The White Brew for Health
by Wendy Gist
If you are cold, tea will warm you. If you are too heated, it will cool you. If you are depressed, it will cheer you. If you are excited, it will calm you. — William Ewart Gladstone
Produced mainly in the Fujian province of China, white tea is a very old, uniquely beneficial tea. Long ago white tea was considered a rarity, set aside solely for Chinese royals. Today it is gaining popularity world-wide due to its mild and sweet taste, fresh aroma, and potential medicinal properties. White tea comes from a shrub called the Camellia sinensis that grows in the subtropics and highland tropical regions of the world. It is the same species from which black, green, and oolong teas originate. The differences in the various varieties arise thorough the processing of the tea leaves and cause variations in colour and flavour, as well as varied nutritional and compound components. In particular, white tea boasts several powerful health-promoting qualities.
White Tea Process
White teas are the least processed of any tea, coming from the youngest tea leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. They contain a higher quantity of buds than leaves. Harvested in the spring, the buds are covered with fine silvery hairs giving the tea a light grayish colour; this is where the tea gets its name. Green tea leaves are withered, steamed, or fried before being rolled; black and oolong teas undergo even further processing methods including oxidization and fermentation. White tea is unique in that it is unfermented, and the leaf buds are not rolled or withered. After the young leaves are picked, they are steamed quickly to inactivate polyphenol oxidase and then dried (Higdon). In other words, white teas are not oxidized whatsoever. As a result of undergoing very little processing white tea contains even higher concentrations of catechins (potential cancer-fighting antioxidants) than green tea (Higdon).
White Tea, Is it Good For You?
White tea is not only flavourful to your mouth, but good to your body. In fact, you may find it surprising that new studies conducted at Pace University have indicated that "White Tea Extract (WTE) may have prophylactic applications
in retarding growth of bacteria that cause Staphylococcus infections, Streptococcus infections, pneumonia, and dental caries"("New Study Shows That
White Tea"). Furthermore, Milton Schiffenbauer, PhD, microbiologist and professor in the Department of Biology at Pace University's Dyson College of Arts & Sciences, states, "Our research shows White Tea Extract can actually destroy in vitro the organisms that cause disease". Schiffenbauer adds, "This is not an old wives tale, it's a fact". Another excellent advantage of white tea is that it is known for its Yin (cooling) and detoxifying properties ("White Teas").
The findings are encouraging, making white tea a new tea of choice not only for flavour but especially for those who drink tea for health benefits.
Flavourful Benefits in White Brew
White tea possesses the same plant nutrients (polyphenols) and antioxidants as green tea but in larger amounts (Higdon). Antioxidant properties have been known to help fight free radicals. Free radicals are known to damage cell structures, which in turn, may lead to illness. Antioxidants help destroy free radicals to maintain the body's good health. A cup of white tea contains health-promoting antioxidants.
Four Easy Steps to a Quick White Tea
- Make sure teapot is kept very clean. Do not use old water to brew tea. Fill teapot with fresh, clean water.
- Bring the water to a rolling boil. Let sit for a minute and then pour over leaves. Steaming water should be cooled to around 175 to 180°F ("White Teas"). If not cooled to the above temperature, the boiling water may ruin the delicate flavour.
- Be gentle with white tea leaves as they are more delicate and bulky than others.
- Experiment with white tea measurements. Start with 2 teaspoons of white tea leaves for every cup (8 ounces) of water. It may require more than other teas. Try a taste test to help determine whether more is desired.
Steeping Your White Brew
Steeping times may vary depending on the variety of white tea you choose to brew. In general, however, 5 to 8 minutes is recommended for white tea. The Silver Needle variety may steep longer (10 to 15 minutes). With white teas you can reuse the leaves three times. Add a minute or two to each succeeding steep. White teas are a pale and slightly sweet tea. They can be enjoyed sipped hot or even as a refreshing iced beverage in the spring and summer!
White Tea Varieties
There are different varieties of white tea, ranging from a superior quality to a lower ranked quality. The best of white teas come in loose-leaf form and four common varieties include:
Only the top buds are used to produce this tea. It is extremely low in caffeine.
Quality: Finest White Tea
Aroma: Fresh and Sweet
Flavour: Light, delicate, sweet, nutty flavor.
Colour: Light golden color or pale yellow.
Cherished for its low astringency ("White Teas").
Quality: Second Highest Grade White Tea
Aroma: Fresh bamboo fragrance.
Flavour: Mellow, subtle and sweet but stronger than Silver Needle.
Colour: Light golden brown.
Long Life Eyebrow
Quality: Lower Quality White Tea
Quality: Ranked Lesser than Long Life Eyebrow White Tea
The loose-leaf white teas can be found at your local health food stores, oriental specialty markets, specialty herb stores, as well as online merchants. Always check the manufacturer's credibility before buying products, especially online.
So, what are you waiting for? Get out your tea kettle and prepare a nice hot white brew or a cool and refreshing glass of deliciously iced white tea. Give a toast to your health because, after all, it's about time you treat yourself like royalty!
- Higdon, Jane. "Tea and Chronic Disease Prevention." The Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University. Micronutrient Information Center. 2003. Retrieved Feb. 1, 2006. http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/f-w02/tea.html.
- "New Study Shows that White Tea Has an Inhibitory Effect on Various Pathogenic Bacteria, Fungi, and Bacterial Virus." American Society for MicroBiology. 2004. Retrieved Feb. 4, 2006.
- "White Teas." About White Teas - Ellen's Kitchen. 2004. Retrieved Feb. 1, 2006.
Wendy Gist, MS, Natural Health, is a writer who concentrates on natural health issues. She has found that writing is the best approach in helping others to live healthier, happier lives.