What White Tea Is
With reports of the health benefits of various types of tea circulating these days, the question on the minds of many people is "what is white tea?" White tea is the latest form of tea to gain popularity in the western world. It comes from the same plant as other teas, the camellia sinensis plant, and the difference between white, green and black tea is the maturity at which the leaves are picked, and the processing that they go through once they are picked. Of all of the variations of tea that are available, white tea is the least processed.
How White Tea is Produced
When the producer is planning on harvesting the leaves of the tea tree to make white tea, they will pick them when they are very young, and not fully matured. These young buds have white fibers on them, which is what gives white tea its name. The plucking of the leaves while they are still young helps white tea to maintain a much mellower flavor than what we get with green and black teas. When picking these young buds and leaves, care has to be taken not to bruise them too much as this could alter the flavor somewhat.
White tea also goes through much lighter processing than green and black teas. With black tea the leaves are crushed and fermented, which gives it its stronger flavor than green and white tea. With green tea the leaves are bruised and are only subjected to light fermentation before it is ready to be consumed. The lighter fermentation gives green tea a mellower flavor than black tea, but it can still have some of the bitterness that comes with the fermentation. Once white tea is picked, it is steamed, and finally dried. After the leaves are dry, the tea is ready to be consumed.
The Health Benefits of White Tea
Both white and green teas are claimed to have cancer fighting antioxidants, as well as great overall health benefits. Advocates of white tea claim that the benefits are even greater than green tea because it is not subjected to any fermentation. It's no secret that processed foods are not nearly as good for you as whole and unprocessed foods, so there may be some validity to this claim. See my article on The Possible Health Benefits of White Tea for more information on the health benefits.
The taste of white tea is very mellow and fine when compared to black tea, and even green tea. Unlike green tea, white tea does not give a bitter or grassy aftertaste. When brewed it gives a light golden color that softer than green tea. People that are not accustomed to drinking tea may find white tea to be more accessible than the other varieties because of its softer flavor. Even with this lighter flavor, white tea should be able to satisfy the taste buds of experienced tea drinkers as well.
White tea can also come with a variety of flavors to supplement it. You can find blends that contain flavors such as tangerine, blueberry, and even pomegranate. These can be lightly sweetened with raw cane sugar or honey to provide a delicious cup of healthy tea. With the growing popularity of white tea, you can find it, with and without flavors, in your local grocery store fairly easily.
If you are trying to watch your caffeine intake, then white tea is a great alternative to coffee, black tea, or even green tea. Coffee contains around 80 milligrams of caffeine, black tea has 40 milligrams, green tea has 20 milligrams, and white tea has 15 milligrams. White tea is only more caffeinated than decaffeinated tea at 2 milligrams, and herbal teas, which don't have any caffeine.
As you can see, white tea comes from the same leaves as black and green teas, but it goes through a different process before it is ready to be drunk. Its fresher and softer flavor is attributed to its being harvested before it becomes fully matured. It is believed to have at least equal health advantages to green tea, but some studies show that it may have more health benefits, possibly because of its minimal processing.
If you are interested in trying white tea, then I would recommend that you purchase a pack from your grocery store. Its flavor is not offensive, and it is priced comparably to green tea, so price should not be an issue if you already drink other teas. It's worth a try, and you may find a new favorite beverage.