White tea

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Bai Hao Yinzhen from Fuding in Fujian Province, widely considered the best grade of white tea
Bai Mu Dan, widely considered to be the second grade white tea

White tea is tea made from new growth buds and young leaves of the plant Camellia sinensis. [1]

The leaves are shocked with heat to deactivate oxidation and then dried. Therefore, white tea retains the high concentrations of catechins, which are present in fresh tea leaves. [2][1] As white teas contain buds and leaves, whereas other teas are mainly leaves, the dried tea does not look green and has a pale appearance. [3] Buds and young tea leaves have been found to contain higher levels of caffeine than older leaves, suggesting that the caffeine content of some white teas may be slightly higher than that of green teas.[1]

White tea is a specialty of the Chinese province Fujian. [4] The leaves come from a number of varieties of tea cultivators. The most popular are Da Bai (Large White), Xiao Bai (Small White), Narcissus and Chaicha bushes. According to the different standards of picking and selecting, white teas can be classified into a number of grades, further described in the varieties section.




In hard times, very poor Chinese people would serve guests boiled water if they could not afford tea. Host and guest would refer to the water as "white tea" and act as if the tradition of serving guests tea had been carried out as usual. This usage is related to plain boiled water being called "white boiled water" in Chinese. [5]

Varieties of white tea

Chinese white teas

  • Bai Hao Yinzhen (Silver needle): The highest grade of the Bai Hao Yinzhen should be fleshy, bright colored and covered with tiny white hairs. The shape should be very uniform, with no stems or leaves. The very best Yinzhen are picked between March 15 and April 10 when it is not raining and only using undamaged and unopened buds. Fujian Province, China.
  • Bai Mu Dan (White Peony): A grade down from Bai Hao Yinzhen tea, incorporating the bud and two leaves which should be covered with a fine, silvery-white down. From Fujian Province, China. (Sometimes spelled Pai Mu Tan.)
  • Gong Mei (Tribute Eyebrow): The third grade of white tea, the production uses leaves from the Xiao Bai or "small white" tea trees.
  • Shou Mei (Noble, Long Life Eyebrow): A fruity, furry white tea that is a chaotic mix of tips and upper leaf, it has a stronger flavor than other white teas, similar to Oolong. It is the fourth grade of White tea and is plucked later than Bai Mu Dan hence the tea may be darker in color. From Fujian Province and Guangxi Province in China

Other white teas

  • Ceylon White: A highly prized tea grown in Sri Lanka. Ceylon White tea can fetch much higher prices than Black tea from the area. The tea has a very light liquoring with notes of pine & honey and a golden coppery infusion.
  • Darjeeling White: It has a delicate aroma and brews to a pale golden cup with a mellow taste and a hint of sweetness. This tea is particularly fluffy and light. A tea from Darjeeling, India.
  • Assam White: White tea production in the Assam region is rare. Much lighter in body than the traditional black teas, a white Assam yields a refined infusion that is naturally sweet with a distinct malty character.
  • White Puerh Tea: Harvested in the spring from plantations found high on remote mountain peaks of Yunnan Province, China. Incredibly labor intensive with each step processed by hand, these luxury whites are wonderfully rich in fragrance, and possess an alluring sweet nectar like quality.[6]

Potential health benefits


White tea compared to green tea

A study at Pace University in 2004 showed white tea had more anti-viral and anti-bacterial qualities than green tea. [7]

Another study examining the composition of brewed green and white teas found that white tea contained fewer catechins and epicatechins than green tea, but more gallic acid, theobromine, and caffeine. [8]

White tea contains less fluoride than green tea, since it is made from young leaves only.[9]. High fluoride levels can be dangerous to one's health.[citation needed]


Generally, around 2-2.5 grams of tea per 200 ml (6 ounces) of water, or about 1.5 teaspoons of white tea per cup, should be used. White teas should be prepared with 80°C (180°F) water (not boiling) and steeped 2-3 minutes. [10]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Roderick H. Dashwood, ""Micronutrient Information Center - Tea"". Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University
  2. ""Health and Tea FAQs"". The University of Arizona
  3. Roderick H. Dashwood, ""Spring/Summer 2005 Research Report - Tea Time"". Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University
  4. Jane Pettigrew, ""The Tea Companion"". page 129, Running Press Book Publishers (September 7, 2004)
  5. Kit Chow, ""All The Tea in China"". page 129, China Books & Periodicals Inc. (September 1990)
  6. Puerh Cha, ""China's Luxurious White Puerh Tea"".
  7. Science Daily ""White Tea Beats Green Tea In Fighting Germs""., (May 28, 2004).
  8. Santana-Rios G, Orner GA, Amantana A, Provost C, Wu SY, Dashwood RH. ""Potent antimutagenic activity of white tea in comparison with green tea in the Salmonella assay.""., Mutation Research-Genetic Toxicology and Environmental Mutagenesis, Vol. 495, no. 1-2, pp. 61-74. (22 Aug 2001).
  9. Linus Pauling Institute: Micronutrient Information Center[1]
  10. Upton Tea Imports, ""A Brief Guide to Tea"".
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