Monday, December 17, 2012

The 5 Tea siblings: White Tea

After our brief introduction to the tea family, I'd like to go into more detail regarding each type of tea; starting with the most gentle: white tea.

(don't worry, this post will be written with a more serious tone and (I hope) actually be informative)

White tea primarily comes from the Fujian Province but is also cultivated in Taiwan, Thailand, and certain areas of Nepal. It is a very gentle tea, lightly oxidized, and contains high levels of catechins (which are very good for you health). It is unique, both in it's preparation style and appearance.

Credit to this random site for the beautiful picture

White tea starts with a very strict selection process lasting from early spring to late spring. The chosen leaves are very young and covered with thin, wispy, white hairs. In fact, it is these hairs that give white tea it's name, and not the colour of the 'soup' (brewed tea) as most often believed. Once chosen, the leaves are allowed to bask and whither in the sun where they dry and take their shape. White tea is special as it's preparation process requires no panning, rolling, or shaking but instead, the young leaf is dried naturally. Once brewed, white tea can range from a lint green tint to a yellowish white.

White tea is a very mellow and laid-back tea, often very smooth and delicate. It has a subtle, sweet, and smooth aroma with little after taste and always leaves behind a feeling of warmth and comfort. I must admit that it is my least well-known tea simply due to my lack of exposure but it is a goal of mine to gain experience in the realm of white teas (as shown with my white tea sampler pack).

Two of the most famous white teas are Silver Needle (Bai hao Yin Zhen  ) and White Peony (Bai Mudan 白牡丹). The leaves appear as long, uniform, and thin while being covered in light-white hairs. People often describe the look as a "sparrows-tongue" as it has the same gentle spear-like shape.

Water temperature is very important when steeping white teas (as it is with most other teas). Unlike some of the more sturdy teas (black + pu-er), white tea is easily scorched if the water is too hot. This ruins the subtle hints of the tea and changes the experience entirely which is why it is recommended to use water that is around 160 degrees Fahrenheit or 71 degrees Celsius for a first steeping.

White tea can be steeped several times keeping in mind that a generous amount of leaves should be used because of it's delicate nature (2 teaspoons for buds, 2 tablespoons for leaves). Additionally, the water temperature should be increased by around 5 degrees Fahrenheit, or 3 degrees Celsius with each subsequent steeping. With care and the right amount of leaves, white tea will provide 3 beautiful steepings of increasing complexity. Make sure not to add too much water as the subtleties will be lost.

With all this in mind, I look forward to exploring the world of white teas. Stay tuned for a few white tea reviews and pictures!

The rest of the siblings can be found here

Here is a quick link to each of their pages

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