I have a problem.

I love tea and I am fascinated by it, which is alright, but tea drinkers fascinate me just as much. At one end of the spectrum, the sweet tooth(s) who grab sugarychai lattes at Teavana. Then on the other end, are people who drink only loose leaf tea, that too only one kind; they know everything about their tea.

So whether it is sharing a cuppa with a bunch of friends or sitting alone with their hands wrapped around a mug, tea, people and the rituals associated with this beverage intrigue me.

You could say I am a tea scopophiliac (a really cool word that means a creep who likes watching other people).

Maybe my morbid curiosity can be attributed to the fact that I started out as a coffee drinker. When I did start drinking tea, I wasn’t satisfied with just that. I wanted to know everything about it. Thus began my exploration of White tea. What follows, are my findings on White tea, the best-kept secret in the world of tea.

What is white tea?

White tea gets the name from the very fine, silvery-white hairs on the buds of the tea leaves. The drink itself varies from a pale golden hue to a bright yellow and the leaves are greenish-grey. Like all other varieties of tea, white tea comes from the same tea plant.

Which was brand new information for me when I got to Teabox. So all types of tea comefrom the same plant; depending on how it is processed, it becomes black, white, oolong, green or yellow tea. Black tea is the most processed and hence ages well. White tea is the least processed and so unless you know how to store it, the sooner you consume it from the day of harvest, the better.

Production of white tea

Tea processing is quite complex, involving various steps:

1. Withering/wilting – removal of excess water by drying under sun or shade

2. Disruption – breaking the leaves to quicken oxidation. This is done by either tossing them using a tray or the crush-tear-curl (CTC) done by machines.

3. Oxidation/fermentation – the leaves are just let be, to break their chlorophyll and release tannins.

4. Fixation – ceasing the oxidation at any point. Done by mildly heating the leaves to deactivate the oxidation enzymes.

5. Rolling – rolling the damp leaves by hand/machines to produce twirled tea

6. Drying – exactly what it sounds like.

Black tea goes through this whole shebang and then somewhile green tea and oolong stop with a few steps. White tea, on the other hand, is practically unprocessed. It is just mildly wilted before it is rolled. Naturally, white teas lack the malty, smoky, earthy tastes of other teassince these flavors are brought by the processing. White teas taste light, delicate and are subtle in flavor.

Benefits of drinking white tea

white tea

Despite what you may have heard, green tea isn’t the least processed of all teas, white tea is. White tea loses its freshness quickly, so it is largely consumed in the countries where it is produced – a crying shame because the benefits of drinking white tea, are endless. Here are two.

1. It purifies your blood

White tea has a very high content of antioxidants. Antioxidants are chemical compounds hat flush out free radicals, which are responsible for accelerated aging and causing cell damage. Catechinsare a special group of antioxidants, present in large quantities in white tea. These prevent the walls of your arteries from thickening. It also thins your blood.

This lowers blood pressure and stabilizes the body’s cholesterol level. Both result in a very healthy, very happy heart.

2. Shiny teeth, shiny skin and strong bones

By flushing out the free radicals that cause speedy damage to your cells, white tea makes your skin healthy and shiny. It also contains fluoride that keeps your teeth strong, preventing plaque, tooth decay, and bad breath.

Apart from this, studies have also proven that consuming white tea regularly can keep arthritis and osteoporosis at bay, prevent the onset of certain types of cancer. Now you know why I called this the best-kept secret of the tea industry.

How to pick good white teas?

At this point, I am going to believe I’ve made my case for white teas and you are itching to try them. So if you are thinking of buying white teas, here are some pointers:

1. The buds should be long and fat, with fine tips.

2. Fine, silvery-white fuzz.

3. If the buds are short and thin, the tea is of inferior quality.

4. Year of harvest, year of packaging and if it is packed in vacuum.

White tea was originally produced in China. So the most authentic and expensive white tea comes from the Fuding, Jianyang and Zhenghe counties in China. Later on, India (Assam, Darjeeling, Nilgiri) and Sri Lanka started producing some excellent white teas, competing with China in terms of quality and flavor.

And now, your knowledge of white tea is quite strong. I will sign off after naming my favorite white tea – Gopaldhara Wonder (I love this tea so much, it worries the people around me. This is a light, refreshing tea that smells like a bouquet of spring flowers.


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