White tea is a true outlaw in the world of pure Camellia sinensis teas. This delicious, light and refreshing tea type may provide many benefits. Studies suggest that white tea may have the best anti-aging properties. Learn what is white tea, how much caffeine it contains, and what are the most important types.
What is white tea?
White tea is a minimally processed type of tea. It’s made from the leaves of Camellia sinensis plant, the same plant used for making yellow, green, oolong, black and dark teas. White tea is usually made from special tea cultivars, mostly Da Bai and Bai Hao. China is still the biggest producer of white tea, with many white tea growing regions. Yunnan and Fujian province of China making some of the best and most popular types of white tea.
Although it takes only a few steps to produce white tea, they are complicated and require a lot of knowledge and skills. White tea leaves are withered and dried. Some green teas may look similar to white, may give a very light and refreshing infusion, but they will always be called green because of the one specific step – stopping the oxidation. That step is missing in the production of white tea.
What does white tea taste like?
Every white tea tastes differently. It can be very gentle, or fruity and even rich depending on the type you choose. With a clean and airy flavor and a delicate appearance, Silver Needle or Yin Zhen is the most gentle of all white teas. It’s made from the unopened buds covered with fine silky white hairs. Very little processing will always be noticeable in a good Silver Needle. It has a light, clean, refreshing flavor with a delicate sweet note. The lightness of Silver Needle can be compared to the lightness of fresh spring Dragon Well. You can re-steep a good Silver Needle at least 5 or 6 times. Expect light notes of fresh hay, melon, smokiness, and sweetness.
White Peony should have a sweet and mellow flavor with only a delicate hay note. The flavor will ultimately depend on a grade and harvesting time and can have a hint of ripe fruits, smokiness and sweetness.
White teas from Yunnan have a special Yunnan note, often resembling raw Pu’er or Yunnan black teas. The most famous white Yunnan tea, Yue Guang Bai or Moonlight White has a seductive, mellow flavor that’s a bit malty, a bit sweet, and has a hint of tobacco. It’s very smooth and rich, but unlike raw Pu’er, it has no bitterness at all. It’s a perfect white tea for anyone that likes Yunnan black and raw Pu’er teas.
Darjeeling white teas tend to have more spiciness, maltiness and sweetness than Chinese white teas. They have a lot in common with Darjeeling black tea and can be a bit bitter if over-steeped.
Caffeine in white tea
All teas made from Camellia sinensis have caffeine. Caffeine levels depend more on a tea leaf and production process, rather than on a tea category itself. Generally, white teas should have less caffeine than green tea, and green tea less caffeine than black tea.
However, some white teas might have more caffeine than black teas. Although the name suggests purity and delicacy, this is not always the case with caffeine content. Young buds of Camellia sinensis tend to have more caffeine than old mature leaves or stalks, making Silver Needle generally higher in caffeine than other white teas.
A few cups of white tea per day are likely to be well within the recommended daily caffeine intake limit. Besides, small amounts of caffeine might have more benefits than side-effect and a cup of white tea might offer just the right amount. Interestingly enough, caffeine has been recognized as a medicine a long time ago. It’s used in treating migraines and might enhance the effects of painkillers by 40% and make them work much faster. Over-the-counter painkillers usually contain around 30 mg of caffeine, the same amount of an average cup of white tea.
Long-term, caffeine intake may reduce the risk of some neurodegenerative diseases. “Higher caffeine intake was associated with lower Parkinson’s disease risk,” Alzheimer’s diseases and a decreased risk of Type 2 diabetes. Short-term caffeine increases focus and alertness.
How to get less caffeine from white tea
Caffeine content in tea can be reduced in a number of ways. Both roasting and aging can reduce the content of caffeine, meaning aged white teas will have less caffeine than teas made from fresh young buds. Older mature leaves have less caffeine than younger leaves and buds.
Water temperature, brewing time and the amount of leaves will influence the final level of caffeine, meaning that short brew with lower temperature will result in less caffeine per cup of tea than long brewing with boiling water. Brewing tea with 100 °C instead of 80 °C might release more than 50% more caffeine. Alternatively, use less leaves to get tea with less caffeine.
Health benefits and side effects
White tea contains caffeine, L-theanine and EGCg. It may provide the same benefits as the green tea – protecting skin, heart, teeth and providing antimutagenic and anti-inflammatory properties and aiding in weight loss. White tea is the most popular tea type in cosmetic industry. Studies show that it may help with pre-mature skin aging and helping with damage caused by sun.
Along with all the benefits, in some cases, tea can have a detrimental effect on health. However, with white tea, that risk is quite low and there have been no reported cases of white tea overdose. But a very high consumption of some white teas may might lead to a caffeine overdose. White tea contains fewer tannins than black tea and is generally easier on stomach. However, we suggest taking small steps when incorporating any new herb or tea into your diet.
How to brew white tea
White tea is easier to brew than green or oolong tea. You can use both western and eastern brewing method, and they will both result in a delicious cup. You cannot overbrew a quality white tea, but you may get a stronger flavor and a rich amber color.
All white teas will have a very unappealing flavor and color if you over brew them. Try with less leaves and cooler water first, then gradually increase the temperature to find your perfect flavor. If you are using a western brewing method, be very careful about the steeping time.
Learn how to brew white tea here.
Where to buy this tea
White tea is available in supermarkets, online marketplaces and specialized tea shop. The best place to buy good white tea is from a specialty tea shop. The best white tea will be in the loose leaf form, rather than in tea bags. If you really want to get a delicate flavor, always choose full unbroken leaves, rather than dust or fannings.
Disclaimer: The purpose of this article is not to diagnose or treat any diseases, or to replace an opinion of a professional doctor. Never self-treat any diseases, or drink large quantities of tea, real or herbal, if you are suffering from serious diseases, are pregnant or breastfeeding. Every person is different, and it’s impossible to make a general statement about the benefits or side-effects.