If I were to mention tea to you, would white tea come to mind? Possibly not – the first thing you’d think of might be black or green tea. White tea is definitely the least-known and most underrated tea around, but don’t let that deter you. This light, healthy and delicious tea varietal is the perfect pick-me-up whether you’re enduring a cold winter morning, a bout of the flu or a tough afternoon at work.
1. How is white tea harvested?
White tea originates from the Fujian province in China. Like black and green tea, it’s harvested from the camellia sinensis plant. Unlike those teas, it receives hardly any processing as it travels from farmer to consumer. Black tea is made from the fermentation of tea leaves while green tea requires the tea leaves to be withered and cooked. White tea, on the other hand, simply consists of young tea leaves, plucked while immature and then lightly steamed.
2. What does white tea taste like?
Owing to the immaturity of the tea leaves, white tea has a much more delicate flavor than green tea. It’s less astringent and far more crisp and invigorating. Beyond that general description, the taste of white tea varies greatly depending on the type of leaf used.
Bai Mu Dan, one of the more affordable varieties of white tea, has an aromatic fruity taste of peaches and apricots. Silver Needle, the most highly prized (and expensive) white tea varietal, is famed for its velvety mouthfeel and rich vegetal overtones. Some of the more complex Silver Needle teas even have an unusual spicy aftertaste of cloves or pepper!
3. What are the health benefits of white tea?
While the processing of black and green tea gives each a distinctive flavor, it also destroys some of their precious antioxidants. As you may know, antioxidants are substances that target free radicals, which have been shown to contribute to cancer, increase cholesterol buildup and speed up the aging process.
Since white tea undergoes far less processing, most of its antioxidants are preserved – that means all those health benefits associated with tea drinking are amplified in white tea. White tea is also known to have anti-bacterial and anti-viral qualities, which was confirmed in a Pace University study. White tea also has all of the benefits of L-theanine, which is an amino acid that increases concentration and helps with relaxation. It may also help prevent colon cancer as shown in a recent study by Oregon State University. In another study, white tea was shown to reduce wrinkle production by strengthening elastin and collagen.
As a dedicated tea drinker, you owe it to yourself to explore the wonderful world of white tea. It might cost a little more, but that’s a small price to pay for some of the healthiest tea around.