White tea (白茶, Bái Chá) is one of the six main types of Chinese tea. It is a slightly fermented tea and its processing is the most natural and has the least steps compared with the other five types of tea.
The dried tea leaves are covered with a layer of white hairs, so it is called “White tea”. Most of the white tea is originally produced in Fujian Province, and a small part is produced in Yunnan Province.
Table of Contents
- History of Chinese White Tea
- Characteristics of Chinese White Tea
- Types of Chinese White Tea
- Benefits of Chinese White Tea
- How to Make Chinese White Tea
History of Chinese White Tea
As early as the Tang Dynasty (618-907), white tea was first recorded in <The Classic of Tea> written by Lu Yu. Some scholars think that white tea first appeared in the period of Emperor Shen Nong, more than 4,700 years ago. A paper published by a professor of agriculture shows that white tea appeared earlier than green tea.
Around 1064, the production of white tea was extremely rare and precious. It was only for the emperor to drink.
The processing technology of white tea was formally formed around 1796. According to the records of tea history in Fujian Province, because of the sluggish black tea market at that time, resulting in overstocking of black tea, the local tea farmers started to produce white tea and export it.
Since then, white tea has become a formal tea, and the basic processing technology of white tea has been used until now. Besides, the famous white tea Bai Hao Yin Zhen was created at that time.
In 1922, other new kinds of white tea were also created in Fujian Province, and shipped to Hong Kong for sale, which is more than twice as expensive as regular black tea and green tea.
In the 20th century, white tea was exported to Europe as a high-end tea. When the British aristocracy made black tea, they put white tea into it, which showed that it was precious. In 2009, the gift tea of the British Prince’s wedding was Fuding white tea.
Also in 2009, archaeologists discovered more than 30 excellent white tea buds in a copper pot during the excavation of the ancient tomb. These tea leaves have a history of more than 1,000 years.
Characteristics of Chinese White Tea
Processing white tea only requires two steps:
- Withering: put the fresh tea leaves under sunlight, let them wither naturally. Although this step is simple, it requires rich experience.
- Drying: dry them slowly with a slow fire or dryer.
The biggest characteristic of white tea is that the dried tea leaves are covered with a layer of white hairs, which are growing on the back of tea buds when the buds are on the tea tree. The more the white hairs, the higher the quality of white tea.
After brewing, the tea liquid of white tea is usually bright, clear, and orange-yellow or apricot-yellow. Its fragrance and taste depend on the type of tea.
Types of Chinese White Tea
According to the production area, white tea mainly can be classified into Fuding white tea and Yunnan white tea.
Fuding white tea is produced in Fuding City of Fujian Province. Fuding white tea mainly includes four types.
Bai Hao Yin Zhen
Bai Hao Yin Zhen also known as White Hair Silver Needle was first created in 1796. It is a very high-quality white tea and is the most famous white tea in China. Bai means “white” and Hao means “hair”.
The shape of Bai Hao Yin Zhen is like a needle, and it is covered with a layer of white hairs. The price of Bai Hao Yin Zhen is the most expensive among all the white tea.
Bai Mu Dan
Bai Mu Dan literally called White Peony was first created in 1922. The brewed Bai Mu Dan tea looks like peony blooming, so it is called “White Peony”. The quality of Bai Mu Dan is second only to that of Bai Hao Yin Zhen.
Shou Mei is also called Sow Mee or literally called Longevity Eyebrow.
The quality and price of Shou Mei are lower than that of Bai Hao Yin Zhen and Bai Mu Dan, but it has high yield and sales.
Shou Mei accounts for more than half of the total yield of white tea and its price is affordable for most people.
Gong Mei is an upgrade version of Shou Mei. Its quality is better than that of Shou Mei.
Yunnan White Tea
Yunnan white tea is native to a village called Yang Ta with an altitude of 1,600 meters in Yunnan Province. It was first created around 1840.
Yunnan white tea is made from the Yunnan large-leaf tea tree, so Yunnan white tea is also called Yunnan Da Bai Cha. Da means “large” and Bai Cha means “white tea”. The fragrance of Yunnan white tea is similar to that of olive.
Benefits of Chinese White Tea
- Clear heat
- Protect the liver
- Improve eyesight
- Eliminate fatigue
- Lower blood sugar
How to Make Chinese White Tea
- Tea set: glass cup, porcelain cup, or purple clay teapot.
- The ratio of tea leaves to water: 1:20-30. For example, 5g of white tea leaves require 100-150ml of water.
- The temperature of the water: 100℃.