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White Tea Types

White Tea Types

The simple and natural process used to produce white tea makes for a light and delegate taste.

White teas come in a number of different grades and styles to suit different tastes and budgets.

In this white tea facts section we aim to introduce some of the key characteristics that produce this sometimes misunderstood category of teas.

What is White Tea?

White tea is any tea made using the two-stage method of withering and drying. To be considered a white tea, leaves should neither be fried nor rolled and no physical manipulation should occur. It is for this reason that white teas are often described as the most natural type of tea.

White teas are not exclusive to particular cultivars or even location, but are dependent on fidelity to the process of withering and drying.

White Tea Processing

White tea production process is the simplest of all teas and although white tea does undergo oxidisation unlike green tea. However the process does not include any rolling nor, traditionally a final drying 'bake' to halt the oxidisation process.

The key steps include;
Wei Tiao 萎凋 - Withering
Shai Qing 晒青 - Sun drying
Hong Bei 烘焙 - Finishing bake (low temperature drying)

Traditionally the FuJian late spring sun is sufficient to halt the oxidisation process and dry the leaf without the final finishing HongBei process. However in some cases when the weather is not sufficiently hot, an artificial heat may be used to ensure quality and that the tea can be safely packed and stored without risk of damage due to moisture.

The majority of famous white teas originate from FuJian, though the ZheJiang province county of AnJi produces AnJi Bai Cha, which in fact a green tea based on it's processing technique. Many other green teas are sold as Yin Zhen or silver needles, a title often mistaken to mean that it is a white tea.

FuJian White Tea Types

FuJian white tea has three primary types;
Shou Mei - ShouMei white tea is made from only tea leaves. There are no buds or tips included.
Bai Mu Dan - BaiMuDan white tea is made from a mix of leaf and buds.
Bai Hao Yin Zhen 白毫银针 - BaiHao YinZhen white tea is produced just from the top tips or buds of the tea plant. This makes for a very fine tea and correspondingly a delicate taste and aroma.

BaiHao YinZhen (White Hair Silver Needle)

Freshly plucked tender tea tips are processed in factory immediately after picking. Bai Hao Yin Zhen processing is only made up of two simple steps; sunbathing (wilting) and baking (drying). These steps mean the silver tips change slowly, making for a tea with a fresh, delegate, sweet taste.

The plucking season for high grade BaiHao YinZhen is relatively short and is very weather dependent.

Bai Mu Dan (PaiMu Dan)

The key process to make Bai Mu Dan white tea is frying. It takes skill and experience to able adjust the heat and duration according to the weather.

Bai Mu Dan is usually a single season tea, with leaves being harvested in the spring. The picking standard is traditionally one tip with 2 leaves, though increasingly special, tippy grades and later season lower grades (less buds) are becoming more and more common.

Bai Mu Dan white tea is characterized by natural leaves and white hairy tips ranging from light pastels to dark green, with a tea liquor that is orange yellow or apricot yellow, yielding a taste is mellow and fresh.

Gong Mei / Shou Mei

During the first flush, when making the Yin Zhen silver needle grade, it is common for farmers to hand pick leaves in a Bai Mu Dan style, then remove the silver tips. The remaining 2 leaves, are then used to make Gong Mei. Later in the season, then courser leaf grades are machine harvested directly for Shou Mei and Gong Mei grades.

The Gong Mei dried leaves are typically a mix of greens. The tea liquor is bright and of a orange or dark yellow colour along with a mellow and sweet taste.

The picking season for Gong Mei and Shou Mei is the longest, and it is common for these grades to be picked through to mid-summer. Summer teas are often what is used as the base for white tea blends.


Caffeine in White Tea

Among many misconceptions of white tea are claims made about the presence (or not) of caffeine. To some the naturalness and delicate qualities of white tea translate to low-caffeine properties. In fact, white tea is not a low-caffeine beverage.Whether this is misinformation or just a result of over-simplification, the situation is more complex.

It is true that summer harvested Shou Mei and Gong Mei white teas are some of the lowest teas in caffeine, however, conversely Yin Zhen Silver Needles is one of the highest.  Interestingly, some people who are sensitive to caffeine in other products like chocolate and coffee may not notice the high caffeine in Silver Needles, possibly due to the calming effects of L-Theanine which is also present in relatively high concentrations.

Here are few general properties of the tea plant which explain why:
1. Plant biochemistry - generally speaking, the younger the pluck, the higher the caffeine content; buds are known to possess more caffeine than leaves.
2. Seasonality - the earlier the picking, the higher the caffeine content; leaves and buds picked in early spring contain higher volumes of caffeine than buds and leaves picked later in the season; post-spring teas even less.
3. 'Downy' features - the fine, silver hairs, or down, which cover the buds of higher grade white teas contain similar quantities of caffeine as the bud proper, despite accounting for up to 10% the total weight.


White tea storage

ShouMei and BaiMuDan white teas can be stored in a similar way to black teas, as with all tea they should be stored out of direct sunlight, steady temperature and away from strong smells. However partial exposure to air will help age.

BaiHao YinZhen white tea is more suited to an air free sealed. In the very early periods after after harvesting people often store in fridges and freezers to maintain the spring, fresh tastes. Nonetheless, BaiHao YinZhen also is an excellent tea to age. Many FuJian people suggesting that after 2-3 years the tea reaches it's optimum taste.

By only picking the freshest part of the tea plant white tea captures the purest flavours and much of the fresh spring energy the tea plant releases. For this reason and combined with the light processing technique means that white teas are often shown to contain some of the highest levels of antioxidants found in tea.

Storage and preparation of BaiHao YinZhen white tea is critical. Storage should be air tight container, ideally in a freezer with a temperature of around -5 to -1 degree(s) centigrade for the first 6 months. Water should be off the boil (for between 2-4 minutes), to give a temperature of around 70-80 degrees centigrade.

Experiment with even lower water temperatures, 50-60 degrees centigrade work well though infusion times may need to be varied. Water too is critical, if you live in a hard water area or somewhere with strong flavoured water we highly recommend buying a good quality (not necessarily brand name) mineral water.

Once the tea has been aged for more than a year then these teas can be brewed with hot and even boiling water.

Aged White Tea

White teas age well. Though they have only recently borrowed the cake or 'bing' standard of Puer teas, (witnessing similar price inflation), white teas have always been known to age well. Local Fujianese white tea lore has venerated this tradition in the well-known saying, "一年是茶,三年是藥, 七年是寶" or "After a year it's tea, after three a medicine, when seven it is a treasure!"

Total Products: 3   -   Showing: 1 to 3
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Bai Mu Dan White Tea (2017 - 50g)

Bai Mu Dan White Tea (2017 - 50g)

White Tea. Bai Mu Dan or white peony loose leaf tea. Complex flavour with an excellent balance of delicate flavours and depth.

Weight:50g Price£20.00
New Product

Premium Bai Mu Dan White Tea (2018 - 50g)

Premium Bai Mu Dan White Tea (2018 - 50g)

White Tea. Premium Bai Mu Dan or white peony loose leaf tea.

Weight:50g Price£20.00

Yunnan White Tea (2021 - 25g)

Yunnan White Tea (2021 - 25g)

White Tea. Yunnan sun dried white tea in resealable pouch.

Weight:25g Price£18.00

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