White Tea vs Black Tea Breakdown

White vs black tea
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While the black tea may have been a staple tea for many decades, white tea is still somewhat of a mystery. Find out what is the difference between these two types and which one is better.

White tea vs black tea growing areas and seasons

White and black tea are types of real tea. Today, black tea is grown in every tea producing country–from China, India and Japan, to Russia, Germany and Australia. White tea, on the other hand, is more rare. It’s grown in many countries too, but not to the same extent as black tea. White tea is less mass produced and more often made in smaller batches. The production of white tea compared to black tea is extremely low. Although white tea is processed using only a few steps, it requires a lot of skill and knowledge to make a high quality, tasty tea. Black tea is easier to produce, and far more forgiving than white tea. Next, some white teas such as White Needle are made from buds only, which makes them even more difficult to produce.

What are white and black tea

White and black tea are both made from the same plant–Camellia sinensis. Interestingly, both white and black tea were first produced in the Chinese Fujian province, possibly around the same time. What makes white tea white and black tea black is the processing method. White tea undergoes very minimal processing. It’s usually only consists of two steps, withering and drying, and possibly baking. Black tea is usually a fully oxidized tea which undergoes a lot more steps to achieve a strong and distinctive aroma, flavor, color and scent. Different processing steps will change the chemical composition of tea leaves too.

Benefits of drinking white tea vs black tea

White and black tea contains antioxidants, caffeine, vitamins, minerals and L-theanine and chlorophyll. White tea will usually contain more L-theanine than black tea. L-theanine is an important amino acid that may provide a calming effect. The exact amount of each of these compounds will depend on many factors including processing, leaf type, growing conditions, etc. However, it’s safe to say that white tea has more L-theanine, chlorophyll and EGCG than black tea. However, black tea has different types of antioxidants, such as thearubigens[1], that may provide high antioxidant activity too.

Green tea, another type of real tea, is often said to contain very high levels of EGCG. Interestingly, white tea may have even more EGCG than green tea. One study showed that the amount of total catechins in white tea ranges from 14.40 to 369.60 mg per gram of dry leaf and 21.38 to 228.20 mg per gram of dry green tea leaf[2].

The amount of polyphenols and other compounds will depend on the leaf size too. Research shows that young leaves and buds contain more polyphenols, but less chlorophyll. On contrary, older buds contain more chlorophyll, but far less polyphenols[3]. That’s one of the reasons why younger white tea buds may provide more or better benefits than black tea.

White and black tea may provide antimutagenic, anti inflammatory and anti-aging properties, may help in protecting the teeth, reducing the risk of heart disease and aid in weight loss. However, white tea may be a better option if you are looking for a beauty tea abundant with antioxidants.

Caffeine Comparison

Both white and black tea contain caffeine. Although white tea is usually said to contain the least amount of caffeine, that’s not correct. White tea may have much higher amounts of caffeine than green and black tea. For example, studies showed that 1 gram of Pai Mu Tan (White Peony) may have much more caffeine than 1 gram of Darjeeling tea – 18.22 mg compared to only 14.10 mg per gram of dry Darjeeling tea leaves[4].

However, if you are always careful about how you brew your tea, it’s possible that most of the times a cup of white tea will contain less caffeine than a cup of black tea. Caffeine extraction depends on many factors, including water temperature, even the volume of the cup, the amount of leaves, shape and size of leaves and steeping time.

Most plack teas will have smaller broken leaves that will probably release caffeine more easily. On the other hand, white tea usually contains big, unbroken leaves. Next, you are likely to brew most black teas using boiling water. White tea is more delicate and to get the best flavor you will either need to use cooler water, or steep it for less than a minute (even less than 30 seconds) with very hot water.

Difference in taste

Black and white tea can have a surprisingly similar flavor. Some types of white tea will be very delicate, for example Silver Needle. When brewed properly, high quality loose leaf silver needle from China usually has a very delicate, very fresh and slightly sweet flavor. Many white teas have a light smoky note, and some, such as Yue Guang Bai, a unique type of tea from Yunnan, have a malty note too. Many black teas are malty and smoky.

For example, popular Assam black teas will almost always have a lighter or stronger malty flavor. The difference? White tea will be much more delicate, more refreshing, and sweet, light and will usually have no bitterness or astringency. Black tea can be very strong and very bitter too, especially if made from tea dust or small tea particles. If you like black tea, it’s possible you’ll prefer white over green tea.

Most common white tea notes: hay, light honey, floral, malty, green and smoky note

Most common black tea notes: malty, smoky, chocolate and floral notes

So, which is better: black tea or white tea?

It’s impossible to say which tea is better. Both types are made from the same tea plant, and share similar benefits, with a slight difference in chemical composition due to different processing. White tea will usually contain more L-theanine, so it may be a better option if you want a more relaxing, but medium to high caffeine drink. White tea is best drank pure and usually has a very delicate flavor. If you like to drink tea with milk, choose black tea. Regardless of potential benefits, always drink the tea you enjoy the most – you will be more likely to drink it regularly.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. It’s not intended to replace medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Every person is different and may react to different herbs and teas differently. Never use teas or herbs to treat serious medical conditions on your own. Always seek professional medical advice before choosing home remedies.


[1] https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/132/4/785/4687401

[2] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20722909/

[3] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/323926567_Changes_in_chlorophyll_and_polyphenols_content_in_Camellia_sinensis_var_sinensis_at_different_stage_of_leaf_maturity

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4787341/