What is Chinese White Tea?

White Tea 101 will bring you up to speed on the basics of White tea. As the most minimally processed, and often misunderstood tea category, hopefully you'll find this quick cheat sheet fun and see what makes White tea so special.

 
White Tea 101 will bring you up to speed on the basics of White tea. As the most minimally processed, and often misunderstood tea category, hopefully you'll find this quick cheat sheet fun and see what makes White tea so special.
 

What is White Tea?

White tea is the most simple tea: very minimally processed. It’s also a hardy tea that can withstand poor brewing technique, it's tough to screw this one up which makes it very drinkable for beginners. White Teas often taste smooth, malty, with an undercurrent of red tea - and very little bitterness.

Oxidization

White tea is tea that has varying levels of oxidation. This is an area of misunderstanding, as some believe white tea is not be oxidized. The oxidization in white tea is incidental, rather than intentional (like with Red tea), but make no mistake, it does have some oxidization. 

  • Green tea is not oxidized or fermented.
  • Wu Long tea is processed to achieve a specific level of oxidization.
  • White tea becomes lightly oxidized during it’s minimal processing.

What makes White tea unique?

White tea takes a lot of skill to produce, as tea masters only using the sun and wind. If it’s too bright, the tea can become overly oxidized. If it’s too cloudy, the tea will require too much time withering which also ruins the tea.

How is White tea made?

White tea is processed in the following way:

  • Leaves are picked then allowed to wither, usually outdoor and indoor, for a longer time period than other categories of tea (which results in light oxidation.)
  • Finally the leaves are dried at a temperature low enough to allow enzymes to be present in the leaf (unlike in green tea where the enzymes are destroyed in the "fixing" manufacturing phase.) This means White teas can be aged.

2 Famous White Varieties

Bai Hao Yin Zheng (White Hair Silver Needle)
From where: Fujian Province
Can taste like: Juicy, flowery, smooth, light.

Bai Mu Dan (White Peony)
From where: Fujian Province
Can taste like: Sweet, nutty, fragrant, floral.