Not so long ago, in the quest to find the next big thing in tea (a notion which pretty much equates to “the next green tea”) it seems that a lot of media types and tea merchants began to turn their attention to white tea. This makes some sense, to be honest, since white tea, like green, is a lightly processed variety of Camellia sinensis (the tea plant) and thus is more likely to retain a high proportion of those health benefits so widely attributed to green tea.
One of the problems with white tea, in my relatively limited experience, is that it I am frequently disappointed with the taste. Of course, this sort of thing is hardly limited to white tea. It can also be a problem with any of the other types, be they black, green, oolong, yellow or puerh.
One of the primary factors that contributes to a lousy tasting tea is a very basic one – the tea wasn’t very good to start with. When it comes to tea, a good rule of thumb is that you get what you pay for. A cheap tea is probably going to taste like one, while a tea that drains a little more from your wallet is likely to be better tasting (though not always). Start with lousy tea and you’re pretty much trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.
Another critical factor that contributes to a stinko cup of tea is improper preparation. This notion – and the previous one – were addressed in greater detail in a similar article I wrote about black tea, so it’s not really necessary to keep beating that dead horse. Suffice to say that any type of tea is prone to being ruined by careless preparation.
Where white tea differs from the other types, in my ever so humble opinion, is in its very low-key flavor. Because it uses the most delicate parts of the tea plant – buds and young shoots – the flavor of most white tea varieties, or at least most of the ones I’ve tasted, is very subtle. Which is why it’s probably not a good choice for newcomers to tea, whose palates might have been dulled such beverages as coffee, soda or whatever else.
So, to summarize, there are essentially three reasons why your white tea tastes like crap – you bought crappy white tea, you didn’t prepare it correctly or your palate is just not ready yet for the refined goodness that is white tea.
William’s blog, Tea Guy Speaks, is a great place to learn about tea!!