White tea is the youngest harvested buds of the Camellia sinensis plant almost exclusively in the Fujian province of China. It gets its name from the down white hairs that are found on the leaves. The liquor itself is the most pale of teas and it is known for its mild taste and fresh scent.
White tea is very delicate. Because of this fact, you should use filtered water that is brought to a high temperature, but not boiling. A good rule of thumb (if you don’t have a thermometer to test for 140 to 165ºF) is to bring it to a boil and then let it cool for at least a minute.
White tea was discovered between 960 and 1279 AD during the Song dynasty. The Chinese discovered that the youngest buds of the tea leaves produced a mild and refreshing taste. In the beginning, it was tea reserved for the Emperor. In fact according to legend, the Emperor Hui Zong became so obsessed with this tea that he lost his Empire while in obsessive pursuit of the perfect cup.
White tea went relatively unknown outside of China for years. The popularity of white tea in the west is only a recent occurrence. The tea’s popularity grew when health conscious people were finding the health benefits of white teas. White tea is rare because of the strict rules on harvesting and processing.
There are quite a few varieties of white tea based on several factors. The Silver Needle is the most sought after. This tea can only be harvested during a brief window in the early spring right before the tea buds turn into leaves. Long Life Eyebrow is considered in the lesser member of the white tea variety. It is harvested after the time period of Silver Needle and White Peony. Tribute Eyebrow is similar to Long Life but is considered to have a darker appearance. White Peony is the second highest of quality and is harvested when there is only a bud and two leaves. Lastly, there is Snowbud which is only harvested when there are only buds and leaves in the early spring.
In the end, you’re going to have to experience them for yourselves in terms of flavor. If you are interested in potential health benefits here’s a link:
It would not be a proper lesson on tea without sitting down and discussing the origin of tea. Where is it grown? More importantly where can it grow?
Let’s start with tea’s origin. Where did it originally come from?
Originally its natural form was believed to have originated in China. The most celebrated of teas come from the area of China known as “The Golden Triangle.” This area is found between the mountains of Huang Shan, Mogan Shan, Qi Shan and Tianmu Shan.
India has grown in popularity due its Assam teas (which are grown in the Brahmaputra valley) and Darjeeling teas (which is grown in the ex-British hills of the Himalayas). Darjeeling teas are known as the “Champagne of teas.”
This also spreads into Nepal. In their side of the Himalayas, they have their own tea that resembles Darjeeling.
But that’s just the Asian countries.
Tea growing has also made its way to East Africa to the countries of Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, and Tanzania. These countries have made a dent in the mark by way of making large quantities of black teas. However, they have not been able to deliver the same quality of Chinese Yunnan or Indian Darjeeling.
But it does not stop there. Tea growing has also spread to the Americas to the following countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, and the good old USA.
Tea has spread all over the world and it will continue to do so as it continues to also grow in popularity.
Pretty cool, no?
Pu-erh tea: the wine of teas. I know by now that some of you know what Pu-erh is based on my article on Chinese Mythology: The Legend of Pu-erh. But those of you who had not read it, here’s a quick rehash as to the 101 on Pu-erh tea:
Pu-erh is characterized by the fact that it is packed into tight, hard cakes and allowed to go through an aging process of fermentation (very similar to wine) for a determined amount of time based on the taste and texture that the tea producer wants (also similar to wine!)
There are two main types of Pu-erh tea based on their characters. Today we are going to talk about Shu Pu-erh:
Shu Pu-erh is also known as “ripened” Pu-erh, created in the 1970s to accommodate the growing need for aged Pu-erh in China and Taiwan. In order to make Shu Pu-erh, you will find that there are a lot of similarities between Sheng Pu-erh and Shu Pu-erh until the initial drying.
Once picked, the leaves are withered then heat treated with a wok to stop oxidation. Then the leaves are left to dry in the sun. If the weather is not favorable, the tea is then heated in a large oven to try and replicate the process. This is not preferred because it can change the quality (and therefore taste of the tea). Then the leaves are arranged in piles and allowed to ferment in a way that is not so dissimilar to compost. Tea producers actually need to be careful with this step because if left to run amok, then the tea can actually decompose and lose any appeal. This process can take up to 60 days depending on the tea producer. Once finished the tea is steamed in order to be pliable again and shaped into the typical cake shape.