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Introducing White Tea

Even though tea has been loved for about 5000 years since its serendipitous discovery by Chinese Emperor and “Divine Healer” Shen-Nung in 2737 B.C, White tea did not come to existence until at much later time. White tea has only about 200 years of history and is the youngest among major tea types such as Green, Oolong and Black tea.

According to a legend, White tea tree varietal was learned by a girl named Lan Gu from Fuding county of Fujian Province in China where the gorgeous Taimu Mountain is located. While taking refuge up in a cave in the mountain, Lan Gu found a special tea tree whose young buds are covered by silvery hair during spring. When wide spreading disease was troubling the villagers, Lan Gu used the leaves from this special tea tree to help cure them. For her kindness and courage, people honored her with the name of Mother Taimu and named the mountain Taimu Mountain.

This legend parallels the same divine healing spirit of tea discovery by Shen-Nung, only more than 2000 years later.

According to the history, White tea was first produced in Fuding in 1796 and later spread to two other counties (Zhenhe and Jianyang) in Fujian.

There are three different cultivars of White tea tree – Huge White, Narcissus White and Vegetable White with the Huge White as the finest and most well loved. There are also three different types of White tea based on different ways of plucking – Silver Needle (only one bud is plucked), White Peony (one bud together with one leave down) and Longevity Eyebrow (one bud with two to three leaves down). Silver Needle is also known as its original Chinese name “Bai Hao Yin zhen” and is the most precious and exotic.

White tea is the least processed among all types of teas. The process only consists of two steps. The leaves are withered and then dried. During the process, there is light oxidation occurring. White tea brews to a pale yellow color and has a slightly sweet flavor. White tea is also called a lightly fermented tea positioning itself between the unfermented Green and semi-fermented Oolong tea.
Due to the minimal processing, White tea preserves most natural compounds and potentially has the most health benefits.

In 2002, a research paper by Oregon State University scholar Roderick H. Dashwood published in Foods and Food Ingredients Journal of Japan “White Tea – A New Cancer Inhibitor” provides insight into the anticancer and anti-mutagenic properties of White Tea.

In 2004, at the 104th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology,
Researchers at Pace University presented their finding that White Tea Extract (WTE) may have prophylactic applications in retarding growth of bacteria that cause Staphylococcus infections, Streptococcus infections, pneumonia and dental caries. They also found that the anti-viral and anti-bacterial effect of white tea might be greater than that of green tea.

Recently, White tea has found itself used in anti-aging skin care and beauty products. In addition, several companies started marketing White tea flavored “Ready to Drink” (RTD) bottled beverages.

White tea is most exotic and rare due to the rare White tea tree varietals and small harvest time (high grade Silver Needle is only made from the youngest bugs plucked during only a couple of days of spring). If you find the price for White tea is generally higher than that of Green and Oolong teas, you now know why.

White tea could be the tea of the future with its legendary spirit, exotic nature and wide applications of health benefits.

Jay is a tea lover and the owner of taimutea.com Taimu Tea – a premium Chinese tea store that focuses on tea knowledge, news and education in addition to providing quality fresh teas from Taimu Mountain and its surrounding areas in Fujian province of China.
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mailto:tea@taimutea.com tea@taimutea.com

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