What is White Tea?
It dawned on me that I’ve never done an introduction to each of the tea categories. Information like this might be old hat for some of you but I think those that are new to tea who might find it useful. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be covering a different type of tea each Monday. Please let me know in the comments if there’s something you’d like to see covered for yellow tea, green tea, oolong, black tea, or puerh tea.
- aka Silver Needle.
- Made exclusively from unopened buds.
- The highest grade of white tea.
- aka White Peony.
- Made using unopened buds as well as larger leaves.
- The leaves are largely unbroken and should still have a green hue.
- aka Longevity Eyebrow.
- Contains a higher leaf to bud ratio than Bai Mu Dan.
- The leaves are more broken and may be a bit more brownish in color.
- aka Tribute Eyebrow.
- Made mostly with larger leaves with some scattered buds.
- The leaves will be mostly broken and brown in color.
- The lowest grade of white tea.
Pro Tip: Try taking a sip of room-temperature water and eating a salty cracker first. This will help wake up your taste buds.
How to Brew It
First, it’s important to keep in mind that there is no right or wrong way to brew any tea, All that matters is that you enjoy the end result. White tea is commonly treated like a green tea, with lower water temperatures. High-quality ones can stand up to much hotter water but poor quality teas will show their faults under pressure.
When using a western method, water temperatures are usually around 160 to 175° Fahrenheit. Steep times can vary between 3 and 8 minutes depending on the tea. White tea leaves tend to be fairly fluffy, making it hard to measure in teaspoons. Weighing your leaves will help make sure that you are using the right amount. Most teas will call for 2 to 2.5 grams of leaf per 8oz cup of water.
Gongfu is definitely my preferred way to make white tea. A gaiwan or glass pitcher is best because yixing teapots retain too much heat. Water temperatures will range from around 175° to 212° Fahrenheit with steep times between 30 seconds and 1 minute. I also really enjoy white tea grandpa style when I’m feeling a bit lazy.
What was the first white tea that you ever had? Let me know in the comments!
Header image attribution: WJ Houtman, via Wikimedia Commons