WHAT IS WHITE TEA
White tea refers to that variety of tea which is the most delicate since it is made from very young and the least processed tea leaves. The tea leaves are plucked before they are fully open. These leaves are covered with very fine white hairs. Hence this tea variety has earned the name ‘white tea’. The tea leaves used for the manufacture of this tea variety are the youngest leaves of the plant. The leaves are handpicked and then carefully dried. The drying is done in such a manner that the leaves undergo minimal oxidation. Hence these tea leaves undergo no additional processing. White tea is thus considered to be the freshest tea varieties available. This tea when brewed is pale yellow in colour and also has a lighter taste when compared to the green and black teas.
HOW IS IT MADE
Like all other tea varieties, white tea is also made from the Camelia Sinesis plant. The buds and leaves of this plant are used to make this tea. All the handpicked tea leaves are left under natural sunlight for withering and drying. The raw materials required for the manufacture of white tea, are chosen very carefully. Only the young tea leaves with the finest hair are selected as they are the ones which produce the best quality white tea with a high value of pekoe. The manufacturing process of this tea variety is very simple.
The tea leaves which are plucked are neither rolled nor fired. This is a non oxidised tea variety which undergoes the least processing. These leaves are not left exposed to artificial heat. After plucking, the leaves are withered for about 72 hours. After that they are dried outdoors or indoors, in a carefully monitored environment. A few of the buds may be steamed or subjected to low heat so that the leaves dry up sooner without any oxidation. Hence these tea leaves which are finally manufactured are extremely delicate and have a refreshing taste.
The origins of white tea date back to the times when the imperial dynasties of China reigned. During that time, drinking tea and tea culture had become very popular. Rare and fine varieties of tea were given to emperors as a tea tax. At this time a particular variety of tea was made using the finest and the youngest tea leaves. This is how white tea was first made in China.
KINDS OF WHITE TEA
It has different kinds which are available in the market today. These include the Silver Needle variety, also called as Bai Hao Yin Zhen, is mainly grown in the Fujian province of China, the White Peony tea or Bai Mudan which is a relatively new variety being made in China as well as other countries, the Monkey Picked white tea which is top quality tea which is made from the buds and leaves of the plant and the Darjeeling white tea which is made from plants found in Darjeeling.
CAFFEINE CONTENT IN WHITE TEA
All the different tea varieties, be it the white, black, green or oolong teas, contain some amount of caffeine. The level of caffeine in each tea variety depends on a number of factors. The age of the plants and the leaves, the conditions under which they are grown, the soil nutrients, the manner in which the leaves are processed and the method of tea preparation, all play an important role in determining the caffeine content in a particular variety of tea.
The most important factors which determine the caffeine content in white tea are the quality of tea leaves which are used to make the tea, the blend (since it is often blended with green tea or herbs) and the steeping time. It is often said that white tea contains very low levels of caffeine. This is however not true for all the varieties. The amount of caffeine varies greatly according to the kind of white tea. Since white tea has a mild flavour and a light colour, people presume it to be very low in caffeine content. This however, is a misconception. A few kinds of white tea can actually be very high in caffeine. Thus, the caffeine content in white tea can range from 15mg per cup to upto around 75mg per cup.
The white tea varieties which are grown in the Fujian province of China are said to be low in caffeine. The tea plant in this region is said to be naturally low in caffeine. Hence the tea made from these plants has low caffeine content. White tea which is grown in other places is said to have higher caffeine content.
CULTIVATION AND PROCESSING ROLE
Research has even proven that certain kinds of white tea have even higher caffeine content than the green or black teas. The manner of cultivation and processing play an important role here. If an approximate value is to be considered, then the tea grown in the Fujian province can have a caffeine content of upto 25 mg per cup, while the other kinds may have a caffeine content of 60 mg per cup.
The brewing of the tea will also influence its caffeine content. If the tea is steeped for less time then it will have lower caffeine content. The level of caffeine in white tea is also lowered when herbs are blended with it. When the resultant blend is brewed at a particular strength, then the caffeine content will definitely be lower. Blending herbs with this kind of tea is particularly common, since this tea variety is a little expensive. If the blend of tea has a small quantity of white tea, then its caffeine content will also be low.
White tea is said to have a number of health benefits. Its consumption is said to lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, make bones stronger and make the teeth, gums and skin healthier. It also kills bacteria and viruses naturally. Hence, drinking this kind of tea is definitely a good option.