White tea receives the simplest processing of any tea.
The very finest young shoots are spring plucked while they are still immature. The buds and young leaves are covered with fine down which gives dry white tea its characteristic colour.
The best white tea is made by simply allowing the leaf to dry under well ventilated and shaded conditions, gently turning it at intervals to ensure even drying. If the weather is poor, drying takes place indoors using slightly warmed air.
White tea production can take up to three days to complete. When it’s done correctly this slow process naturally depletes the cellular polyphenol-oxidase enzyme that causes rapid oxidation in black and oolong tea, and which must be killed by heat to stop the process when making green tea. Thus the best white teas require the highest skill from the tea maker and are inevitably among the most expensive.
Traditionally white tea is made in China, Bai Mu Dan and Silver Needle (Yin Zhen) are the two most people know. White tea is now being successfully made in other countries, with different characteristics. We have one from Malawi and a new white tea origin coming soon.