Whether black, green, or white, the colors and flavors of tea leaves vary greatly. But they are all sourced from the same plant – the tea bush, or camellia sinensis. But what creates such diversity? Simply put, they are processed in different ways and have varying rates of oxidation! Black teas are highly oxidized, while green teas are moderately oxidized and white teas are almost not oxidized at all. Today, we would like to teach you about this last leaf.
A symbol of purity
White tea is the most delicate of all. Its young shoots and buds are meticulously hand-picked once a year in spring, just before they bloom. During the harvest season, the long, pointed leaves are covered with a light, white down which gives the tea its name. White tea undergoes the least processing, with just two stages. The first is wilting, which is traditionally carried out in the open air or sometimes in a temperature-controlled room. The second is desiccation, first in the sunlight and then in the shade, which means the leaves are dried before packaging. This final stage is used to preserve the leaves.
Refinement and subtlety
You may be wondering why white tea is so sought-after as it only undergoes two processing stages. This is because the two phases are carried out gradually according to the natural development of the leaves. White tea leaves are not roasted or rolled, and kept in their natural state so much that they only oxidize on the surface. This is exactly what makes them so precious. As they are as close as possible to freshly picked leaves, they retain a vast quantity of nutriments, virtues, and therefore health benefits – such as high levels of antioxidants. White tea also contains the lowest amount of caffeine, and so can be enjoyed at any time of day.
The liquor produced by white tea has a pale-yellow color and offers fresh and refined floral flavors. The Chinese enjoy it during the summer as a way to stay hydrated. The fragility of the leaves means they require precise preparation with simmering water (preferably mineral) between 158°F and 176°F (70°C-80°C) to avoid burning the delicate aromas.
Bai Mudan, a prestigious vintage
There are two main types of white tea. The first is made exclusively using hand-picked buds, while the second also contains the first two shoots. These shoots are known as Bai Mudan, which in Chinese literally means “white peony, which says a lot about their delicacy, floral scents, and purity. Bai Mudan is particularly fresh and gentle with a velvety texture and delicate citrus notes, and the subtle woody flavor is very similar to chestnut.
Whether you fancy a sophisticated teatime or just a relaxed, light break at any point in the day, you can enjoy an elegant, delicious white tea!