According to a 5,000-year-old Chinese legend, emperor Shen Nung was traveling the Chinese countryside. Wanting a drink of water which was foul and undrinkable, Emperor Shen Nung ordered the water to be boiled. Suddenly a vigorous wind blew a tea leaf into his cup of hot water. The emperor left the leaf steep and then drank the brew. Tea was born. White tea became revered during China’s Song Dynasty (960-1279) as well as being the beverage of choice for the Chinese royal court and was given as a tribute to the emperor. White tea leaves and buds were ground into a silvery powder.
The name “white tea” originates from the fine silvery-white hairs on the unopened buds of the tea plant, which gives the plant a whitish appearance. The beverage itself is not white or colorless but pale yellow. White tea is primarily grown in China, Taiwan, India, Northern Thailand and Eastern Nepal, Kenya has produced some fine tasting white tea. White tea shares many of the same chemical properties and health benefits as black, green, oolong and pu-erh tea. Of the five tea categories – white tea contains the most antioxidants. White tea has come a long way in its long history. Until recently white tea was largely unknown outside China and Asia. Now, with a renewed interest in fine tea and remarkable discoveries about its health benefits, white tea is being discovered and enjoyed around the world.
White tea comes from the 2 buds and leaves of the Camellia Sinensis (tea) plant. The leaves and buds are plucked and then allowed to wither in natural sunlight before they are lightly processed to prevent oxidation. There is no picking on rainy days or when frost is on the ground. White tea can only be picked for a short time each year, making it rare and precious. However, some white tea is minimally oxidized – raising the question as to whether or not it is a white tea.
Fresh tea leaf → Withering → Drying (air drying, solar drying or
mechanical drying) → White tea.
Early spring provides the best white tea. When the time is right, the workers carefully hand-pick the silver buds and select leaves. This may account for its powerful health benefits. Climate, altitude, and soil must be just right.
All this work, just so we can enjoy a cup of white tea!
Pictured is our White Spice.
Original publish date was 12/03/2013.