Of all the teas created from Camellia sinensis, white tea is the least processed. Therefore, it retains most of its naturally-occurring goodness. White tea is produced mainly of leaves from the Fujian province of China, though it is being produced more and more in other tea regions like India, Sri Lanka, and Taiwan. Only the buds and/or the youngest leaves covered in fine silvery hairs or pekoe are used to make white tea. These leaves are plucked for two or three days every early spring.
Though white tea is classified as non-oxidized, a certain amount of oxidation does occur naturally during the withering process. So, after the leaves are gathered, they are allowed to wither for a period of time and then dried either naturally by air or by some mechanical means. That’s all! Some manufactures may add a step of quick steaming or frying after withering in order to stop any further oxidation.
To make a cup of this beautiful tea requires certain water temperatures, tea amounts, and steep durations just like any other tea. I’m using one of the best white teas called Silver Needle. It is made entirely from downy buds only. In its dry form, they resemble needles, hence, the name. Feel free to try other whites instead if you wish. White Peony is another wonderful white which consists of a bud and two leaves.
|A cuppa silver needles.|
The following is just a guideline you can try out and then adjust to your own liking:
- Bring water to a full boil and allow it to cool down. Ideal temperature for white tea should be around 70 °C to 75 °C. I've had great white tea at 65 °C. I would not go higher than 80 °C as the tea may become bitter and you don’t want to scald white tea leaves as they are very delicate.
- Select your vessel of choice. I'm using my trusty little teapot with a built-in filter, and add two teaspoons of tea leaves per cup.
- Pour water over the tea leaves and allow to steep. White tea leaves can handle longer steep durations. Try a shorter steep time of 2 – 3 minutes first. Then go longer, 5 – 10 minutes, if desired. See what works for you. You're drinking it!
- Like most other teas, white tea leaves can be used several times, usually about 3 steeps before discarding them. Increase the duration for subsequent steeps.
- Enjoy your white tea as is. This is a very delicate that is best enjoyed on its own.
White tea, especially Silver Needle is not cheap, but do try it out once in a while, it is so worth the purchase.