White tea is a lightly oxidized tea and is primarily grown in Fujian province of China. The name “white tea” derives from the fine silvery-white hairs on the unopened buds which gives the tea a white appearance. The leaves for the white tea are first withered in the sunlight before they are roasted to prevent the oxidation. While withering the leaves oxidize lightly and simultaneously, chlorophyll degrades by UV light from the sun. The latter causes the distinctive, grassy taste of the white tea.
Although originally from Fujian white tea is now produced in many tea producing areas. White tea is beside China produced in Taiwan, Darjeeling, Assam, Nilgiri, Sri Lanka, Malawi, Kenya and Thailand. Each region is different in character due to various growing conditions and plant varieties.
As varied as the regions are also the varieties of white tea. One of the most exclusive and most expensive varieties Baihao Yinzhen which is also known as White Hair Silver Needle tea. For this tea only one leaf shoots are used which are covered with a white down and led to the extraordinary name. Genuine Baihao Yinzhen is only made by the Da Bai tea variety.
Bai Mu Dan, English “White Peony”, is one of the most famous white teas. For Bai Mu Dan are beside the leaf shoot the first two leaves taken too. Thus this tea is somewhat stronger in flavor than Baihao Yinzhen and sometimes preferred for this reason by some tea connoisseurs. Other less common varieties are Shou Mei, Mei Gong and Darjeeling White.
White tea is prepared like green tea. Preferably a Gaiwan is used because in it the subtle flavors of white tea are not affected. The water for the infusion should be soft and between 75° and 80° Celsius. The liqueur of Baihao Yinzhen is pale yellow while Bai Mu Dan rather golden-orange.