White tea, what is it?
When we talk about white tea, we are referring to the least processed of the different tea styles. White tea takes its name from the white silvery down, which we can see on the outside of a newly formed tip or bud at the end of each branch of the tea bush. These highly prized tips and in some cases the first, second and even third leaves are picked from the bush. The leaves are quickly transported to the tea factory where they are subjected to a little steam and then dried. The tea master is looking to produce this tea with no oxidization, or fermentation as it is sometimes referred to, of the leaves. In some cases the new tip or Yin Zhen may be separated from the other leaves and dried separately, side by side. In other cases, as in Pai Mu Tan, the tips are dried with the leaves and are simply blow dried to reduce the water content. No further processing of the leaves is required to create this delicate style of tea.
White tea can be presented in various forms and is sold under many names, but in most cases these names usually refer to the same product. Yin Zhen also known as Silver needles, has a slightly different style known as Pekoe Flowers. Pai Mu Tan may also be referred to as Ba Mu Dan or White Peony but is the same thing. Lesser quality white teas include Gong Mei (tribute eyebrow) and Shou Mei (longevity eyebrow).
Because of the minimal amount of processing, white tea retains large quantities of antioxidants known as polyphenols. Many studies around the world have linked these polyphenols to disease prevention, coronary health and assistance in the prevention of stroke. White tea is also believed to help protect structural proteins in our body, specifically elastin and collagen which aids movement of our body’s organs, muscles, skin, and also helps keep us looking young. White tea is also a good source of natural fluoride, which helps with oral hygiene, preventing gum disease, tooth decay and aiding general health.
When did white tea appear?
The ruling classes of the Song (Sung) Dynasty (906-1279AD) appear to be the first to appreciate this delicate style of tea, which was served at court. Emperor Huizong, who ruled during this period, was particularly renowned for his love of tea and fine art, even writing the Treatise of Tea, “a detailed and masterful description of the sophisticated style of tea ceremony during the Song Dynasty”.
Today, the interest in white tea has caught the attention of many other tea producing countries. We can now get white teas from places like Darjeeling, Assam, Sri Lanka, Africa and many other areas.
With the greater production of white tea and the trend towards flavoured teas, an array of flavoured white teas have recently hit the market. At The Tea Centre we offer Pai Mu Tan Stockholm Blend, so you can enjoy all the health benefits of white tea with the added enjoyment of fruity and floral notes. With its background flavours of orange, vanilla and apricot and a combination of flower petals this tea presents a gorgeous light and tasty brew.
To prepare the delicate leaves of your chosen white tea, use water that is around 70°-80°C — any hotter and the leaves risk being burnt and becoming quite astringent. Allow the leaves to brew for 3-5 minute for the first brew; your leaves can also be re-brewed three or four times afterwards. White tea is a beautifully light and refreshing cuppa to enjoy during the summer months, even when prepared warm. Alternatively, try this iced white tea recipe with an Aussie summer fruits twist.