White Tea – An Introduction
White tea is considered to be one of the finest varieties of tea, owing to its delicate texture created as a result of minimal processing. Its name is derived from the method of harvesting, i.e., before the plant’s leaves open completely and the youthful buds are covered in fine white hairs. The freshly unfurled leaves and buds are handpicked and carefully dried to prevent the oxidation of leaves. Low oxidation and minimal processing create some of the most fresh and delicate tea available.
The History of Chinese White Tea
White tea was custom developed in the early Chinese era of the imperial dynasties, somewhere between 600 and 1300. The phenomenon of tea culture and tea drinking was at its peak during that time across the country. According to Chinese customs, citizens were supposed to present a yearly tribute to their emperor comprising fine and rare teas, like a tea tax. This tribute was specially prepared from the newest and most subtle buds extracted from the best tea plants in the country. To ensure the quality of these rare tea plants, imperial tea gardens were cultivated and developed in secret. Chinese white tea was even used in poetic literature, where poets referred to these teas as “white like the clouds, green like a dream, pure like snow, and as aromatic as an orchid.”
Though imperial tea tributes are the earliest known forms of white tea, they are not like the white tea that we are acquainted with in recent times. During the rule of Emperor Huizong of the Song dynasty, young buds were plucked during spring, stripped of their exterior leaf and steamed. This was then carefully rinsed with the spring water, air-dried, and transformed into a white silvery form of powder. The powder was then stirred in hot water and presented to the Emperor, the only person in the kingdom who could afford it.
Chinese white tea is primarily produced in Songxi, Fuding, and Jianyang counties of the Fujian Province. These hilly terrains have the climate best suited for the growth of white tea. The regions have a yearlong mild climate with ample rainfall. Taiwan is also known to produce a considerable amount of white tea.
Popular Types of White Tea
Silver Needle and White Peony are the most popular kinds of white tea available for tea lovers. White Peony is prepared from the first and second tip of a tea stem. Silver Needle, on the other hand, is the most expensive form of white tea available. It is mainly prepared from the single tip of a tea stem, which is then dried and takes the appearance of small silver needles. The tea has a subtle silver hue with an extremely refreshing aroma and taste.
The Chinese Tea Ceremony
Drinking and appreciating the flavours of tea is a form of lifestyle for most. However, this transforms into a full-fledged ceremony for the Chinese masses, known as the Chinese Tea Ceremony. Enriched with the wisdom of rich oriental philosophy, the ceremony reflects the central idea of Buddhism, Confucian and Taoism. It is a perfect blend of both lifestyle and philosophy. The core spirit of this ceremony is represented by Taoism and forms the foundation of the tea culture. The ceremony proceeds through several processes like preparing, smelling, appreciating, and enjoying the flavours of tea. The value of friendship is enhanced, traditional virtues learned, and new virtues cultivated. It becomes a mode of clearing worrying thoughts and refreshing the mind.
A fact not known by many is that though its origin is in China, the tea ceremony has been immensely popular in Japan and the Korean Peninsula in recent times.
Health Benefits of Chinese White Tea
There are several noted health benefits of Chinese white tea. Some of the most prominent ones are as follows:
Anti-aging is one of the most common benefits of white tea consumption. Antioxidant properties in white tea rejuvenate the skin by diminishing prominent signs of aging in people with wrinkling problems or crow’s feet. Though not a replacement for your regular skincare routine, white tea can provide visible results if consumed daily, along with your anti-aging skincare routine. According to studies, you can achieve a youthful and lustrous skin through regular consumption of white tea. This is mainly due to the function of antioxidants that combat cells that rupture skin cells and make you age rapidly. Depression, stress, and alcoholism are some of the most prominent causes of rapid skin aging. White tea helps you relax and feel revitalized.
- Weight Loss
Weight loss has been accredited to be among the most vital benefits of white tea. Slim people are mostly seen to consume a substantial amount of white tea alongside their regular routine diet. Chinese tea has been known to reduce cholesterol by a decent amount. It activates the fat from mature cells in our body and eliminates the excess amount of fat while restricting further fat storage. The high levels of antioxidants in the body enhance metabolism in the body, aiding weight loss.
- Cardiovascular Benefits
White tea contributes to several cardiovascular benefits that help in the case of heart diseases and can sometimes prevent them as well. White tea is rich in flavonoids, known to improve the cardiovascular health of people.
The Tasting Procedure
The tradition of tasting by courtesans and then the Chinese Emperor has been carried on through the recent times, where white tea is still considered to be the most delicate, flavoursome, and aromatic form of tea. This team is still hand-picked, manually processed and transformed into a delicacy representing the artisanship of its manufacturing. A few common traits that help describe the flavour profile of white tea are honey, fruity, grassy, peach, apricot, chocolate, herby, citrus, delicate, subtle, sweet, and floral.
Traditionally present since the ancient rule of Chinese Emperors, the exquisite white tea graces the tables of tea lovers even today. Its delicacy of flavors and refreshing aroma from the teapot prove its supremacy among its league.