What is White Tea?
White tea is made from the Camellia sinensis plant, the same plant from which black tea, green tea as well as other types of tea is made from. Unlike most types of tea, white tea is minimally processed. It is not oxidized or rolled. Oxidation process involves exposing tea leaves to oxygen after they have been harvested. The exposure time of tea leaves to oxygen affects the color as well as the flavor of the tea.
Black tea is fully oxidized. This explains its dark color and strong flavor. Green tea is also oxidized, but not as much as black tea. White tea, unlike black tea and green tea, does not go through much processing. White tea is harvested before the Camellia sinensis plant is mature; when the buds have not fully opened and they are still covered by fine silvery-white hairs. This gives the plant a whitish appearance, hence the name “white tea”.
Once picked, the leaves are allowed to wither and get dried by the sun. This results in a flavor lighter than black tea and green tea. Although referred to as “white”, white tea is not white, it is pale yellow once it is brewed. White tea is believed to have originated from China. Today, several countries like Taiwan and Thailand produce white tea.
Types of White Tea
White teas come in varieties. A type of white tea would be different from another due to the different types of tea plant from which the tea was picked, how the tea was cultivated and how the tea was processed. This is why different white teas do not have the same amount of nutrients. Some of the most popular types of white tea are:
Silver Needle is the most popular type of white tea among tea connoisseurs. It is considered the finest of white teas and it also the most expensive. Also known as Bai Hao Yinzhen, Silver Needle has a light and delicate woodsy flavor. It is slightly sweet to the taste and golden in color. Silver Needle is commonly produced in the Fujian province of China.
White Peony ranks second in quality among white teas. Also called Bai Mu Dan, White Peony, is stronger in flavor and darker in color than Silver Needle. After it is brewed, White Peony is pale green and gives off a nutty aroma.
Tribute Eyebrow or Gong Mei is ranked as the third highest quality of white tea. This white tea is processed in a way that is slightly different from other types of white tea. It has a bolder flavor than Silver Needle. Just like oolong tea, Tribute Eyebrow has a strong, fruity flavor.
Long Life Eyebrow
The tea leaves that are left after Silver Needle and White Peony have been harvested are used to make Long Life Eyebrow. Regarded as the fourth highest quality of white tea, Long Life Eyebrow or Shou Mei has a strong flavor and is darker in color than the first three. After brewing, Long Life Eyebrow is deep yellow.
There are several other types of white tea varieties. Some have other ingredients like fruits added to them to give extra flavor and sweetness. Although these other types of white tea are not considered to be true white tea by most tea experts, yet they have something to offer. Some of these other types of white tea are:
Darjeeling white tea is produced in Darjeeling, India. Brewed Darjeeling white tea has a nutty flavor and is pale yellow. It is slightly sweet to the taste.
Ceylon white tea is produced in Sri Lanka. It is a unique tea that is specially processed. The processing of this special tea gives it its delicate flavor and subtle natural taste.
Caffeine Content in White Tea
Although white tea is generally believed to be lower in caffeine than black tea or green tea, some varieties of white tea has more caffeine than other types of white tea and may even contain the same amount of caffeine found in black tea and green tea.
Certain factors affect the caffeine content of white tea. Where the tea leaves are cultivated, how they are processed and how the tea is brewed affect how much caffeine is in a cup of white tea. If you are watching your caffeine intake, there are ways to reduce the caffeine in your white tea:
- Use loose white tea leaves instead of teabags. Loose leaves contain less caffeine than teabags. They are also richer in flavor and have a stronger aroma than teabags
- Choose decaffeinated white tea. Although decaffeinated white tea also contains little amount of caffeine, they are a better alternative to other types of white tea that has not been decaffeinated
- Choose white tea of the highest quality. High quality white teas are known to contain less amount of caffeine than other types of white tea
- Avoid using boiling water to brew your tea. Very hot water increases the amount of caffeine in a cup of tea
- Reduce your steep time to less than five minutes
- Avoid white tea blended with green tea, black tea or oolong tea. This type of white tea contains higher amounts of caffeine
Benefits of White Tea
White tea just doesn’t taste great; it also has a high amount of antioxidants. White tea contains polyphenols, flavonoids, tannins and other nutrients that keep you healthy and protect you from diseases. These are some of the health benefits of drinking white tea:
They Reduce the Risk of Cancer
Studies have shown that white tea may have anti-cancer properties. Extract from white tea was found to accelerate cell death in a type of lung cancer cell. Researchers believe that of all types of tea, white tea may have the strongest potential for fighting cancer. This is because unlike other types of tea, white tea is minimally processed. The process of oxidation destroys polyphenols in tea. Polyphenols are cancer-fighting chemicals. Higher levels of polyphenols are found in white tea than in other types of tea.
They Improve Oral Health
Regular consumption of white tea can be an effective way to reduce your risk of tooth decay. The healthy chemicals in white tea inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria that can lead to plaque formation. White tea also contains fluoride. Fluoride is important to maintain the health of your teeth. They make your teeth stronger and prevent cavities.
They Reduce the Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
Flavonoids found in white tea have been associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular diseases are conditions that involve blocked or narrowed blood vessels and that can lead to stroke, heart attack or chest pain.
They Aid in Weight Loss
They Lower Bad Cholesterol
White teas are best enjoyed as they are with no sugar or milk. Always store your tea in cool, dark place and keep it from heat, light and moisture. Storing your white tea in an airtight container would help your tea retain its freshness and last longer.