The Unique Nature of Chinese White Tea

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The Unique Nature of Chinese White Tea


White tea has caught the imagination of several western tea drinkers due to its unique and delicate flavour and organic image.

The organic image is derived from it being among the least processed teas, there being only two simple steps in its production – ‘withering’ and ‘dehydrating’. The processes found in production of Green, Oolong, Black tea are typically extensions or additions of this primary process to include ‘rubbing’, ‘shaping’ or ‘baking’. The almost ‘unprocessed’ nature minimises the break down of the enzymes and oxidization.

By reason of its simpler and common production process, some historians believe that White Tea was among the very original Chinese teas, its use dating back at the very least two thousand years. The simple process of its production has been honed into an art as time passes practiced by skilled and experienced exponents.

White tea’s production is nearly exclusive to the FuJian province of Southern China, its environment being particularly suited for the plants’ cultivation. Production is focused in areas such as FuDing and ZhengHe, characterized by a hilly terrain, mild temperature and abundant regular rain. FuDing, for instance, has a year conditions of 18oC and rain fall 1660mm. The soil in these areas is predominately a red or yellow colour.

All teas (excluding herbals) are made of exactly the same plant called “Camellia sinensis”. There are many premium species which are cultivated specially for making premium white tea, for example, FuDing Da Hao (Big Fur), ZhengHe and FuAn Big White. Premium tea leaves have fuller/stronger bodies compared to their closest sibling green tea extract. The leaf tips are typically included in rich silvery white fur, which forms the ‘silver’ appearance of the ultimate product such as Silver Needle.

The FuJian province of Southern China is really a traditional tea country, well-known for Oolong and some Green Teas – besides its White Tea Production. Despite the Chinese tendency to preserve trade secrets, over two thousand years of tea production and export to other lands has led to leakage of skills and knowledge required for processing many Chinese teas. Including the processing knowledge for green and black teas has eventually been exported to foreign countries. The specialist skills associated with White Tea production have so far remained in the Fujian region.

Imitation products are sold available on the market. The plants used in these imitated products are color-lightened (whitened). The manufacture is also different. A processing step ‘Sha Qing – traditionally used in green tea production is added rather than the ‘withering’ step – the distinctive process to make authentic premium White Tea.

Meat is not as widely consumed in China as other types as a result of highly localized production. This rarity has contributed to its value. Premium silver needle is particularly treasured and associated with gift giving. Beyond China, and amongst Chinese expatriates, White Tea popularity keeps growing.

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