White tea is a fine tea brewed from the unopened buds of special Chinese tea bushes. It is akin to green tea, but less popular because it is costlier and more time consuming to process. White tea has a subtle flavor and delicate aroma that can be easily overpowered by additives, such as flavoring. It is regarded as a top-quality tea that was fit for the former emperor himself. Today, there are two kinds of white tea: high-quality tea, which can be purchased from specialty retailers, and low-quality tea, which is commonly sold.
Real white tea is only grown in Fujian Province on the eastern coast of China. It can only be harvested for a few weeks out of the year while the tea buds are still unopened. Before the buds get plucked, they must be shaded for three weeks. The buds are then moved to a pavilion where they are allowed to dry naturally on a bamboo tray. It takes ten thousand hand-picked buds to manufacture 2.2 pounds of the product. Tea aficionados describe the complex flavor as reminiscent of chestnuts, peaches, or honey.
The most common type of white tea is not actually white tea at all. It is a new style of white tea that is usually sold bottled, often with peach or pear flavoring. This less-costly white tea is brewed from the first leaf bunch of the tea bushes, rather than the first buds. It is baked to remove moisture and then combined with a certain amount of buds to replicate the flavor of white tea. It is less expensive, but lacks the flavor of true white tea.
About the Author:
Ernest Barbella has over 47 years of retail management experience in the distribution of fine foods. He was the youngest vice president in history at the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, Inc. Among other holdings, he owns a spice-manufacturing company in Qingdao, China.