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WHITE TEA

White teas (bai cha) have, as so many other teas, their origins in the Fujian province in China, but are somewhat mythical and hard to define. What are they really, how are they produced, are they exclusive or simple, do they have any medicinal properties? Their original processing method is more subtle than that of any other tea, as the leaves are practically just harvested and dried. They are not heated or rolled, as is typically the case with green teas. This separates white teas from other kinds and provides the most pure and natural flavours of the tea world. While many appreciate this characteristic, others might consider it hardly distinct from heated water. The finer qualities are often mild while the simpler ones are a bit more robust. White teas also have a certain sweetness in common.

As the processing of white teas is so delicate, the quality of the raw material becomes all the more important. The weather during harvest is vital as the newly picked leaves must be dried immediately to prevent them from oxidising or changing in other ways. Avoiding humidity or frost is therefore essential – even the dew must have dried.

China is the main supplier of white teas, the best ones traditionally coming from the Fujian province, but there are now promising contenders from India and Sri Lanka as well. The white teas can be separated into two categories which are significantly different. Those made exclusively from buds – silver needles – and those that also include some leaves. The difference is noticeable in character, colour, and certainly the price. In the quest for the finest teas, the fuzzy buds are the top prize. They provide a clear, almost completely colourless liquor that is very mild yet surprisingly nuanced in its aromas and sweet flavours – a true experience in taste that, together with the appearance of the silvery buds, has made these teas famous around the world. Their brew is so delicate, that combining it with food or other flavours would be somewhat of a pity.