What is White Tea
To describe very briefly, White Tea is a kind of tea that has not undergone any oxidation (fermentation) process. When infused, white tea makes a pale yellow cup color and a delicate, fresh flavor.
Take the most common white tea, Peony (Pai Mu Tan), as an example. Pai Mu Tan leaves are plucked from a special varietal tea bush called Narcissus or chaicha bushes. Secondly the leaves are not steamed or pan-fired (the process used in green teas). The leaves are naturally withered and dried in the sun. If mechanical drying is required it is a baking process at temperatures less that 40’C. Thirdly only special ‘two leaves and a bud’ are selected. These leaves must show a very light green almost gray white color and be covered with velvet peach fuzz down. White teas that are withered in conditions that are too hot with become reddish and in conditions that are too cold they will become blackish.
Researchers at the Linus Pauling Institute in Oregon tested white teas on selected rates to test for the ability of white teas to inhibit natural mutations in bacteria and to protect the rates from colon cancer. Interestingly, white teas were found to be more effective than green tea in inhibiting the early stages of cancer but researchers were quick to point out that their study was on rats and the effects should not be extrapolated to humans. The researchers also discovered that white tea contains higher levels of caffeine compared to green tea brewed under the same conditions. They suggested that this could occur because white tea oxidizes during withering whereas in green tea the oxidation process is stopped early in the tea making process by steaming or panfiring.
The western cosmetic industry has recently discovered the benefits of white tea. In addition to its anticancer properties, tea has a calming and detoxifying effect on the skin. White tea is especially potent in that it is has three times as many antioxidant polyphenols as green or black tea and has been shown to be 100% more effective in mopping up free radicals that cause skin to sag. Some of the world’s top cosmetic companies are becoming very interested in white tea for skin creams and the result is that high grade white tea is becoming even rarer than before.