Known for its minimal processing, white tea is considered to have the highest level of freshness and a uniquely fruity taste.
White tea is native to the Fujian Province in China.
The earliest references to white tea have been traced back to the Tang Dynasty (618-907). It was a beverage exclusively for royals. Imperial gardens even grew it for this purpose. Rumor has it that virgins wearing white gloves presented the Emperor with white tea as a tribute, communicating honor and respect. By the 1700s, Chinese citizens began to harvest the white tea we think of today. Because it could go stale easily, it wasn’t until storage and production methods improved centuries later that white tea became popular beyond the Fujian Province with both harvesters and consumers. In particular, the silver needle variety of white tea became a Chinese export in the late 19th century, and grew in popularity with Chinese trading partners in the early 20th century.
Like all tea, white tea comes from the Camellia sinensis plant. Unlike other varieties, white tea is made from immature tea plants whose buds have yet to open. These buds are plucked when still covered with fine, white hairs, giving this variety its name. White tea can also be referred to as “raw” or “downy,” for its similar appearance to down feathers. After it is plucked, white tea is dried and harvested by hand. When drying, it is exposed to a very slight amount of oxygen. It is the least oxidized of all teas, making it a very fresh, delicate brand. The longer tealeaves are exposed to oxygen, the darker their color and the deeper their flavor.
Per Teatulia, white tea’s low level of oxidation results in its light flavor, often described with terms like: “floral, grassy, honey, fruity, melon, peach, apricot, vanilla, chocolate, citrus, herby, mild, subtle, delicate and sweet.”
White tea has many exciting health benefits, notably an edge in the fight against colon cancer and in joint and skin health.
As reported by Livestrong, researchers at the Linus Pauling Institute found that white tea was better than green tea at alleviating harm to DNA, which can predate colon cancer.
White tea also helps fight wrinkles, says a 2009 study from Kingston University’s School of Life Sciences. The study concluded that white tea promotes the skin’s elasticity and collagen production, keeping skin looking younger and firmer.
White tea may protect your joints, too. A 2011 study, also from Kingston University’s School of Life Sciences, concluded that white tea has a “protective effect on fibroblast cells against hydrogen peroxide induced damage.” Translation: white tea keeps your joins feeling young and healthy.