Chinese white tea is one of the six main types of traditional Chinese teas and is a slightly fermented tea of which the production process is the most natural and has least steps compared with other five types of tea.
It is mainly produced in Fujian, and Yunnan Province. The finished tea leaves are covered with a layer of white fluffs, so it is called “White Tea”.
1. History of Chinese white tea
As early as the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD), “white tea” was recorded in the <The Classic of Tea> written by Lu Yu. But some scholars think that white tea 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 AD (during the Song Dynasty), 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, due to the sluggish black tea market at that time, resulting in a large backlog 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 it 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 produced 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 brewed black tea, they put several white tea leaves 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.
2. Characteristics of Chinese white tea
The characteristics of producing white tea are not to destroy the enzyme activity, nor to promote the oxidation, and to maintain the fresh taste of the tea.
Producing white tea only needs two steps to finish:
- Withering: spread the picked fresh tea leaves in the weak sunshine or in the room with good ventilation and light transmission to make them wither naturally.
- Drying/Baking: slowly dry them with a gentle fire.
The biggest characteristic of white tea is that the finished tea leaves are covered with a layer of white fluffs, which are growing on the surface of the tender buds when the buds are on the tea tree. The white fluffs are called Pekoe. The more the white fluffs, the higher the quality of white tea.
The color of the tea soup is usually bright, clear, and orange-yellow or apricot-yellow. The shape and taste depend on the variety of tea.
3. Varieties 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
Fuding white tea produced in Fuding City of Fujian Province. It is a geographical indication protection product of China.
Fuding white tea mainly includes four types of white tea:
1. 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.
The shape of Bai Hao Yin Zhen is like a needle, and it is covered with a layer of white fluffs, so it is named White Hair Silver Needle. The price of Bai Hao Yin Zhen is the most expensive among all the white tea.
2. Bai Mu Dan
Bai Mu Dan literally called White Peony 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.
3. Shou Mei
Shou Mei also called Sow Mee or literally called Longevity Eyebrow.
The most high-quality fresh leaves are made into Bai Hao Yin Zhen or Bai Mu Dan; the left leaves are made into Shou Mei, so the quality and price are lower than Bai Hao Yin Zhen and Bai Mu Dan, but it has huge output and sales.
Shou Mei accounts for more than half of the total output of white tea and its price is affordable for most people.
4. Gong Mei
Gong Mei is an upgrade version of Shou Mei. Its quality is better than Shou Mei.
Quality Rank and Price Rank: Bai Hao Yin Zhen > Bai Mu Dan > Gong Mei > Shou Mei
Yunnan white tea
Yunnan white tea is produced in a village called Yang Ta with an altitude with 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 also called Yunnan Da Bai Cha. Da means “large” or “big” and Bai Cha means “white tea”. The fragrance of Yunnan white tea is similar to that of Olive.
In terms of the property of tea, some people think that Yunnan white tea should be a kind of Pu-erh tea.
4. Health benefits of Chinese white tea
- Detoxifying liver
- Nourishing blood
- Improving eyesight
- Promoting blood sugar balance
- Clearing heat and moistening lung
- Refreshing and eliminating fatigue
- Anti-inflammation and sterilization
- Lowering blood pressure and reducing fat
5. How to make/brew Chinese white tea
- Tea set: porcelain cup or glass cup.
- The ratio of tea leaves to water: 1:20-30. 5g of white tea leaves need 100-150ml of water.
- The temperature of the water: 100℃.