An Introduction to White Tea

What is White Tea? Historically, white tea was nothing but the withered and dried buds (silver needles) of the tea plant, and was only produced in China. Now there are different methods of plucking and processing the tea, and countries like Sri Lanka and India are also producing white teas.

Types of White Tea

Silver Needle: Silver needle is the original white tea, and is made up entirely of white, fuzzy buds. This tea should be prepared with relatively cool water (I usually go with water between 165-170F), ideally in a glass teapot (the buds stand on end after being infused for awhile, which is great fun to watch).  The flavor is usually extremely subtle: It may even taste like you are drinking plain hot water at first. Pay attention, though. The sweet, delicate flavor of the tea will eventually emerge.

White Peony: White peony is a new-style white tea comprised of the top two leaves and a bud. White peony dry leaf tends to be very beautiful, with a variety of colors, and its liquor is richer in flavor than silver needle, oftentimes with some sweet and even fruity notes.

Shou Mei: Shou Mei means “Longevity Eyebrow” in English. This is another new-style Chinese white tea, and is made from both buds and larger tea leaves. The liquor is darker and stronger flavored than other white teas. I really enjoy shou mei as an iced tea and find that it pairs well with lemongrass.

Flowering Teas: Many flowering teas use white tea buds as a base. The buds are sewn together with other flowers so that when infused, the tea and flowers open up into a lovely bouquet. Since flowering teas are made with real flowers, the flavor of these teas tends to be dominated by whatever flower is stitched up with the buds.

Drinking White Tea

Good White Tea Food Pairings: The more delicate white teas, such as Silver Needle, are extremely subtle in flavor, and should be drunk on their own. The heartier white teas, such as Shou Mei, can go great with lighter foods, such as fish.

Sipping Tips: Try sipping a white tea first thing in the morning as an alternative to super-intense black tea. White teas help you wake up gradually and make for a more gentle start to a new day.

[Editor’s note: Our blog is chock full of great articles on this topic. Use our search feature to find them!]

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