A Simple Guide to Different Types of White Tea & Their Speciality
White tea comes from younger tea plants than black or green tea, and it is processed in a different way, giving it its distinctive flavour and aroma. Even among white teas, however, you can find variations depending on where, how and when it is grown. If you want to buy white tea, then you will want to understand the different types.
Why buy white tea?
Like black tea, green tea and pu-erh, white tea is made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. The leaves, however, are picked much earlier in their development, sometimes before they are fully open, and they do not undergo as extensive an oxidisation process. This leads to white tea having a gentler flavour and aroma than other teas, as well as a noticeably lower caffeine content that some people appreciate. White tea is actually yellow when it is poured into the cup. The name comes from hairs on the buds of the tea plant, which are a silvery white colour.
Silver Needle, called Bai Hao Yin Zhen in China, is one of the most popular white teas, but also one of the most expensive. It generally comes from the Fujian Province, home of the original "Big White" tea plant. Only the top buds are taken, before they even open, then they are withered and dried at specific temperatures for a specific length of time. The flavour is sweet and delicate, with a floral smell that has been compared to freshly mown hay.
White Peony is also known as Bai Mudan and is a newer development than Silver Needle. It uses young buds, but combined with more intermediate leaves that are young but partially unfurled. The leaf to bud ratio is 1:2. This gives it a stronger and more potent flavour than other types of white tea, as well as a slightly darker colour.
Made from the same shrubs as Silver Needle but from the shoots left behind after the Silver Needle leaves are picked, this tea has a stronger colour and flavour closer to oolong. The leaves are generally slightly withered when they are taken from the plant.
Monkey-picked White Teas
According to legend, Buddhists once trained monkeys to pick the new buds and shoots from the tallest tea plants in the wildest areas of China, where humans could not reach. Today, Monkey-picked is generally used to refer to any particularly high-quality white tea where the young leaves were picked at the optimum stage.
Darjeeling White Tea
Traditionally, white tea is grown and produced in China, particularly in Fujian Province. Darjeeling White Tea (https://ministryoftea.com/products/organic-darjeeling-is-my-darling) is grown in India and has a very different quality, although the processing method is similar. Sometimes it may even have hints of caffeine.
These are some of the most common types of white tea, each grown and processed in a different way and each with its own flavour. You can enjoy learning as you buy white tea, understanding the various kinds available and how to distinguish them.