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White tea

The cradle of white tea is Fujian Province, China – where the Da Bai (Big White) varietal originates. Only recently has it made it to other parts of the world – so it is now available from other parts of China, from Darjeeling, Sri Lanka, Africa, Hawaii and elsewhere. White teas can only be gathered for a limited period of time, this being the start of spring and merely in favourable weather conditions. The process involves very careful picking so as not to bruise buds and leaves, which would cause oxidation, and sometimes pickers wear gloves and snip buds off with little scissors. Combine this with the time-consuming method of production required, and it is no surprise that this delicate tea ranks amongst the rarest of all. The slow withering or drying process in the open air and then indoors can take 3-4 days. White tea is named after the tiny white or silver hairs that cover the bud as it develops at the tip of each tea shoot. The teas are usually made from just the unopened bud, gathered before it can start to unfurl. Once the brand new buds have been carefully gathered, the enzymes are removed via steaming, then sometimes shaped by hand and finally dried. When brewed they give a very pale, champagne-coloured liquor that has a very light, mild, sweet and velvety flavour. With the content of beneficial substances, white tea is very similar to green tea but it contains a higher level of caffeine. 

China produces white tea only in a limited quantity, namely in the south-eastern coastal province of Fujian. In fact, such delicate white tea was the sole preserve of the emperor for many years. Its subtle aroma was highly prized and the infusion used to be considered a miraculous beverage.


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