Monthly Profile: White Teas

Proclaiming white tea to be the culmination of all things elegant, a Song Dynasty emperor sowed the seeds of its modern-day popularity. And while it has been shrouded in obscurity outside of China until very recently, this much-beloved variety has now been discovered by tea lovers around the world. Equally stunning dry as when it is steeped in water, white tea presents an exquisite range of flavor and aroma, from a delicate sweetness to a more pronounced brightness.

Silver Needle - the queen of all teas
Silver Needle - the queen of all teas

According to the different standards of picking and selecting, white teas can be classified as Yin Zhen Bai Hao (Silver Needle), Bai Mu Dan (White Peony), as well as more exotic varieties called Snowbud, Song Yang, and various display teas. All of these are widely produced in China and have recently become readily available in the United States. The most revered white tea is called Silver Needle, produced in the Fuding and Zhenhe districts of the Fujian province of China. Silver Needle is carefully hand selected from the tender fleshy sprouts of the "Big White" tea bush or the "Narcissus" bush. If the buds are selected with two leaves intact, then the resulting selection will be made into a White Peony tea.

The quality of white tea depends greatly on the timing of harvesting. The best white tea is picked in the early spring and is subject to numerous strict requirements: Picking top-grade white tea is prohibited on rainy days or when the tea bushes are covered by morning dew. Equally important, the tea may never be picked when buds appear purple; when they are damaged by wind, people, or insects; when they have begun to open; when they are hollow; when they are too long or too thin; when there is one bud with three to four leaves; or when there is frost on the ground. While these requirements may appear draconian, adherence to all is surely justified by the sublime aroma and taste bestowed by the finest of China's white teas.

The proper preparation of white teas resembles that of a green variety. Their delicate nature will be destroyed by water that is too hard or too hot. The latter will adversely affect the delicate leaves and produce an inferior-tasting, astringent cup. The ideal water temperature is between 175° and 180° Fahrenheit. Add 1 to 1.5 tablespoons of white tea per eight ounces of water in a cup or teapot. Pour water over the tea and steep for five to seven minutes.

Interested in receiving samples of our fresh white teas from the Fujian region of China? Please call 973-253-7400 x112.