A study published in Science News on April 15, 2000, revealed that
white tea may be up to five times more protective against cancers than
even green tea. Here is a general look at this remarkable tea.
In our exploration of the world of tea, we found it difficult to obtain a consistent definition for white tea. White teas
often look like green teas, but there is a difference. White teas are
the least processed of all teas and are not rolled prior to drying.
They are traditionally air dried only, but now are increasingly dried
with very hot air to speed up the process. Green teas are picked,
withered, rolled, and then fired to stop further oxidation. Rolling is
the process by which the cellular structure of the picked leaves is
slightly broken to release essential oils and promote oxidation.
White teas are mostly grown in China's Fujian Province. Other
provinces that produce white teas are: Hunan and Guangxi, both in
south-central China. With flavors that are close to the heart of the
tea plant, white teas were the favorite of Emperor Hui Tsung. He was
the famous tea emperor in the 1100s who was so preoccupied with his
love of tea, and his pursuit of the perfect cup of tea, that he lost
his empire to invading Manchurians. Hui Tsung abdicated in 1125
when his attempts to buy off the advancing Jurchens failed. The
Jurchens were Manchurians and 1126 the Northern Sung capital at Kaifeng
was overrun by the Jurchens and Hui Tsung was captured to and
taken to Manchuria, where he died in captivity. The Mongol campaigns
against the Jurchens (Chin Dynasty), led by Chingis Khan's, began
Sri Lanka makes a small amount of silver tips
white tea from a different varietal and they are making other styles of
white tea in Darjeeling.
White teas are often picked when the buds are tightly enclosed in
new leaves. These leaves maintain the silky white hairs that denote new
growth. Since they have such little processing these hairs are often
intact in the final product. Many believe that the more downy the
leaves, the better quality and more delicate tea. White teas are the
closest to the fresh taste of pure tea leaves. The tastes can range
significantly and is based on the varietal of tea plant used to grow
the leaves. Some teas like White Peony (Bai Mudan) have a light amber
color (similar to an oolong!) and a sweet flavor. Delicious hot, it
also makes a surprisingly refreshing and hearty iced tea.
Yinzhen Silver Needles
are perhaps the best example of the tight leaves enclosing buds. This
is the style of white tea that is most famous in the US, and is well
worth that reputation. Yinzhen Silver Needles have a marvelous cup
aroma of nuts; the taste is round and richly vegetative.
Brewing Iced White Tea
In the summer it can get very hot here in New York City. So we like
to make iced tea. Below are some notes on some general guidelines for
when you make iced tea and some brewing ideas for ice teas we make here
in the In Pursuit of Tea office. There are three points before we
- Great-tasting iced tea can be made from all types of tea: white, green, oolong, or black.
- The same level of awareness in brewing hot tea is required for
iced tea. We don't have an instant solution, but then we are generally
skeptical of instant solutions for any food product. A few moments of
concentration and focus are always a guarantee of a great culinary
- Using large quantities of ice from unfiltered tap water that sits in the freezer is a problem.
One of our favorite iced teas is White Peony. This is a white tea
that actually brews a light amber liquor. It makes a very refreshing
drink. The point here is that you don't have to restrict yourself to
black teas to make great iced tea. You should experiment with all sorts
of teas. Oolong teas make especially flavorful brews even when cold. We
offer an Iced Tea Sampler
including a Ceylon Orange Pekoe Black Tea, Dragon Eyes Scented Black
Tea, Scarlet Glow and Wild Mint Herbal, our favorite teas in each
category to enjoy cold.
To brew iced tea, we strongly suggest that you do so well in advance
of wanting to drink it. You should also brew the leaves in a container
large enough to make several servings. You can brew it two ways: double
the amount of leaf and the same brewing time; or the same amount of
leaf and longer brewing times (see the brewing guidelines below).
Carefully pour the infusion into a covered container for refrigeration.
Make sure that no leaf residue is poured into the covered container.
Ice will dilute the strength and taste of the tea. But making
bitter, overbrewed tea leaves and then diluting it does not get rid of
the bitter taste. What to do? Our advice is to cool the tea in your
refrigerator either overnight or for several hours, rather than rely on
ice. When you are about to serve the tea add one or two ice cubes, to
acknowledge the ice in iced tea. We have some customers that will use a
portion of the brewed tea to make ice cubes. That is the best solution
if you wish to have significant amounts of ice in the glass when you
serve the tea.
Another problem with ice cubes is that they are generally made from
unfiltered water, and if they sit in the freezer for long periods of
time it they will absorb odors and flavors that will be present in the
iced tea when the cubes melt. For that reason the first method of iced
tea brewing -- double the amount of leaf and keep the same brewing time
-- may give you better results. Also, try making ice cubes out of the
tea and serving them with the iced tea to keep the flavor from diluting
as the ice melts.
Finally, we are more liberal with additives when it comes to iced
tea. Honey and/or mint goes very well with many iced teas; we note them
in our list below. Remember these are suggestions to begin your own
exploration. Try differing amounts, steeping times, and steeping
temperatures to suit your own palate.
heaping tablespoons of tea for 50 oz. of water at well below boiling
for 8 minutes, then transfer to a covered container and refrigerate. It
tastes great as is, or add a sprig of fresh mint.