White tea is so named because of the whitened or silver colour of the leaves.
In ancient China, because of its scarcity, only the nobility were permitted to drink it. Legend has it that the buds of the unopened leaves were picked at sunrise from selected bushes using golden shears by maidens wearing gloves. The buds were then put into muslin bags untouched by the hands of commoners and processed for the pleasure of the privileged few.
Thankfully white tea, in its many forms, is now readily available – though the good quality product is scarce because of the tedious gathering, careful separating and natural processing required. It is therefore comparatively expensive and teas that are stale, too dry or dusty should be avoided. Good quality white teas give a clear yellow-gold infusion with a distinctive grassy muscatel aroma and a smooth, elegant and mild flavour.
It has less caffeine than black or green teas.
The best white teas are from the Fujian Province in China, Darjeeling in India and specialist plantations in Sri Lanka. Silver Needles (Yin Zhen), Golden Tips, and Pai Mu Tan are the best known, though quality can vary depending on the brand.
Many white teas sold in teabags are of inferior quality, thus lessening the experience.
White Tea is best brewed in clear glass teapots and drunk from good quality white or glass Chinese style cups.
But beware – this tea which is the choice of royalty, rock stars and tea connoisseurs can become addictive!