White tea is one of the newest trends in tea drinking. Though white tea has been around for centuries, most people in the Western world are just beginning to enjoy it. It’s important to understand the intricacies of how white tea is grown and produced to help you find the very best for your personal collection.
White tea comes from the same plant as other teas, the camellia sinensis. But, beyond this similarity, white tea is very different than black tea or green tea. White tea is harvested much earlier than in the growing process than tea that’s destined to be black or green tea. White tea is harvested before the buds are fully open, while they are still covered with fine white hair.
This is why it’s called white tea. Only the bud and the top two leaves of the tea tree can be used to make white tea.
In addition, white tea undergoes far less processing than black tea; even less processing than green tea. White tea leaves are simply steamed and then dried. Sometimes, the process is even undertaken right in the actual tea fields. This quick and delicate processing protects the delicate flavor, color and aroma of white tea.
There is far less white tea grown harvested than green tea and black tea. This is because good white tea can only be harvested for about two weeks during March and April of each year. Harvesting white tea requires particular temperatures and other environmental conditions. It must be picked when the weather is dry and there has been no frost the night before.
For this reason, you won’t find multiple pluckings of white tea the way you will with black and green tea. To ensure the best flavor, only the tea plucked during this particular time of the year when the buds are new can be used to make white tea. This is one of the reasons that white tea is so rare. Each garden will produce just one crop per year.
The same tea plants that produce the white tea could possibly be used to produce multiple pluckings later in the growing season that will be used to make black or green tea. However, in most cases this is not how white tea is grown. Most tea farmers use one particular variety of the camellia sinensis plant for their white tea, and others for green and black teas.
So, when it comes to choosing the best white tea, choosing from a particular plucking is not important, as it’s all “first plucking”. It’s more important to know the best varieties of white tea, as this will be more important to ensuring that you find the flavor and delicacy you’re searching for. These varieties are not brands; these varieties of white tea may be found in several different brands of white tea.
Bai Hao Yinzhen Tea – A Chinese white tea, this is considered the very finest grade of white tea available. It is generally referred to as Silver Needle tea. This tea can only be plucked for a little more than two weeks of during March and April. There must be no rain or dew on the ground when it is plucked and there can be no frost. Only unopened and undamaged buds are used to produce this white tea.
Bai Mu Dan Tea – This tea is also grown in China, and is generally considered the second highest grade of Yinzhen tea. This tea is also picked during a short timeframe in March and April and requires correct environmental conditions, too. However, compared to Bai Hao Yinzhen tea, it contains more leaves and fewer buds. The very best tea of this grade uses only the top two leaves on the tea plant, along with the unopened bud.
Darjeeling White Tea – Darjeeling tea is grown in the Darjeeling region of India, the part of the world famous for Darjeeling black teas. Darjeeling white tea is a wonderful combination of the delicacy of white tea with the muscatel flavor that is unique to Darjeeling teas. You’ll find several grades of Darjeeling. To choose the best, be certain that the tea is 100% Darjeeling.
Ceylon White Tea – Ceylon tea is produced in Sri Lanka and is one of the most famous of the black teas. Ceylon white is rare and highly prized. It has a pale color and a hint of honey in its sweetness.
In general, the best way to get really good white tea is to choose a tea purveyor with a reputation for selling only the finest. A tea purveyor with the right relationships with the best tea gardens is especially important when it comes to white tea.
Because there’s less white tea grown each year, it’s important to find the tea shops that can get their hands on the best of the best and that has the ability to get good white tea in sufficient quantity.
Once you find your favorite white teas, it’s certain you’ll want to purchase it again and again. That’s another great reason to buy from only the best purveyors of white tea; you are assured your favorite tea will be available when you need to replenish your supply.