White Tea: Geography v. Process Techniques

Aloha and happy spring!

It is beautiful here in SW Colorado. I have flowers beginning to bloom, birds have returned and I am beginning to uncover my gardens and finding small treasures!

So as promised, here is the March blog about the differences between white tea and all other teas. This last Sunday I tuned into the Splendid Table on the local NPR station - KSUT and Lynn Rossetto Kasper was in a discussion with Bill Waddington of the Tea Source about this very topic (Splendid Table).

White tea was discovered in only three small isolated villages in china - the Fijian province. These villages produced this type of tea which is the lightest brew of tea that is soft and delicate and has a subtle flavor that imparts a sweet flavor to the the finished brew. When the Americans and Europeans discovered this wonderful tea, its demand and popularity grew to the point that the villages could not keep up. Because of this, white tea cultivars were taken to other areas of China and eventually the world to produce.

Enough with the back history, but keep this in mind because it has caused a controversy in the production world. The dispute lies with geography verses process methods. Process methods differ greatly between white tea and all other tea types because white tea is the least handled/processed tea available. From an earlier blog I discussed the different process methods of tea, so if this is a rehash, please forgive me.

White tea is the least processed of all teas. Tea leaves are allowed to whither in the sun for up to 5 days. Heat is then applied whether by firing or electric heating to pull the remaining water content out to reduce the chances of bacterial and mold growth before packaging. All other teas on the other hand are withered for a few hours, then the leaves are crushed or hand rolled. This allows for the oxidation of chemicals in the leave to interact with the atmosphere prior to applying heat.

The release of chemicals and oxidation process produces black teas such as Oolong, pekoe and Lapsong teas. Oxidation is the only difference between the black and white teas. And the process procedures are different to obtain green teas, but I have already touched on that topic earlier.

I hope that this information helps to define white tea, but regardless of the controversy I have found them to be very light and flavorful for afternoons and evenings. Lelani's carries white teas in blends and if requested we can provide un-blended white teas for your enjoyment.

Until next month which I will find another topic to blog on, Happy Spring!


Splendid Table, National Public Radio, 03/22/2015

Michiko Burns

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