White tea is a lightly oxidized tea grown and harvested almost exclusively in China, primarily in the Fujian province.
White tea comes from the delicate buds and younger leaves of the Chinese Camellia sinensis plant. These buds and leaves are allowed to wither in natural sunlight before they are lightly processed to prevent oxidation or further tea processing. This preserves the characteristic flavour of the white tea.
The name "white tea" derives from the fine silvery-white hairs on the unopened buds of the tea plant, which gives the plant a whitish appearance.
White tea originated in China; however, the history of white tea is contested and complicated. Finding adequate citation is not easy when discussing China's teas in general because the system of knowledge is often orally transmitted. Scholars and tea merchants generally disagree as to when the first production of white tea (as it is understood in China today) began. What is today known as white tea may have come into creation in the last two centuries. White tea may have first appeared in English publication in 1876, where it is categorized as a black tea because it is not initially cooked like a green tea, to deactivate internal enzymes and external microbes.
White tea has now become more widely available, often being sold as Silvery Tip Pekoe, a form of its traditional name, and now also under the simple designations China White and Fujian White.
The manufacturing of white tea is simple compared to the manufacturing of other teas. The base process for manufacturing white tea is as follows:
Fresh tea leaf → Withering → Drying (air drying, solar drying or mechanical drying) → White tea.
White tea belongs to the group of tea that does not require panning, rolling or shaking. Therefore, its manufacture saves time and labour. However, the selection of raw material in white tea manufacture is extremely stringent; only the plucking of young tea leaves with much fine hair can produce good-quality white tea with lots of pekoe.
Bai Hao Yinzhen,
known also as Silver Needle, or White Down (Hair) Silver Needle is a white tea produced in Fujian Province in China. Amongst white teas this is the most expensive variety and the most prized, as only top buds (leaf shoots) are used to produce the tea. Genuine Silver Needles are made from cultivars of the Da Bai (Large White) tea tree family.It is important to point out that there are other productions that look similar with downy leaf shoots but most are green teas, and as green teas, they taste differently and have a different biochemical potency than the genuine white tea Silver Needle.
known also as White Peony is a type of White tea made from plucks each with one leaf shoot and two immediate young leaves. Bai Mudan is sometimes preferred by white tea drinkers for its fuller flavor and greater potency than the other major type of white tea, Bai Hao Yinzhen. The latter is made purely with leaf shoots, and so it is comparatively softer and more subtle. The typical taste of Bai Mudan is a result of both the processing and the tea plant cultivars employed in the production.
Shou Mei Tea
is a white tea that is produced from naturally withered upper leaf and tips, with a stronger flavor reminiscent of lighter Oolong teas. It is mostly grown in the Fujian Province or Guangxi
Province in China. Because it is plucked later than Bai Mu Dan the tea may be darker in color, but it should still have a proportionate green color. Some lower grades of Shou Mei may be golden in
color with a lot of black and red leaves, making a darker brew with more depth.
Technically this tea, being a fourth grade tea, is a by-product of Bai Hao Yinzhen tea production and uses Da Bai or Large White leaves.
Tasting and brewing
As with all white teas, it is best prepared with water below boiling (at around 75 to 80 degrees Celsius or 167 to 176 degrees Fahrenheit) and produces a slightly viscous glittering pale yellow color with evidence of floating white hairs that reflect light. The flavor and fragrance should be delicate, light, fresh, and sweet. Steeping should be longer than other white teas; up to 5 minutes per brew, and the volume of tea to be used can be higher. There are few parallels to be drawn as the taste is not similar to any other teas but Bai Mu Dan, except the latter is fuller but not as sweet and delicate.