Discover everything you ever wanted to know in this beginner’s guide to white tea. You’ll learn how it’s made, how to drink it, and lots more!
White tea is known as the most delicate of the tea varieties because it goes through very little processing. It has a light taste and is low in caffeine.
*This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I get a small commission. Please see my disclosure policy for details
What is White Tea?
It is called white tea because it is harvested when the young tea buds still have lots of fine white hairs all over them.
Just like other tea varieties, it is derived from the Carnelian sinensis plant.
White tea is made from young unopened buds and leaves that are harvested in the Spring. These tea leaves are mainly grown in China in the Fujian province.
It comes from the Camellia sinensis var. Khenge Bai Hao and Camellia sinensis var. Fudin Bai Hao plants.
It has a very short harvesting window and people pick it by hand. For this reason, it costs more than other teas like black or green tea.
Since the tea leaves are so young and delicate, it has a very careful harvesting process. The leaves are not allowed to oxidize at long as black or green tea leaves. This results in a light gold tea with a floral fragrance.
The taste of the tea depends on the type of white tea you are drinking. It can taste either woody or really sweet. Some even taste floral with light and fruity notes. If you brew it properly, it will taste less bitter than black tea.
White Tea Caffeine
Even though it is just a very small amount, white tea still has caffeine in it. One 8-ounce cup of white tea contains about 10-15mg of caffeine. That’s a very small amount of caffeine if you compare it to coffee which has 125-150 mg in 8 ounces.
More Beginner’s Guides to Tea
- Beginner’s Guide to Black Tea
- Beginner’s Guide to Green Tea
- Beginner’s Guide to Herbal Tea
- Beginner’s Guide to Chai Tea
How Is White Tea Made?
What sets white tea apart from other varieties is the harvesting and drying process. Each of these steps has to be different than black tea because the white tea leaves are so delicate and young. There are three steps – plucking, withering, and drying.
Step 1: Leaves Are Plucked
The very first step is to pluck the tea leaves. Since white tea is made from such young tea leaves, this is a very delicate process.
Harvesters pluck the young, unopened buds from the tea plant. This happens early in the flush when the tea plant first hits its prime stage of growth. There is a very short window of time when they can pluck these leaves for white tea – it’s within the first few days of the flush.
Step 2: Leaves Are Withered
The next step is to let the leaves wilt. Here’s how the white tea leaves are withered.
Immediately after they pick the buds (with or without a leaf) they spread them out on withering pans. They are left to wilt on the pans for up to 72 hours.
Sometimes the wilted leaves are also loosely rolled by hand. This extracts the most flavors from the leaves. If they are making white tea out of buds, they don’t roll them.
Step 3: Drying
White tea leaves don’t need a long drying process since the withering draws out a lot of the moisture already.
This is still a very important step because it makes the tea leaves shelf-stable. The buds/leaves are dried in an oven at about 230 degrees F (110 degrees C). They are completely dried when the moisture content in the tea leaves is less than 1%.
White Tea Health Benefits
Did you know that white tea is really good for you? It has been used medicinally for years. Since it has the least amount of processing, it retains the most antioxidants of all the different types of teas (green and black).
These are the most common health benefits of white tea.
Lower Risk of Heart Disease
White tea has lots of polyphenols in it and these polyphenols help relax blood vessels and boost immunity against heart disease. Studies also show that these polyphenols help to prevent “bad” LDL cholesterol from becoming oxidized – which is a risk factor for heart disease.
White Tea Weight Loss
In fact, one study shows that white tea extract was able to stimulate fat breakdown and prevent new fat cells from being formed.
White Tea Contains Fluoride
Do you know the stuff that helps protect your teeth? It’s in white tea! It contains a combination of fluoride, catechins, and tannins. This combination actually strengthens your teeth and fights bacteria and sugar.
Help Prevent Cancer
Just like black tea, white tea has antioxidants in it called polyphenols that fight free radicals. Free radicals are compounds that are responsible for breaking down healthy cells and are a leading cause of aging and age-related diseases.
The polyphenols in black tea help to fight those free radicals and lower the risk of prostate cancer and ovarian cancer.
It’s important to note that the reduced risk of cancer has not been established by all medical studies. Most of the research on this topic was conducted on animals or in cells in a lab. There aren’t any human trials confirming the results yet.
Protect Against Osteoporosis
Another health benefit of white tea is that it can strengthen your bones and protect them against osteoporosis.
This disease is accelerated by free radicals and chronic inflammation. Too many free radicals and too much inflammation suppress cells that help with growing healthy bones.
The catechins in white tea have been shown to fight the risk factors that lead to osteoporosis. The catechins suppress cells that break down your bones.
White Tea For Skin
White tea also has compounds in it that protect it from both internal and external aging.
If you apply white tea extract, it can help to protect your skin against the harmful effects of the sun’s UV rays.
It also has benefits for your skin’s firmness too! Many studies found that the polyphenols in white tea can suppress components that damage fibers in your skin that keeps it tight.
Protects Against Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s Diseases
The polyphenol EGCG in white tea can also lower the risk of developing either Parkinsons and/or Alzheimer’s disease.
Several test tube studies show that EGCG can actually prevent proteins from inappropriately folding and clumping together – which is a risk factor for both diseases.
Types Of White Tea
Now that you know how good White tea is for you, let’s look at the three different types of white tea that are out there.
Baihao Yinzhen or Silver Needle Tea
This is the most prized white tea. It is known for its pure flavor, light and floral aroma, and the golden color it has. They only use the top buds from the plant, which is why this is also the most expensive variety.
Bai Mudan or White Peony
This type of tea has a stronger flavor since its leaves are partially oxidized. It is made from the initial leaves of the tea plant. It is grown in Darjeeling, Nepal, and Nilgris.
Shou Mein or Eyebrow White Tea
This is mainly produced in China and the leaves are plucked late in the harvest season. It is made right after Bai Mudan. It uses the buds and first few leaves of the tea plant. The eyebrow white teas are harvested later in the seasons so they are of a slightly lesser quality.
Tea Brands that Make White Tea
How To Brew White Tea
White tea has such a mild and delicate taste that you really need to be careful with how you brew it.
You should brew white tea at a low temperature so that it maintains the tea’s fresh characteristics. Heat water to just before boiling (at about 175 to 190 degrees F).
Steep the white tea for about 1-5 minutes.
A few things might make your white tea taste astringent or bitter. If you use water that is too hot or if you steep the tea for too long, so be careful to follow these tips.
How To Brew Loose Leaf Tea
Set your loose-leaf tea in a sachet or tea infuser.
How much tea you use depends on the type of leaves you are using. If you are using mostly compact buds, then you only need about a teaspoon for an 8-ounce cup.
If the tea is made up of open and lightweight leaves, then use about a tablespoon of tea leaves.
What To Add To White Tea
White tea has a very mild flavor that’s very popular, so most people drink it plain without any flavors.
In fact, lots of people believe that adding milk, sugar, or lemon will disrupt the delicate flavor of it.
Since it has such a delicate flavor, whatever you add to the tea will overtake it. So if you like fruit-flavored teas, you can add fruit to your tea.
Green Tea vs White Tea
White and green tea are both processed less than black tea and are both known as very mild or delicate teas.
Both white and green tea have a lightly sweet flavor. Depending on the variety you are brewing, they can both have a wide range of different tastes too.
That being said, green tea is more likely to have a stronger flavor than white tea.
As for caffeine – they are both very similar. Since both teas come from the same tea plant, they will have similar amounts of caffeine. What changes the amount of caffeine is how it is processed.
Studies have shown that Silver Needle and White Peony white teas have more caffeine than many Chinese green teas. And then some Japanese green teas (like Gyokuro) have more caffeine than white tea.
Black Tea vs White Tea
You’ll notice the biggest difference between white and black teas.
Black teas are fully oxidized after the leaves are picked which gives it a much stronger flavor profile. It also has a lot more caffeine in it than white tea.
The main difference between the two – other than the harvesting and production process – is the taste. Black tea has a more bitter and astringent flavor. Black tea will also have a darker color when you brew it.
White Tea Questions
This is a very delicate tea with a unique flavor. It has benefits for your entire body, not just when you drink it. Here are some common questions people have about white tea. Read and see if you have any of these questions too.
Does White Tea Have Caffeine?
Yes, white tea has caffeine, although it is a very minimal amount. The amount of caffeine in this tea depends on where the plant was cultivated and the way it was processed. Typically, white tea has the least amount of caffeine of all the different varieties.
What Does White Tea Taste Like?
White tea has a very delicate flavor. Many varieties will have a floral aroma with a light smoky note. There are also some varieties – like Yue Guang Bai – that has a malty note.
Does White Tea Stain Your Teeth?
If you are going to drink tea every day, white tea is the best one to drink since it has the lightest color. Other darker teas can stain your teeth.
Can You Drink White Tea every day?
Yes, it is perfectly safe to drink white tea every day. In fact, lots of people enjoy a hot cup of white tea with their breakfast or as a late-night snack.
How Long Will White Tea Last?
Tea always tastes the best as soon as you buy it. The longer you keep tea on your shelf, the more flavor it loses. Generally, white tea will last about two years on your shelf.
Should You Refrigerate Tea Leaves?
No, do not need to refrigerate your white tea leaves. In fact, if you do this, it could make your tea leaves take on the scents from within your refrigerator. Plus, it causes condensation to collect on the leaves. It’s better to just keep them in your pantry.
White tea is wonderful for anyone that likes tea without having to add anything to it. It’s also perfect if you want to indulge in a hot drink that has a bright aroma and a fresh taste.