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What does White Tea Taste Like?  Discover The Taste, Health Benefits, and Brewing Process

What does White Tea Taste Like?

A delicacy in several traditions across the world, white tea has quickly become a staple for tea lovers. Its delicate and intricate taste is what distinguishes it from all other tea types.

You can expect to taste a mild, sweet, and gentle flavor with the first sip. The tea is naturally low in caffeine and has a light springy taste with hints of sweetness spread across.

Therefore, if you want to find out more about the wonder that is white tea, keep on reading!

What is White Tea?

White tea is a specialty tea that originated in China. It comes from the same tea plant Camellia Sinensis that gives us black tea and green tea. The main difference is that white tea is minimally processed.

There are only 3 steps, first plucking, the tea leaf or tea bud, then withering and drying. This process allows white tea to retain its light and gentle flavors as well as its numerous health benefits.

White tea can help with anti-aging, weight loss, and diabetes, and even contributes to a healthy heart!

Where is White Tea From?

White tea derives from the Camellia Sinensis plant that originated in Fuding, in the Fujian Province of South-East China. The first white tea plant varieties were discovered early in the 1700s!

How White Tea Differs From Other Teas

The difference in the taste and smell of tea depends on the processing method. Furthermore, white tea goes through an extremely gentle and light processing technique while black tea leaves go through oxidation, which is a much longer process.

As for green tea, they are dried in the shade and then either pan-fried or steamed. But, white tea leaves wither under direct sunlight and then get further indoor withering.

Producing Countries

White tea traditionally grows in the mountains of the Fujian Province of China. There are also producers of tea in Chinese regions such as Yunnan and Guangxi.

While it is mostly harvested in China, recently Eastern Nepal, Taiwan, Taiwan, Sri Lanka, and Northeast India have also started their production of white tea.

Other than that, major tea-producing countries such as the ones mentioned above also produce white tea. Even Hawaii and Africa now have their own productions of white tea!

Even so, China still holds the largest market share for the production of white tea.

Harvesting Time

When it comes to white we can identify 3 flushes.

The first flush is the most valuable one because the tea leaves are really tender & fresh on top of having lots of nutrients. It happens during springtime White tea leaves are handpicked while they’re still young.

The second takes place between June-August and the third one is around October until November.

It’s important to note that tea leaves are not picked on rainy days or cooler days when there is frost lying on the ground.

Plucking Technique

A special plucking technique “bud picking” is used for white tea. This is when fresh young leaf buds are plucked from a tea bush.

Plucking is traditionally done by skilled women and collected in small clean baskets with a white cloth fitted within the basket.

Processing

White tea is the least processed of all tea types. The production of white tea involves only harvesting, withering, and drying.

Each leaf is handpicked with great care and left to wither for around 72 hours under direct sunlight or in a room with a controlled environment.

The leaves are then dried to stop oxidation from occurring and to reduce the water content.

White Tea Taste and Aroma

When drinking a cup of white tea, expect sweet, fruity, and delicate tones. Some white teas, like the Shou Mei, are said to be slightly stronger. Shou Mei may have a nuttier and earthier note along with a sweet honey flavor.  

The blend and variation of the white tea will ultimately determine the flavor as well as the aroma.

What does White Tea Taste Like?
white tea

Did you know that the smell and aroma of white tea change with time? A young white tea product may have the smell of reed and weeds. While aged white tea may smell of rice, barley, or other grains.

White Tea Liquor Color

As the name suggests, white tea is said to have an almost whitish color. To be more precise, it will have a pale yellow color in most variations.

White tea is made from buds covered in white downy hairs. These downy coverings on the leaf are what gives the tea its soft white color.

What Are Some of White Tea’s Health Benefits?

Rich in Anti-Oxidants

We briefly touched upon this before but let’s get into a bit more detail.

As numerous research shows, white tea is packed with a type of polyphenols that hold a ton of antioxidant benefits. For instance, consuming white tea can help reduce chronic inflammation as the antioxidants shield our body from free radicals and the damage it brings along with them.

May Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease

The polyphenols in white tea can also help relax blood vessels, improve your immunity and stop the bad cholesterol in our bodies from being oxidized. A combination of these factors may help lower the risk of heart disease.

Could Help With Weight Loss

While green tea takes the stage in many cases of weight loss, white tea can also help with burning fat. Research has shown that catechins that are found in white tea can help burn fat cells and boost your metabolism which encourages weight loss.

May Help With Skin Aging

The free radicals in our body can cause damage to our skin’s DNA and speed up the aging process. Research shows that the polyphenols in white tea can combat these free radicals and therefore help keep the skin fresh and healthy.

What Is The Caffeine Content In White Tea?

The caffeine content in white tea is relatively lower than that of black tea and can be compared to that of green tea. Keep in mind, however, that steeping your tea at higher temperatures can result in more caffeine in your white tea.

The caffeine content in white tea generally ranges from 30 to 55 mg per 8 ounces. Young buds are seen to have the highest amount of caffeine. So, depending on the type of white tea you get, the caffeine content may vary.

Famous Types of White Tea

There are some variations of white tea that exist in the market. Each type of white tea will have a unique taste, smell, and feel. Let’s explore some of the common variations of white tea so you can find your perfect fit!

Bai Hao Yin Zhen or Silver Needle

Bai Hao Yin Zhen or Silver Needle is the most expensive and is considered to be the highest-quality white tea on the market. It is produced in the Fujian province of China and is harvested only for a couple of weeks each spring.

The tea has a pure flavor, floral aroma, and beautiful golden color. The tasting notes are said to be fresh, smooth, buttery, and almost like cucumber or melon. Talk about a melting pot of flavors!

Wild Tree Purple Moonlight White

The Wild Tree Purple Moonlight White comes from ye sheng cha (wild tree purple varietal tea) that grows in the Jinggu County in Yunnan Province, China. The tea grows in the wild and can only be harvested in late February or March.

This tea has a fruity taste, a floral scent with undertones of sugarcane. It even has a slight bitterness that, although it tends to fade away quickly, still complements the unique flavor beautifully.

The dried leaf smells like apricots and turns a pale yellow color after steeping.

Bai Mu Dan or White Peony

The Bai Mu Dan or White Peony originates from Shuiji in Fujian Province in China. It is often considered to be the lower quality version of the silver Needle because it uses older leaves.

This white tea has a nutty, sweet taste and usually turns a slightly dark golden once brewed.

Not so Famous White Teas To Try

Shou Mei or Long Noble Life Eyebrow

Shou Mei is also called the Long Noble Life Eyebrow because of its thin crescent-shaped leaves that are interestingly similar to eyebrows. This tea undergoes little to no oxidation and goes through a natural process that contributes to its dark color and rich flavor.

The aroma and taste are often similar to Oolong tea. It has a fruity, floral, nutty, and sweet flavor.

Xue Long or Jasmine Dragon Pearl

The Xue Long or Jasmine Dragon Pearl white tea uses only fresh young buds with velvety appearances.

It has a sweet, fruity, grassy, and sometimes peachy taste. The tea, once brewed, has a light golden color.

Darjeeling White

As the name suggests, Darjeeling white tea comes from the Darjeeling region of India. The tea grows at altitudes of up to 2000 meters. This white tea has a pale golden color and a mellow flavor with hints of sweetness.

Darjeeling tea has around 50 mg of caffeine per 8-ounce cup. However, this will depend on its flush. Darjeeling White is often referred to as the champagne of teas.

Ceylon White

The Ceylon white tea comes all the way from Sri Lanka. It is a rare tea made using only the longest silver tea buds. Tea makers usually use tea buds at least 25 millimeters long for this white tea.

Ceylon white tea is one of the least produced and expensive teas on the market. The tea has a light, fruity flavor with a slight taste of honey. All Ceylon tea varieties have a small amount of caffeine and are high in antioxidants.

African White

The popularity of white tea is not only limited to Asian countries but has spread across the world. Such is the case for African white tea.

The most famous type of African white tea is called the Malawi white tea. This white tea is made using only stems and twigs from the tea plant. This African white tea has a more robust flavor than traditional white tea.

It tends to have a slightly grassy flavor and a slight taste of honey.

Imperial Himalayan White Tea

The Imperial Himalayan white teas harvest time is during autumn. This white tea is named after the Himalayan Mountains, where the tea plants are grown.

The high altitudes in which this tea is grown add to its strong flavor, complementing its somewhat fruity notes.

How to Brew White Tea?

Brewing white tea is a delicate process. Here is a step by step to get you going.

Start by setting your water to boil and gathering your tools. Measure out your leaves and place them in the pot. Gently pour the hot water and let it steep. Filter out, and enjoy your beautiful cup of white tea.

Remember that you can easily over-brew or burn the white tea leaves, which will result in a bitter taste. Try not to pour boiling water over the leaves and instead allow your water to cool down ever so slightly before letting it touch the tea leaves.

You don’t need much to brew white tea. You’ll need a teapot or vessel to allow the tea leaves to expand, a tea filter or strainer, and a mug or cup of your choice. You can even opt for a teapot with an infuser attached to it.

Remember to be generous when adding your tea leaves, as white tea leaves are much less dense and compact than other tea types. You can start by adding two teaspoons for every 8-ounce cup of water.

Although the specific steeping times may vary depending on the white tea brand, longer steeps generally allow for more flavor to release. Usually, waiting around 5 to 8 minutes for each steep is good enough to release the full flavor.

As for water temperature, anything between 75°C to 85°C should be a suitable temperature for brewing your white tea.

White tea can often be steeped 2 to 3 times, which will produce a new flavor with each brewing session.

Here’s a tip, try pre-warming your teacup or mug can help enhance the drinking experience. This ensures that the temperature of the tea does not change as it is poured into the cup.

What Foods Pair Well With White Tea?

Are you thinking of enjoying your cup of white tea with some other food? Try out some food pairings with your white tea and give your taste buds a treat!

Remember that white tea has a relatively sweet taste, so try pairing it with light or savory dishes. Having food that overpowers that flavor of the white tea will make it taste almost like nothing.

1.    Scones with jam or cream

2.    Variations of cheese or cheese boards

3.    Sandwiches with various fillings

4.    Basic salads

5.    Lightly cooked fish dishes

6.    Mild desserts like shortbread or pound cake

7.    Salty biscuits or crackers

8.    Freshly cooked bread

9.    Panna Cotta

10. White meat dishes

These are only a few that we came up with. Feel free to experiment with whatever you have in your kitchen and find your perfect pair.

FAQs about White Tea

1.    Why Is My White Tea Bitter?

Over-steeping or pouring too hot water can frequently result in white tea becoming bitter. Avoid bitterness by steeping for around 5 to 8 minutes, and let the water cool down a bit slightly before pouring it in.

2.    Does White Tea Taste Nice?

White tea is said to have a delicate sweet taste. It is not too strong and will not be overwhelming but instead will be subtle and often fruity.

3.    Is It Good To Drink White Tea at Night?

Since white tea is low in caffeine, it can be an excellent beverage to enjoy before sleeping. White tea improves sleep quality and can calm people with a delicate taste and aroma.

4.    Is White Tea Bitter?    

White tea is generally not bitter and is usually slightly sweet to taste. However, over-steeping and pouring boiling water on white tea can sometimes lead to the tea turning bitter?

5.    Is Chamomile A White Tea?

Chamomile is a herb and not a tea leaf. It does not include any caffeine and can be considered an herbal tea. Thus, it does not fall in the classification of white teas.

References

Xia, Xiaoyan, et al. “Combination of white tea and peppermint demonstrated synergistic antibacterial and anti-inflammatory activities.” Journal of the science of food and agriculture vol. 101,6 (2021): 2500-2510.

Dow, Caroline. The Healing Power of Tea: Simple Teas & Tisanes to Remedy and Rejuvenate Your Health. United States, Llewellyn Worldwide, Limited, 2014.

“Chapter 3.42 – White Tea.” Nonvitamin and Nonmineral Nutritional Supplements, by Seyed Mohammad Nabavi and Ana Sanches Silva, Academic Press, 2019, pp. 437–445.

Dias, Tânia & Tomás, Gonçalo & N.F, Teixeira & Alves, Marco & Oliveira, Pedro & Silva, Branca. White Tea (Camellia Sinensis (L.)): Antioxidant Properties And Beneficial Health Effects. International Journal of Food Science, Nutrition and Dietetics. 2. 1-15. (2013).

“Tea.” Linus Pauling Institute, 1 Jan. 2021, lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/food-beverages/tea.

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