Originating from China, White Tea is yet another form of tea that I was determined to learn more about when I started out. I’ve heard many people swear by its ability to rejuvenate your senses thanks to its potency, taste, and aroma.
Fortunately, you don’t need to go to China to enjoy a cup of White Tea. It is now recognized worldwide for its distinct taste and amazing health benefits, and as such can be found easily in a tea house near you.
So I decided it was time to tell you everything about it!
What is White Tea? White Tea is the most delicate and least processed form of tea. Leaves for White Tea are procured from the same plant as those for black tea. It’s made from the young, tender leaves of the tea plant, Camellia Sinensis. The silvery-white hairs, “hao”, on the unopened buds are where it gets its name.
If you simply want to get started with white tea, then here are some great white tea options available on Amazon.
This pale-colored, sweet-tasting tea is a specialty of China and its plants were originally found on the mountains of Fujian. But now, several other countries plant these too. The hand-plucked leaves go through careful selection and minimal processing.
Once brewed, you have a pale-toned, mild, and distinctly sweet-tasting tea. Its sweet taste is often compared to that of honey, cucumbers, apricots, and peaches. Poets describe this tea as…
white like the clouds,
green like a dream,
pure like snow,
and as aromatic as an orchid.
The History of White Tea
With all the hype surrounding white tea these days, you may mistakenly believe that white tea is a recent discovery.
The truth, however, is that the oldest references to white tea date back to as old as 600 BC during the era of the Song dynasty in China. While the fascination of the Chinese with tea is nothing new, you will be amazed to know that a Chinese emperor, Hui Zong, almost lost his empire due to his enchantment with white tea.
In the days of the Song Dynasty, it was customary to serve white tea, as a symbol of honor and respect, to the emperor as a “tribute”.
The making of this imperial tea tribute was a very complex and careful process, with secret imperial gardens being allotted for its cultivation.
In the early days, white tea tribute would be made by hand plucking the leaves, after which it would undergo the process of steaming and drying before being crushed into a white powder. It would then be whisked in hot water and served to the emperor, usually in ceramic bowls, as was the practice in those days.
After some time, During the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), it was ordained that the imperial tea tribute for the emperor be made using only loose white tea leaves. Since then the white tea is sold in leaf form, and that’s how we know it today.
Preparing White Tea Leaves
White tea is the purest form of tea, made from the young buds of tea plants. The preparation of this minimally processed tea involves the following steps;
The young, unopened buds are hand-plucked during the first few days of flush.
The harvested leaves are then left to wilt on withering pans for 72 hours. The leaves, and not the buds, are then rolled by hand.
The leaves are then either sun-dried or fried in the oven at 230°F (110°C) until the moisture content reduces to 1%. After which they’re ready to be packaged and sold.
For a more in-depth look at how tea is made, check my article here.
White Tea Varieties
You might be surprised to know that white tea comes in five different varieties, depending on the freshness and type of leaves used for its production.
Bai Hao Yin Zhen or Silver Needle
This is one of the most popular, expensive, and sought-after varieties of white tea. It is prepared from the young buds of the tea plant. The silver needle white tea consists only of buds covered in silvery hair, 30 mm in length, with a unique needle-like shape, and silvery tip; hence the name “silver needle”.
The silver needle white tea has a golden color and sweet taste. With its distinct appearance and health properties, the silver needle white tea is one of the most high-quality tea you can get your hands on.
Bai Mudan or White Peony
The “white peony” is only second to the silver needle in terms of popularity. The appearance of white peony tea leaves resembles peony leaves; I’m sure you can guess where its name comes from.
White peony tea is made from two leaves and a bud, with the bud being covered in silver hair. The white peony has a darker color since it undergoes slight oxidation and a stronger taste than the silver needle.
Gong Mein or Tribute Eyebrow
This is considered third to the silver needle in quality and is made from strong and tender buds of the tea plant.it is processed slightly differently and, upon brewing, has a deep yellow color. While it may look like Shou Mein, it is of higher quality.
Shou Mein or Long-Life Eyebrow
This is slightly low in quality in comparison to silver needle, and white peony. The leftover leaves from the harvest of white peony and silver needles are used to make the Shou Mein tea. Since it is more oxidized, the Shou Mein has a darker appearance and stronger taste than the other two.
Fujian New Craft
This is a relatively new variety in the white tea family and was made to counter the increasing demand for white tea in China. In contrast to other white tea varieties, Fujian new craft has a much stronger flavor and darker.
Apart from these a few other varieties have also been discovered, including the Darjeeling white tea, monkey-picked white tea, and more. However, the silver needle and white peony remain the most popular to date.
Where Is White Tea Popular?
White tea originates from the Fujian province of China, and is, therefore, quite popular in China. It is also among the five most popular teas in the world; mainly due to its high price tag, sweet flavor, and many health benefits.
In recent years, its popularity has picked up pace after research revealed the potent cancer-preventing and anti-aging properties of white tea. Today, people around the world enjoy several cups of white tea a day to attain its many health benefits.
Why not take a quick 30 seconds to complete my Global Tea Survey, so we can get a better idea of what the world drinks.
White Tea is among the five most popular teas in the world; mainly due to its high price tag, sweet flavor, and numerous health benefits
Benefits of White Tea
In recent years, the popularity of white tea has paced up majorly because of the numerous health benefits it boasts. White tea has the highest amount of antioxidants present in it; these antioxidants are responsible for the potent disease preventing and fighting properties of white tea.
However, it must be noted that to fully attain the health benefits of white tea you need to have a healthy and balanced lifestyle as well. Here are the 15 major benefits of white tea…
1. White Tea Promotes Oral Health
Unlike many other forms of tea, white tea doesn’t stain your teeth. In fact, it is also actually good for your oral health. It is a great source of fluoride, catechins, and tannins, and so white tea strengthens your teeth by fighting against plaque-forming bacteria and cavities.
The high bioavailability of fluoride in white tea prevents cavities by increasing the teeth’ resistance to bacterial attacks. Research revealed that approximately 34% of fluoride in a cup of white tea is retained, making it effective in maintaining oral health.
2. May Be a Potent Cancer Fighting Agent
I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the sweet-tasting, delicate-looking white tea would actually be an effective source of cancer-fighting agents. The relatively unprocessed, silvery-white leaves of white tea are loaded with chemopreventive antioxidants.
These antioxidants inhibit genetic cell mutations that lead to cancer. According to a study by the Malaya University of Malaysia, the antioxidants in white tea extract not only inhibited the growth of colon cancer cells but also served as a protective barrier against cancer for surrounding, healthy cells.
In another study, published in cancer prevention research, researchers treated lung cancer cells with white tea extract and found it effective in killing cancerous cells.
3. Is a Powerhouse of Antioxidants
A cup of pale-hued white tea is loaded with catechins, which are a type of polyphenol, antioxidant. These protect your cells from damage by free radicals. Free radicals are responsible for chronic inflammation, low immunity, and a number of other diseases, including cancer.
According to a study on animal nerve cells, white tea extract was shown to provide protection against hydrogen peroxide; a free radical. While another study conducted at the School of Life Sciences at Kingston University revealed that white tea can reduce inflammation and might possess disease preventive properties.
4. May Provide Protection Against Heart Diseases
Drinking white tea is also good you’re your heart and overall cardiac health. We all know how important heart health is for leading a quality life.
The antioxidants present in white tea protect your cells from free radicals and minimize the risk of coronary heart disease. The flavonoids found in white tea help to keep blood pressure levels stable and minimize the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
In fact, according to a Spanish study consuming white tea for 12 months was linked to the reversal of the oxidative damage in heart cells. On the other hand, another study revealed that polyphenol found in white tea inhibits the oxidation of the “bad” LDL cholesterol, and protects you from heart disease.
5. Can Be Effective for Weight Loss
Maintaining a healthy weight is a priority for many. If it is a priority for you, then I have got some good news for you. You can lose weight while sipping on white tea.
Drinking white tea might just be the weight loss technique you need. Research has backed up white tea’s fat-burning prowess by revealing that the catechins found in white tea help to kick-start your metabolism and burn fat.
A German study found out that white tea aids weight loss by attacking existing fat cells and preventing the formation of new ones.
Another reason to include white tea in your diet, as backed up by research, is that it boosts your metabolism by an extra 4–5%, enabling your body to burn extra calories.
white tea might just be the weight loss technique you need
6. Has Excellent Anti-Aging Properties
Youthful, glowing, clear, and blemish-free skin is something we all want. Well look no further, the distinctly sweet white tea has excellent anti-aging properties and is great for skin health. The high content of antioxidants present in white tea, thanks to its minimal processing, fights premature aging by eliminating free radicals.
Your skin’s youthfulness depends on elastin and collagen; important compounds that prevent wrinkle and keep your skin looking youthful. White tea helps prevent wrinkles by inhibiting the activity of enzymes that cause the deterioration of these compounds.
Also, white tea has been found to be effective in treating inflammatory skin conditions, especially psoriasis, acne, eczema, and dandruff.
According to one study, the epigallocatechin gallate found in white tea aids the formation of new cells in the skin layer, epidermis, which makes it effective in treating rosacea and psoriasis.
You can benefit from the anti-inflammatory properties of white tea by either having a cup or two a day, or you can simply apply it topically on the affected area.
The polyphenols found in white tea not only strengthen the elastin and collagen in your skin but also provide protection against ultraviolet rays of the sun.
7. Can Help with Diabetes
Diabetes has been directly responsible for 1.6 million deaths in 2016.
While we still don’t have a cure for it, Chinese studies reveal that regular consumption of white tea has been shown to be beneficial to diabetic patients by increasing insulin secretion in their bodies and lowering blood glucose levels by 48 percent.
The catechins present in white tea prevent the absorption of glucose by inhibiting enzymes responsible for doing so. This property makes white tea effective in regulating spikes in blood sugar levels and, hence, diabetes.
8. Improves Focus and Energy
The reason why white tea is so rejuvenating, especially on a warm summer day, is because of its low concentration of caffeine. The low caffeine concentration means that it doesn’t dehydrate you and you stay hydrated for longer.
The calming properties of white tea can be attributed to its high concentration of L-theanine. L-theanine is an amino acid that is known for improving alertness and reducing anxiety.
There is also a study claiming that L-theanine helps counter mental and physical stress by increasing the production of the feel-good hormones (serotonin and dopamine) in your brain.
White tea does have a small amount of caffeine which does help to kick-start your day. Since the amount of caffeine in white tea is less you can have several cups a day to maximize its benefits without worrying about overdosing on caffeine.
9. Is Good for Your Brain
It seems that white tea is good for just about every part of your body. It is also good for your brain health. White tea has a high catechin content, which makes it effective in keeping your brain health in good shape.
In a study conducted by the San Jorge University in Spain, white tea extract was shown to improve the health of the cerebral cortex in rats by shielding it from oxidative damage.
While a Portuguese study revealed that the catechins present in white tea are conducive to improving memory and slowing down age-related memory decline.
10. Is Good for Male Reproductive Health
White tea has been shown to boost fertility in men by improving sperm quality. “White tea extract, when given to pre-diabetic rats, has been shown to improve sperm quality by preventing testicular oxidative damage” reported a Portugal study.
Another animal study revealed that white tea extract has been shown to improve the mobility and viability of sperm.
11. May Act As an Anti-Inflammatory
By now you probably must have realized that the catechins in white tea are the hero compounds.
The high catechin content present in white tea is responsible for its anti-inflammatory properties, which not only help reduce inflammation but also protect against a number of chronic diseases.
White tea may also make for a great post-workout drink since Japanese study claims it to aid in quicker muscle recovery post-exercise.
White tea also consists of an anti-inflammatory compound, EGCG which is found to be effective in treating cold and flu.
12. Is Good for Your Bone Health
The polyphenols found in white tea are conducive in increasing the mineral density of bones and protecting them from oxidative damage. This means that white tea helps protect you from osteoporosis and increases your overall bone strength.
According to some studies, people who consume white tea regularly, have been found to have better bone mineral density than those who don’t.
13. Could Help Lower Cholesterol
While cholesterol in limited amounts is good for your body, excess accumulation of it can cause arteries to narrow, leading to coronary heart disease.
The catechins present in white tea protect you from heart diseases by lowering cholesterol levels in your body. A study revealed that white tea is actually beneficial in reducing bad LDL cholesterol and increasing good cholesterol.
14. May Help Lower Blood Pressure
The pale-colored, mild, white tea is packed with powerful antioxidants, catechins, and polyphenols, which makes it effective in reducing blood pressure and increase the elasticity of blood veins. White tea has been shown to thin blood and improves the functioning of the arteries.
15. May Provide Protection Against Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s
The polyphenol EGCG found in white tea is effective in destroying free radicals and reducing inflammation.
EGCG provides protection against Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease by preventing protein clumping and nerve damage. Studies showed a 15% decrease in risk for Parkinson’s in people who regularly consumed white tea.
Side Effects of White Tea
While white tea has some serious health benefits. But even so, it is important to know that it may have some side effects as well if it is consumed in excessive amounts.
The potential side effects of white tea generally stem from its caffeine content.
While the caffeine content in white tea is low, it’s important to know which variety of white tea you are using. Some varieties of white tea actually have higher caffeine content, as much as up to 75 mg.
Pregnant women, especially, need to be careful about the number of cups they consume per day as a caffeine intake of more than 200 mg can pose harmful effects and complications in the later stages of pregnancy.
Moreover, high caffeine consumption has also been linked to increased anxiety, insomnia, dizziness, and gastrointestinal issues.
Is White Tea Better Than Green Tea?
Did you know that a cup of white tea contains more antioxidants than a similar cup of green tea? Despite originating from the same tea plant, the greater the number of antioxidants in white tea can be attributed to it being less processed than green tea.
These antioxidants in white tea make it a more potent cancer-fighting agent. According to research at the Linus Pauling Institute on the impact of different kinds of tea on colon cancer, white tea was found to be better in preventing the spread of lesions in the colon.
As well as that, white tea has less caffeine content than green tea; making it an overall healthier option.
How to Brew White Tea
Before you brew yourself a cup of white tea, remember that white tea is never made with boiling water. So, when brewing white tea, the temperature of the water is of utmost importance. A temperature of 170° – 185° F (76° to 85° C) is considered ideal.
To Brew Your White Tea
- Add in 2 tsp. (or more, as per your preference) of white tea leaves in to a cup.
- Pour a cup of warm water, heated to a rolling boil, over the leaves.
- Now, cover your cup with a lid and let the white tea steep for 2-5 minutes – depending on the variety of white tea you are using.
- Once steeped, strain the leaves and pour it into your favorite mug
- Enjoy the refreshing, delicate flavor of white tea.
What Is the Flavor of White Tea?
Once the white tea is brewed, it turns into a pale-colored, almost odorless, velvety smooth, and delicate drink. Its sweet flavor has been compared to honey, and apricots, and peaches. In fact, white tea has long been celebrated for its distinct, sweet flavor.
“white like the clouds, green like a dream, pure like snow, and as aromatic as an orchid.”
Upon reading through this again, I realized the benefits of white tea seem to far outweigh the side effects, and I’m quite surprised white tea isn’t far more prevalent than green … or even Black?
Perhaps it’s the price tag that goes with it? Or if it’s another reason, then perhaps you can tell me your thoughts in the comments below?
In any event, I really hope this has helped you get a full overview of white tea and all the benefits of white tea, all the side effects of white tea, and how to make it. If I’ve missed anything or you have anything you want to ask or add then let me know in the comments below.
Otherwise, don’t forget to check out my other articles relating to all things tea from around the world, and also if you’re looking for perfect tea gifts for tea-heads like me, then head over to my tea-ware page for some inspiration!
How long do you brew white tea? The time required for brewing white tea varies according to the variety of white tea leaves being used. Generally, it is preferred to steep your tea for anywhere between 1-5 minutes. However, larger tea leaves require a shorter steeping time, whereas the buds may take up to as long as 10 minutes. Some special brands of white tea may require even more time for steeping.
Can you use milk with white tea? Normally, white tea is consumed on its own, without adding milk. Although some people do add some sugar or lemon to it. The sweet flavor of white tea, however, doesn’t usually need any additional flavoring. Is it the same for green tea?
What is the caffeine content of white tea? Depending on the variety of white tea you are using and your brewing method, the caffeine content in your cup of white tea can differ greatly. The caffeine in white tea can range from anywhere between 6-75 mg, which breaks the myth that white tea has a very low caffeine content.
As the figures reveal, the caffeine content in white tea can be as high as up to 75 mg depending on the variety you are using and, of course, how long you steep it. As a general rule of thumb, the longer you steep, the greater the caffeine content. However, white tea from Fujian, China does have very low caffeine content ranging from 6-25 mg. . So now that you know, make sure to pick your white tea wisely.
When is the best time to have white tea? White tea, being an herbal infusion, is best taken during the evening, but not immediately before bedtime. This way, you can maximize its benefits and still get a good night’s sleep. However, if you are looking for losing weight or consuming white tea for its anti-aging properties, then you may need as many as 3-5 cups of white tea during the day to help you achieve your desired goal.
Are there any specific storage conditions for white tea? Like all other teas, white tea needs to be stored in a cool, dry place, away from sunlight, and in an airtight container. Since it is minimally processed, it is more prone to oxidation. Therefore, careful storage is necessary to protect its leaves from enzymatic breakdown. While storing white tea, remember that heat, moisture, light, and air are its enemies. You may refrigerate white tea to improve its shelf life and keep its flavor intact.
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