Although not new to Asia, white tea is a relative newcomer to the West, and an elegant addition to the teas we already know and love.
In many cultures, white represents purity, the untouched, and the angelic. Certainly you could attribute those characteristics to white tea, with its beautiful names evocative of its Oriental past, like Golden Moon, White Peony and Silver Needle.
Originally, white tea was hand-picked in only one region, the Fujian Province, of China, and only between March 15 and April 10, but now it’s also harvested in Japan, Sri Lanka and India, and its popularity is increasing around the world. One reason for this is its lovely taste, usually described as sweet and light, although different white teas vary in flavor. Another reason is its superior health benefits.
The purest white tea is made only from the unopened buds of the Camillia Senensis plant, which are silvery to white and covered with fine, downy hairs (hence, Silver Needle). The buds are sun-dried or steamed and then dried, preventing any oxidation from spoiling its pristine goodness. Some grades of white tea include just a few of the youngest, unfurled leaves, again steamed and dried. The buds and the young leaves have the highest concentration of antioxidants and less caffeine. The immaturity of the buds and leaves chosen by the harvesters, and the lack of oxidation in its processing, results in antioxidant levels superior to green tea, the only other completely unoxidized tea. Lesser grades of white tea use the leaves left over after Silver Needle is harvested, and others use variant bushes.
Renowned for its antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties, white tea brings the same benefits to disease and imbalances as green tea in slightly higher proportions. It has higher catechin levels which reduce strokes, heart failure, carcinogens, and the risk of diabetes, and encourages collagen production in the skin. The inclusion of gallic acid in white tea has antioxidant and tumor-fighting abilities, an amino acid called theanine is a mood enhancer and relaxant, and white tea has less fluoride than green tea. White tea is known to have a remarkable effect on the circulatory system, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels, (as does green tea to a lesser extent). If green tea is the Crown Prince of teas, white tea is the Queen.
Green tea and white tea are two extraordinary health tonics, so let taste be your guide. Because two cups of tea a day provide many more health benefits than one cup, reuse and resteep your white or green tea leaves or tea bags to get a concentrated antioxidant health boost. Yung sing!