant. This substance is one of the ingredients in treating scalp seborrheic dermatitis (a.k.a. dandruff).⁸ Also, polyphenols of white tea make elastin and collagen stronger. Therefore they can strengthen the skin and prevent wrinkles.⁹
Additionally, there are many other health benefits in white tea - weight loss, treatment of cancer, improvement of kidney, the strength of teeth and heart, etc.
In conclusion, we can enjoy white tea with our eyes, nose, and mouth, while having its health benefits. Some say white tea is too expensive, but in my opinion, it is worth it. If you want to have a unique tea experience, I believe this would be a fun way to discover this new treasure!
- DALELA, S., 2019. What is White tea good for? Your complete guide to White tea. [online] teakruthi. Available at: <https://teakruthi.com/blogs/tea-break/what-is-white-tea-good-for?_pos=1&_sid=740e88287&_ss=r#section-2>
- Utermohlen Lovelace, V., 2019. TEA: A NERD'S EYE VIEW. Independently, p.159.
- TeaClass. n.d. White Tea. [online] Available at: <https://www.teaclass.com/lesson_0204.html>
- Chatterjee, A., Saluja, M., Agarwal, G. and Alam, M., 2012. Green tea: A boon for periodontal and general health. [online] NCBI. Available at: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3459493/>
- Han, S., Han, S., Toborek, M. and Hennig, B., 2012. EGCG protects endothelial cells against PCB 126-induced inflammation through inhibition of AhR and induction of Nrf2-regulated genes. [online] ScienceDirect. Available at: <https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0041008X12001275?via%3Dihub>
- Sun, J., 2020. Do you know the benefits of white tea?. [online] Time to meet me. Available at: <https://blog.naver.com/sunjunghun/221830430622>
- Kwon, O., Han, J., Yoo, H., Chung, J., Cho, K., Eun, H. and Kim, K., 2006. Human hair growth enhancement in vitro by green tea epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). [online] National Institutes of Health. Available at: <https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17092697/>
- Kim, Y., Kim, J., Shin, H., Choe, Y., Ahn, K. and Lee, Y., 2014. Clinical Evaluation of a New-Formula Shampoo for Scalp Seborrheic Dermatitis Containing Extract of Rosa centifolia Petals and Epigallocatechin Gallate: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Controlled Study. [online] National Institutes of Health. Available at: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4252671/>
- Choudhary, T., 2020. 17 Proven White Tea Benefits That Will Surprise You. [online] STYLECRAZE. Available at: <https://www.stylecraze.com/articles/amazing-benefits-of-white-tea-on-your-health/>