White tea is a wonderful and exotic tea variety made from the tea plant Camellia Sinensis. White tea therefore comes from the same plant as green and black tea. White tea is particularly popular for its mild and sweet-sweet taste and goes through minimal processing. You can find out more about this fine tea here!

 

A tea field for tea growing in Asia

The history of white teas

White tea is most likely grown for a long time. Only 200 – 250 years old is white tea really popular in China. Before that, white tea was made for personal use or on demand for certain important people due to the simple way of making it. It is unclear when and where exactly white tea was first produced. However, it is quite possible that species of white teas have existed in China for almost 1000 years.

For a long time, white tea was grown in China only as an export product. White tea became really famous in China around the year 2000, when the Chinese government advertised with its aging quality. Storing and letting tea ripen is popular with many Chinese. With their age, the prices of many teas rise and many Chinese create tea as a way of planting and retirement provision.

White tea – Manufacture

The production of white tea is very minimalistic. The tea leaves are only picked and dried. Precisely because the production process of white tea is so simple, many other factors have a significant influence on the taste of the tea. It is particularly important which sheet material, i.e. the size and quality of the leaves, are picked for the tea. The season and microclimatic conditions also have an impact on taste.

Because white tea is processed so minimalistly, the producers have little room to hide the negative properties of the picked tea leaves. In the case of teas such as oolong, black or green tea, certain rolling techniques or the degree of oxidation can alter and mask false tones in the tea. This is not possible with white tea. The quality of a white teas is therefore determined more during cultivation in the field, rather than by the production. It is impossible to make even a half-good white tea with bad leaves. With this tea variety it is therefore of particular importance that the tea garden puts a lot of care and love in its tea field.

 

White tea varieties

The quality of white tea is categorized according to the degree of picking. The finer and younger the picked tea leaves, the higher the quality of the tea. The different varieties are as follows:

 

VarietyPicking
Yin Zhen / Silver Needle TeaOnly the top, youngest leaf bud of the tea plant
Mu DanLeaf bud one to two leaves
Gong MeiMainly leaves (mostly autumn picking)
Shou MeiOnly leaves (last spring harvest)

Most of the white teas are harvested in China in spring. In the very first harvest, the
Yin Zhen
is picked, for which the closed buds of the tea plant are used. A little later, the
Mu Dan
is picked, which also has a high proportion of leaf buds, for which the first one or two top leaves of the tea shrub are also picked.

The last pick in late spring is finally made up of leaves and we call Shou Mei. In autumn, farmers often drive it back to their fields. The autumn picking has much thinner leaf buds and is called
Gong Mei
. To make a little more money, most tea gardens sell the Gong Mei as Mu Dan, which is why Gong Mei is rarely seen on the market.

In addition to these four teas, there are other types of white tea. Another famous strain is the Moonlight White Tea, which often comes from Yunnan Province in southern China.

Famous cultivation areas for white tea

Fuding

One of the most famous white tea cultivation regions is the Fuding area near Taimu Shan in China’s Fujian Province. It is said that white tea, as we know it today, was produced for the first time in Fuding. But this is not certain. The region is particularly famous for the high-quality Yin Zhen Silvernadeltee. Fuding is relatively close to the sea and tea from this region has a warm, nutty character. Many tea gardens in Fuding are highly technological and state-of-the-art. There are modern production machines and standardized production processes.

Zhenghe

A little further inland, also in Fujian Province, lies the Zhenghe region. Compared to Fuding, the teas from Zhenghe are neither better nor worse, just different. White teas from Zhenghe are generally processed more traditional. The teas from this region have a fresher, grassier character. In Zhenghe you can find all levels of white tea.

Other growing areas

White tea is available from countless regions in China, such as Yunnan or Guangxi. Beyond China’s borders, there are also white teas from other countries. Some tea gardens in northern India occasionally experiment with the production of white teas. Even from countries like Malawi or Japan, there is white tea to be found, even if these are rare picks that charge high prices.

 

Preparation of white tea

In the preparation recommendations of white tea one often reads one thing: do not pour with boiling water. In general, there is nothing wrong with this recommendation. In China, however, there is the rule of thumb: “If it is a good tea, you can brew it with boiling hot water and it will still taste good“. This applies to all teas from China, because a really excellent Chinese tea forgives you any water temperature. For varieties such as Yin Zhen or high-quality Bai Mu Dan, we advise you to use a water temperature between 90 – 100 °C. This temperature is ideal if the tea has a large, as whole whole sheet as possible. You will be surprised how mild the tea will taste despite the high water temperature!

However, the water temperature should be lowered if it is less high-quality white tea or if the tea has brittle, small leaves. If the water temperature is too high, too many bitter substances can otherwise be pulled from the tea.

If you want to know how you could prepare Chinese white tea in the traditional way, then have a look at our contribution about Chinese tea preparation! In short, you use more tea leaves on less water, let the tea draw shorter and prepare several infusions from the leaves.

Storage and maturation of the teas

Pressed Bai Mu Dan White Tea

White tea is ideal for storage. Because the tea has only been picked and dried, a small amount of enzymes in the tea leaves remains active. When the tea is stored, the enzymes change the ingredients in the tea over time. The taste changes and changes. Depending on storage conditions and duration, a fresh, fruity and bright white tea can become rounder, fuller and more complex over time. Changes are noticeable after just one year of storage.

White tea should be stored in a shady place. Humidity should not be too low, but it should not be too high. If the humidity is too low, the maturation process is too slow and enzymes in the leaves cannot work properly. If the humidity is too high, the tea can become mouldy or just get bad. If you want to store your own tea, we recommend you to take a pressed tea. Because only the outer layer of the teas is associated with air, the water content in the leaves remains fairly constant and is less susceptible to external influences. In addition, the tea can be stacked better. 😉

 

Discover our online shop

At the moment we don’t have a white tea in our assortment – but that may change in the future. However, we have many other teas waiting to be discovered by you in the Friends of Tea Online Shop. We look forward to your visit!

 

 

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