What is White Tea?
White tea is the least processed and most raw form of tea. Only the buds and leaves of the tea plant are used for creating this blend. Once only available to the Royal Court of China, this tea can now be found all over the world. Like all teas, it is derived from the camellia sinensis plant, and is a specialty of the Fujian province, in China.
White tea is obtained by fast drying leaves and buds of the plant. It take part in a minimal oxidation process, thus retaining the highest concentrations of antioxidant flavanoids out of any other tea variety. It is the purest form of tea obtained from the camellia sinensis plant and the most expensive, as the ingredients for it are carefully handpicked. It is also a major ingredient in Kou Tea.
The first form of white tea dates back to the Tang Dynasty (618-907 C.E.). The leaves and buds were picked in early spring, steamed, crushed, poured into molds and baked until dry. To prepare this material for brewing, it was roasted in a fire until soft, crushed again into a powder and added to boiling water, together with different flavors like orange, ginger, or peppermint. Year later, during the Song Dynasty, white tea became the choice of the royal court and was offered as tribute to the emperor. The same cakes of tea were made, but were now flavored with more subtle aromas such as lotus and jasmine.
Modern day white teas have been served in this form since the Qing Dynasty, in 1796. Tea was produced and distributed in a loose form, from chaicha, a mixed tea bush. In 1885 the tea growers began e selection process in order to differentiate and categorize white teas such as “Silver Needles”, “Big White”, “Narcissus”, “Small White”. The bushes from which every variety stemmed from were grown under strict conditions in order to preserve their properties, and are still used to this day to make the same teas at the same quality and characteristics.
This tea should always be prepared in the following condition:
- Use 2 grams of tea per 200 ml of water, about 1.5 teaspoons of tea per cup
185 °F (85 °C) water (not boiling)
- Steep the tea in the water for about 4 minutes
On multiple brews (up to 3 for very good quality white teas), the brewing time can be extended by 1 minute for each new brew, but all at the same temperature mentioned above, as not to eliminate the antioxidants or to lose the qualities of the tea.