Don’t let that nearly clear brew fool you, depending on where your tea leaves come from and the processing technique, that elixir can pack a punch of flavor! The term ‘White Tea’ brings to mind – ‘light’, ‘mellow’, ‘smooth’, and little flavor. That couldn’t be further from the actual flavors and experience you will encounter when enjoying a white tea variety. So many things go into the development of quality tea. The cultivar (plant) used, the region where the tea is grown, the temperatures of that region, the season harvested, and the process the teas will go through before arriving to your teacup.
White Tea leaves are the least processed of all of the teas. There is some disagreement as to exactly what ‘qualifies’ as a white tea, in general terms, the process involves picking the leaves and allowing them to wither in the sun. Often, there is not enough sun to complete the job so the leaves are moved into carefully monitored drying rooms where the leaves are allowed to continue the withering process. Very little additional processing is done to the leaves.
One of the aspects of white tea that is frequently miss-understood is that the brew will have little flavor due to the minimal processing of the leaves. Quite to the contrary. Because there is little handling and manipulation of the tea leaves, they hold onto much of the components that make the flavor of the brew. I have found white teas to have a strong, grassy or hay aroma and a full body, slightly astringent flavor. Depending the variety being steeped, I have enjoyed the light floral flavor and aroma of calendula flowers, lavender, and citrus tones. Some varieties have a light smoky flavor. Additionally – white teas have a bold, lingering impression. They are different from the oolongs and the darker teas, but definitely deserve a place in your kitchen cabinet. Give a try and see what you may have been missing!
Until our next installment for The Magic of Tea: ‘Find Your Zen and Do The Brew’ Everyone tip those tea cups!
Judith A. Ames-Hardman
9 Lives Tea House