White Tea: No strings attached – the ultimate tea dating game
In our first post on true teas, we covered the classic black tea – bold, dark and self-assured! In this post we are going to take a deep dive into the world of White Tea.
Like all “Pure or True” teas, this wonderful tea has its origin in ancient times. It was said to have developed during the early Chinese imperial dynasties (between 600-1300) when tea drinking flourished into a national past time. There was said to be custom during those times when on an annual basis, citizens paid an annual tribute to the emperor in the form of rare and fine teas – kind of like a tea tax. This tribute was made from the finest tea plants by harvesting their youngest, newest and most delicate buds.
These imperial tea tributes are considered the earliest forms of white tea, but they differ from what we consume today. During Emperor Huizong’s rule of the Song Dynasty (960 – 1297), young tea buds would be gently plucked in the spring, carefully steamed and striped of their outer leaf. These would then be methodically rinsed with spring water, air dried to prevent oxidization and then ground into a silvery white powder. This white powder would be whisked into hot water to create the finest tea available to the only person in China that could afford it—the Emperor.
Just like in the ancient imperialist Chinese era, white teas are still valued today for their delicate, rare and beautiful aromas and flavors. Most white teas are still handpicked - and hand processed, making them a true delicacy to savor in appreciation of the craftmanship that goes into their making. The tasting notes for white tea could include floral, grassy, honey, fruity, melon, peach, apricot, vanilla, chocolate, citrus, herby, mild, subtle, delicate and sweet. That is being spoilt for choice depending on your taste and personal choice. It is simple enough for beginner tea palettes and nuanced enough to please even the most experienced tea connoisseurs - whatever your taste, it invites you to indulge your curiosity!
While white teas have expanded in variety over the years, these are a few different types of white tea grown in China and these are acknowledged as some of the best pure white teas:
Silver Needle - Bai Hao Yinzhen
Silver Needle white tea is considered the gold standard of white teas. It is most commonly produced in the Fujian province of China, but it is also cultivated in Yunnan Province and other countries around the world.
Silver needle white tea boasts a light, sweet flavor that is prized by tea connoisseurs. This type of white tea is golden in color and features a woodsy and rich body with a floral aroma.
White Peony - Bai Mu Dan
White Peony tea is made using a combination of young tea buds and leaves. White Peony is more affordable than Silver Needle but doesn't sacrifice taste.
This tea has a stronger flavor than Silver Needle white tea. This white tea consists of full body and floral hints that emphasize the delicate nature of white teas. White Peony tea is more pale green in color and produces a slightly nutty aroma and aftertaste.
Tribute Eyebrow - Gong Mei
Tribute Eyebrow—like the previous white teas—is grown in the provinces of Guangxi and Fujian. This tea is classified as the third highest grade of white tea. This variety boasts a bolder flavor - with a strong, fruity flavor that is similar to oolong tea.
Long Life Eyebrow - Shou Mei
This type of white tea is mainly produced in China – and is harvested later than White Peony and Silver Needle white teas. The result is a stronger white tea that is also darker in color. This white tea is typically golden yellow in color and is classified as the fourth grade of white teas.
Although these are white teas and grown outside of China, they do provide a delightful flavor for the tea lover and although experts differ if they are true white teas – the taste is undeniable!
Most white teas come from China, but this blend is Sri Lankan. Ceylon white tea is a rare tea that is made using only the longest, silver tea buds. This tea offers a light, fruity flavor that features hints of honey.
The most popular African white tea is known as Malawi white tea. This white tea is different from other types because it is made using only white tea twigs or stems. The tea produces a distinct flavor that is more potent than classic white tea leaves or buds and tends to have a slightly grassy flavor accented by honey hints.
Darjeeling white tea comes from the Darjeeling region of India that is famous for producing black teas. This tea is grown at altitudes up to 2000 meters and its tea leaves are fluffy and light -producing an airy aroma and flavor. Darjeeling white tea is pale gold in color and offers a mellow flavor with notes of sweetness.
Imperial Himalayan White Tea
Imperial Himalayan white teas are produced during the autumn harvest. These teas are named after the Himalayan Mountains where the tea plants are cultivated. These high-altitude white teas tend to have a stronger flavor profile that is dominated by fruity notes.
Whatever your preference, white tea indulges your senses and invites your curiosity as its nuanced flavor unfurls subtly on the palate. Although less popular than green or black tea, white tea delivers great health benefits and is distinguished in taste. Elegant, refined and smooth – this White Tea could quite possibly be termed as the courtly cousin to the bolder flavors of black and green tea.