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What is White Tea?
2022.08.16|3 mins read
You are very well familiar with black tea and green tea. You may have even tried some puerh teas. But have you heard of white tea before? White tea can be one of the least common teas you can find on the market, even in a professional tea house. Today, let's dive in and get to know this special kind of tea together!
What is White Tea?
"White tea", as well as green and black tea, is a method of processing. We leave the freshly-picked leaves under the morning sun to dry, laid them flat one by one, not one over another. Every morning at dawn, around 5:30, the leaves are moved outside for some early-morning sun bath. At around 6:30, when the sun starts getting too hot, we have to move them back in the house, so that the leaves will not overly fermented due to the heat. This process will be repeated for 7-10 days, until the leaves are naturally dried enough. Then we will bake them slightly until dried for storing. White tea is a "lowly fermented" but "highly withered" type of tea. That's why we are able to keep the caffeine level low despite not have it highly fermented. It is a very gentle and less-irritating tea. By processing the leaves using the white tea  method,  we are also able to preserve the most original aroma and taste of the tea: mild and sweet, making it the best tea to enjoy during summer times.
Naturally dried white tea looks just like those fallen leaves from the curbside.
White teas were more commonly processed in China. In Taiwan, it's not until 5 or 6 years ago did people start to process them. Most of the Chinese white teas are processed in Fujian province, including some of the world famous white teas such as "Fuding White Tea", "Baimudan", aka White Peony, and "Baihao Yinzhen", aka Silver Needle. In Taiwan, since we have a lot of different tea cultivars, farmers in different area will use their local cultivars to process white tea. Some of the most common cultivars used are Qingxin Wulong and Ziya, Purple Sprout. In our shop, we have chosen to use Qingxin Wulong, Tiekuanyin, Ruby, Assam, and Taiwan Original Mountain tea to make into white teas. Each cultivar has its own feature, therefore each of these white teas can be very different in taste and fragrance. Generally speaking, white teas have a mild and refreshing wooden aroma. Being lowly fermented gives it a light-colored, sometimes colorless, liquor. That's how it gets its name! The taste is often sweet and mild, very different from the tastes of tea we are all used to. Totally refreshing to drink!
Since processing white tea requires a lot of space for the tea leaves to lay flat, not to mention almost all of the procedures are done by hand, white teas are usually made in small batch. Hence, the price of white tea is usually higher than most of the other teas. With that being said, the most authentic taste of tea it is able to present, and its cooling ability, are both features that no other tea can bring. Furthermore, white tea contains very little caffein, meaning that it's less irritating to the stomach, and less likely to affect your sleep, making it the perfect water supply for children who do not like the taste of water.
Is white Tea Suitable for Cold Brewing?
As white tea has such great characteristic of cooling down our body, can we cold-brew it to make it even more refreshing? The short answer is, we do not recommend it. Despite how convenient and "cool" cold brew teas are, it would be a waste to  cold-brew the white tea. The thing is, the aroma and richness of the tea requires heat to fulling release. By cold-brewing the tea, all we can get is a  mild sweetness, but not the fragrance and the layer of tastes it possesses. Instead of cold-brewing, we recommend  you to brew it hot and drink it cold. Use boiling water to brew it, then enjoy it after cooling down. You can also put the brewed tea in the fridge, or make it into ice cubes the night before, then add them into your freshly brewed tea the next day. This way, you get to enjoy both the fragrance and the richness of white tea to the fullest.
How to Properly Store White Tea?
"Tea when one, med when three, gold when seven." is an expression we use to describe white teas, meaning that white tea taste like tea on the first year, then will taste like herbal medicine on the third, and will become extremely mellow and valuable like a hidden treasure after 7th year. Since white teas were not rolled during processing, it stays flat and bulky, making its flavor transforms easily with time. Year after year, you can feel the effect of aging, on the tea, not you, in a good way! However, being bulky also means that it may be affected by humidity. That's why we recommend you to squeeze out the air inside the package then seal it tight once it's opened, and keep it in a dry place away from direct sunlight. It's better to finish the tea as soon as possible, so as not risking it getting caught up by humidity. If you really want to stash some white teas to enjoy after a few year, it is recommended not to open the package until you are ready to drink it. We used pure aluminum foil bags to pack our teas, so it is sunlight proof. The air left inside the original package is already enough for the tea to transform.
Whether or not have you heard of white tea, we hope you have learned something more about this special type of tea. If you haven't tried white tea before, we highly recommend you to have a cup during the hot summer. You will for sure be amazed on how refreshing it is, and we hope that you will come to love its sweetness as much as we do!
Pictures & Article © 張迺妙茶師紀念館 Tea Master Chang Nai-Miao Memorial Hall